Proposal’s Aims to Attract, Retain Businesses and Residents; Promote Long-Term, Sustainable Growth  

NEWARK, NJ — Today, the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition – a collaborative group of 22 state-wide business, industry and urban renewal organizations – announced that their “Economic Development Recovery Strategy for New Jersey” is being presented to the Christie/Guadagno Administration and the 214th State Legislature. The goal of these select reforms and legislative initiatives is to make New Jersey more attractive to business and residents alike, through long-term smart growth and tax-relief strategies; greater efficiencies and collaboration within governing bodies; and various financial inducements as well as expedited permitting incentives.

The Coalition acknowledges that the new administration and legislative leaders are already considering some of the proposed reforms and initiatives outlined within this proposal, as they endeavor to improve New Jersey’s business climate. The Coalition supports these efforts to better-position and market New Jersey as part of a long-term business development and retention strategy.

Ted Zangari Esq., founder of the Coalition and redevelopment attorney with the Newark-based law firm of Sills Cummis & Gross said, “The Coalition has proposed a wide range of reforms that set New Jersey on the path of long-term recovery.”

“Our State is effectively bankrupt.  The only way we can slash our staggering debt load, fund our massive unfunded pension liabilities and stabilize or even cut taxes is to grow our way out.  This can be done without harming our environment or further clogging our roads.  To the contrary, if we do this correctly, smart growth development can spur the clean-up of our brownfields, increase the use of mass transit and reduce our state’s carbon footprint while also feeding our economic engine with new and better jobs closer to where our residents live, shop, recreate, learn and worship,” Zangari noted.

Founded in 2007, the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition is an open forum for organizations to collaborate and vet proposals that will promote long-term redevelopment, smart growth and economic stimulus initiatives within New Jersey.

The Coalition is unique in that it represents a cross-section of state-wide business, trade and planning organizations that: (1) recognizes the State’s economic challenges; (2) acknowledges New Jersey’s inherent growth limitations and the need to optimize its resources; and (3) shares a common goal of facilitating a more holistic, long-term, and “global” approach to planning, redevelopment, and economic growth.

In early 2008, the Coalition drafted a stimulus package of a dozen bills, nearly half of which have since been enacted into law, including the Permit Extension Act, the Licensed Site Professionals bill, and the new tax increment-financing program knows as “ERGG”.

“We need to send the message to the global business community that New Jersey is open for business,” said Zangari, alluding to the Tax Foundation report which named New Jersey as having the least favorable business tax climate. Zangari continued, “That message must be that New Jersey has a roadmap to long-term growth and lower taxes; that Byzantine layers of government red tape are being cut; that the myriad levels of required project permits and approvals are being streamlined; that state government is divesting itself of outdated duplicative agencies; that anachronistic rules and regulations from a century ago are being purged; and that it’s not whom a business knows but what a business needs that matters to the State of New Jersey.”

While corporate executives recognize that most states are struggling with budget deficits and that such complex problems cannot be resolved overnight, they are seeking assurances that State leadership is anticipating and addressing these challenges.

“What businesses want and what will distinguish New Jersey from its competitor states is a realistic strategy for tackling these challenges head-on.  This strategy must include eliminating waste, fraud and abuse throughout state and local government; restoring accountability, predictability, and transparency in government; and ultimately slashing our debt, addressing our unfunded liabilities and reducing taxes of all kinds,” Zangari emphasized.

The Coalition’s 27-page proposal recommends a number of reforms and legislative initiatives, featuring five key action items that Zangari believes would send a clear message to the business community that the New Jersey has embarked on a strategic, disciplined, and realistic long-term plan. These five key elements are:

    • Overhaul the state planning process – The current state plan is flawed, often politically driven, lacks teeth, and fails to address what the State needs to do to strengthen its economic base, protect its resources, and optimize its growth capacity. The state needs to overhaul the planning process and develop a clear, understandable and actionable state plan.
    • Consolidate and streamline the business retention and recruitment processes – The State’s economic development functions should be consolidated into two “super” state government divisions under the Economic Development Authority: a centralized banking division that will coordinate all local, county and state financial incentives; and a centralized land use division to coordinate all local, county and state permits and approvals. The office would serve as a single government portal for attracting and retaining business.
    • Analyze the State’s tax structure versus those of competitive states; reduce taxes and eliminate punitive taxes – New Jersey has the highest per capita taxes in the nation – more than two percentage points above the national average. Lower corporate business and personal income taxes are critical to improving the State’s business climate stemming the current tide of outmigration.
    • End the practice of fragmented and arbitrary zoning – Municipalities in New Jersey are permitted to rezone a property up to the time of decision on a development application by a local land use board. The Coalition is urging the enactment of a “Time of Application” bill which would prohibit a municipality from changing zoning, site plan and subdivision regulations for a property once an application is filed. Instead, the Coalition encourages a more “global”, holistic and long-term approach to zoning and redevelopment.
    • Remove the Bayonne Bridge by 2014 – The expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger cargo ships is expected to be complete by 2014, but the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth will not be able to take advantage of this increase in cargo traffic unless the Bayonne Bridge, which spans the main channel into New Jersey container terminals, is taken down or raised to accommodate passage of these larger vessels.

A copy of the complete document is available online by clicking here.



 About the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition  

The Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition is a collaborative group of statewide business, industry and urban renewal organizations formed in 2007 for the purpose of finding reasonable and balanced solutions for the state’s out-migration of jobs and residents and to address the State’s need for smart growth and development. The group is presently comprised of 22 statewide trade associations:

Building Contractors Association of New Jersey
CoreNet Global – NJ Chapter
Counselors of Real Estate – NJ Chapter
Downtown New Jersey
Economic Development Association of New Jersey
Industrial & Office Real Estate Brokers Association
International Council of Shopping Centers – NJ Chapter
National Association of Industrial and Office Properties – NJ Chapter
Newark Real Estate Board
Newark Regional Business Partnership
New Jersey Apartment Association
New Jersey Association of REALTORS
New Jersey Builders Association
New Jersey Business & Industry Association
New Jersey Laborers’-Employers’ Cooperation and Education Trust
New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJSEED)
New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce
New Jersey Technology Council
PlanSmart NJ
Regional Plan Association/New Jersey
Society of Industrial and Office Realtors – New Jersey Chapter