It’s official: UNICOM completes purchase of former Merck headquarters in Whitehouse Station

UNICOM Global announced Monday it has officially purchased the former Merck site in Whitehouse Station, in the Township of Readington.

The property now will be called the UNICOM Science and Technology Park.

Terms of the deal, which was signed Monday, were not disclosed.

The park is a set of Class A office buildings, totaling approximately 2 million square feet, and is located on 1,100 acres of park-like grounds. The park consists of office buildings, data centers, innovation labs, command centers, conference centers and heliports, as well as a child care center, central utility plant and solar farms.

“UNICOM Global is very excited to acquire this world-class IT real estate property as our regional headquarters for the New York and New Jersey region,” Corry Hong, founder, CEO and president of UNICOM Global, said in a statement.

“Our commitment is to expand and extend our information technology portfolio and our services for industry leaders, especially those in the banking, insurance, technology, telecom, government, pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, which is reflected in this investment.”

According to UNICOM, the park’s amenities including an auditorium, wellness centers, woodland assessments, cropland assessments and a sports complex with softball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts and a sand volleyball court.

In a news release, the company said the acquisition of the property is the latest demonstration of UNICOM’s willingness to invest in the future of our country, and will be another cornerstone of UNICOM’s work in the region and throughout the Boston to Washington, D.C., corridor.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Murphy introduces Innovation Evergreen Fund: ‘This is the big idea today’

Twenty-seven minutes into a speech outlining his broad-based vision to jump-start — and re-create — the New Jersey economy, Gov. Phil Murphy paused to give warning to the crowd of more than 600 top business leaders, economic development professionals and elected officials.

“I would say, lock it in here for the next minute or two, because, in addition to growing and shrinking the inequities and poverty, this is the big idea today,” he said.

With that, Murphy introduced the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund, a $500 million plan with which he aims to dramatically increase the amount of venture capital investment in the state.

“(This will) supercharge the return on venture capital into our state, carrying the proceeds on competitive auctions of new state tax credits with private venture capital funds to make joint investments in a diverse array of New Jersey-based startups,” he said.

Corporations, he said, will bid on new Economic Development Authority tax credits.

“The winning bidders will be the ones who offer both the best price and the best commitment to help entrepreneurs through mentorship, networking and other resources,” he said.

The reasons for the fund are obvious, he said. The numbers spell it out.

Murphy pointed to the $33 billion of venture capital dollars that have been invested in the New York City metropolitan area in the past five years — noting how New Jersey did not benefit as much as it could have.

“Fewer and fewer of those dollars came into New Jersey,” he said. “This Innovation Evergreen Fund will help bring them back.”

Reaction to the plan was positive.

Bob Doherty, the New Jersey head of Bank of America — the bank that has more dollars invested in the state than any other — said he welcomed the plan.

“I think it’s awesome,” he told ROI-NJ afterward. “I think we have to build the economy through establishing new businesses. The fact there are different types of institutions that invest in businesses at their different stages is important to recognize.”

Doherty was quick to point out that increasing regulations make it difficult for Bank of America to invest heavily in the startup space, though it certainly participates.

“(We) tends to work with well-established small and medium-sized businesses,” he said. “We don’t do startups easily.”

Doherty welcomes more investment players.

“I say more power to it,” he said. “It’s needed, it’s necessary and it’s an important part of the spectrum. We’re an important part of the spectrum, but not necessarily at the startup part of it. It’s a great vision.”

Aaron Price, the head of New Jersey Tech Meetup, also saw the fund in a positive light.

“I think it makes capital more accessible in New Jersey,” he said. “Now, if you’re a VC thinking about investing in the region, you can now double their funding right out of the gate.

“At the same, it’s one less meeting that an entrepreneur has to have. I think it’s a great step forward for New Jersey entrepreneurs to be able to raise capital from professionals in a competitive market.”

Price views it as a step forward.

“Not one thing is going to fix this issue, but a lot of steps like this will make a lot of entrepreneurs take New Jersey seriously as a place to set up business,” he said.

Murphy’s certainly counting on it.

He sees the fund drawing a bigger pool of investment dollars on a scale that will help New Jersey compete nationally.

“State-level venture capital funds have thrived elsewhere, but, with our talent and our location, the Innovation Evergreen Fund can help us become the model for our country.”

Murphy said the program will work with other new programs at the EDA.

“The Innovation Evergreen Fund will be a powerful tool to bring new startups to our incubators and accelerators, where they can already benefit from NJ Ignite, the EDA’s new collaborative workspace rent initiative,” he said. “(This will help startups) put more of their initial funding into research and development instead of into overhead.”

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the EDA, feels the program not only can help grow the economy, it can help the state face its biggest problem — a more than $100 billion debt due to missed pension payments and overly generous health care benefits.

“The governor’s take on this, is one of the ways we solve that puzzle going forward is we have to grow faster and grow our way out of this,” he said. “You have to invest to grow. The current programs have been running at almost a billion dollars a year of investment. We think we can bring that number down, but get more for our money. That’s part of how we are going to solve that puzzle long term.”

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Growth plan: Murphy identifies his five keys to building N.J. economy

Gov. Phil Murphy released a detailed vision and five key goals of his economic growth plan in a major policy announcement attended by more than 600 business leaders and elected officials Monday at ON3 in Nutley/Clifton.

The 64-page document outlines statistics for New Jersey, including where the state leads and where it trails other states and its Northeast peers.

The governor said he intends to grow the economy with five key metrics in the coming years:

  • Job growth: Adding approximately 300,000 jobs;
  • Wage growth: Increasing median wages by approximately 4 percent, or $1,500-plus;
  • Diverse innovation ecosystem: Adding 40,000 more women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and $625 million in new venture capital investment;
  • Closing the racial and gender wage and employment gaps: Adding 42,000 more women and minorities employed and a $15,000-$23,000 increase in annual wages;
  • Thriving, inclusive communities: Reducing city poverty rate to today’s statewide average.

“Our vision, aspirations and strategies to advance New Jersey’s economy reflect a truly distinctive approach to economic growth, which fully leverages our strengths and includes all of us. To unlock long-term, resilient economic growth, we must create a New Jersey economy that is both stronger and fairer,” Murphy said in the plan.

“An environment where small businesses, local entrepreneurs, multinational corporations and workers can thrive is essential for our economy’s future.”

Murphy highlighted the high level of education and graduation in the state overall, paired with the outmigration of that potential workforce.

New Jersey ranks fourth among the highest outmigration states.

To address the issue, Murphy said he will create a task force.

“We will commission a ‘Future of Work’ task force — one of the first in the nation — bringing together government officials, academics, corporate pioneers, labor union leaders and communities to truly understand and assess the impact technological advancement will have on our state’s residents,” he said in the report. “From increased automation to more flexible working environments, the ‘Future of Work’ will be a thought leader to help New Jersey, and the nation, develop new solutions for the emerging challenges our workforce faces.”

Murphy discussed a number of other issues in the report, including saying:

Educated population: We have a workforce uniquely rich with highly skilled professionals. There are more scientists and engineers per square mile in New Jersey than anywhere in the U.S. More biochemists and biophysicists call New Jersey home than any other state. These professionals are not only skilled, but also diverse. New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of top foreign talent and the third-highest concentration of foreign-born residents in the U.S. Approximately 45 percent of us are racial minorities, and we rank fourth in the nation for linguistic diversity.

Headquarters: We are home to 21 Fortune 500 companies, operations of 13 of the top 20 global pharmaceutical companies, 16 of the fastest-growing tech companies in the country and more than 400 biotechnology companies.

Economic growth: During the last 10 years, New Jersey missed the economic resurgence burgeoning in other parts of the country. Employment growth has been meager at just 0.1 percent annually, leaving New Jersey 42nd in the nation. Between 2007 and 2017, New Jersey’s economy added practically no net new jobs (approximately 50,000 jobs). For comparison, during these same 10 years, the average state added nearly 175,000 jobs.

Workforce stats: New Jersey ranks 32nd for the share of working-age population in the labor market and 47th in long-term unemployment in the country.

Poverty rate: Poverty in New Jersey is increasing at a faster rate than 46 U.S. states (New Jersey is ranked 47th). Basic everyday needs such as housing, child care, food and health care, are out of reach for 37 percent of New Jersey households.

New business: Young businesses, those less than 10 years old, are a key driver of economic growth as the largest job creators in the U.S. economy. While New Jersey boasts a competitive number of startups, these new businesses exit the market sooner than new businesses in our peer states. Of large companies in the U.S., those with more than 500 employees, 11 percent are less than 10 years old, compared to 5 percent in New Jersey — meaning we are not scaling our innovative companies fast enough.

Diversity and inclusion: The increased inclusion of women and racial minorities in the U.S. economy has accounted for more than 25 percent of the productivity growth that the U.S. has experienced over the past 50 years. Similarly, communities with greater levels of racial integration and inclusion lead to more productive, financially wealthy innovation ecosystem.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Murphy announces major economic plan for N.J. in attempt to lure venture capital

Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled new tax programs focused on historic preservation and mass transit-rich municipalities as part of a grand package for economic reform that he announced Monday in a major economic address drawing more than 600 business leaders and elected officials from around the state.

He also added details to a previously discussed program, New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund, which he hopes will bring $500 million in venture capital to the state.

The new programs, which will be managed by the state Economic Development Authority, have been promised by Murphy as he attempts to revamp the incentive programs in the state.

“We will propose a new place-based gap financing tool to help catalyze investments in commercial, residential and mixed-use (including parking) projects, with a particular focus on cities, downtowns and suburban neighborhoods served by mass transit,” he said in his 64-page plan unveiled at ON3 in Clifton/Nutley.

“This new program, NJ Aspire, will facilitate the conversion of surface parking lots, vacant and/or abandoned lots, and other underutilized properties into job and tax-generating development opportunities. NJ Aspire will assist in the development of market-rate housing in distressed communities and, where appropriate, mixed-income and affordable housing near transit in suburban communities.”

It will be a competitive tax credit grant.

“The program we propose will feature a program cap and a per-project cap and will also generate funds to support public infrastructure investments,” according to the plan.

The historic preservation tax is also linked with the Opportunity Zones Act, which passed as part of the federal tax overhaul in December.

In addition to the tax incentives, Murphy has also proposed several initiatives targeting the startup economy, some of which have already been introduced this year.

“We will seek to expand NJEDA’s new NJ Ignite incubator and collaborative workspace rent support to enable more companies to participate and to catalyze the creation of more incubators, accelerators and other collaborative workspaces,” Murphy said in the plan.

Another idea he has previously mentioned has been a venture capital fund.

“(The) New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund would raise capital by competitively auctioning state tax credits (over five years) to New Jersey corporations and partnering with private venture capital firms to co-invest these funds,” he said in the report. “Venture capital firms and the Evergreen Fund would then make joint investments in New Jersey-based startups, targeting life sciences, financial technology, digital media and cybersecurity startups in particular.”

The governor is also implementing a revised version of the Grow New Jersey incentive with what he is calling the NJ Forward tax incentive program.

The differences include: a lower base per job, prioritize new job creation rather than retained jobs, focus on all distressed areas in the state with focus on those with public transit assets, and include an annual award cap and reviews to hold all parties accountable.

The plan also reflects Murphy’s increased focus on global investments in the state.

There is also a focus on developing small businesses with a new loan program in the EDA, as well as a directive for the EDA to work with finance companies to develop innovative ways to support small businesses.

Murphy outlined a number of other initiatives and goals in the plan, including saying:

  • We will provide gap financing to enable the creation of more collaborative workspaces via our proposed new place-based tax incentive program;
  • We will partner with higher education institutions to expand their connection to the innovation economy and enable faculty and students to more easily commercialize their ideas and inventions, including priority initiatives such as the proposed Innovation and Technology Hub (“The Hub”) in New Brunswick;
  • We will launch a pilot program partnering with suburban communities to plan for the repositioning of so-called “stranded assets” (office parks and retail assets) for participation in the innovation economy (as the former Bell Labs facility in Holmdel has been reborn as Bell Works, home to new innovative companies);
  • We will explore partnering with corporations to test 5G and beyond infrastructure, as well as explore enhancing existing broadband and increased wireless coverage.

Murphy identified crucial investments and ideas that are already in play:

  • The Hub in New Brunswick;
  • The Gateway Tunnel project.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Legislature passes new A.C. Airport bill after conditional veto

The Senate and Assembly passed a new version of a bill to designate the one-mile radius around the Atlantic City Airport as a Garden State Growth Zone to bolster the anticipated growth of an aviation technology and research hub in South Jersey.

The bill originally sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk was conditionally vetoed a month ago, and Thursday’s vote confirmed changes from the governor.

Murphy wanted to ensure the growth zone expires when the incentives window sunsets in July 2019, as well as ensure any open space protected under the Pinelands Protection Act is not disturbed by the growth.

In addition, Murphy pushed back on an attempt to include independent contractors as part of the minimum employees required for Grow New Jersey benefits.

The final version of the bill includes clarification on the first wo points, but the independent contractors remains.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) previously told ROI-NJ the growth of the aviation industry will not be possible without contractors.

“I think people have to have an understanding of how the aviation business works. When projects come about, they have to hire subcontractors,” Mazzeo said. “That’s why we put in the stipulation that they have to stay in New Jersey, so it benefits our economy.”

In a statement following the vote, Sen. Chris Brown (R-Linwood) said, “With these tax incentives, Atlantic County will compete with the rest of the world; diversifying our local economy and creating good-paying jobs four our middle-class families.”

Mazzeo and Assemblyman John Armato (D-Northfield) said the passage of the bill signals a new chapter for the region.

“Now, Atlantic City Airport has the opportunity to become the aviation hub of South Jersey,” Mazzeo said.

“It’s proximity to education institutions such as the (National) Aviation Research and Technology Park, creates enormous potential for development of new aviation technology and putting Atlantic Coutny and the state on the forefront of the industry.”

The aviation tech park has seen interest from outside companies in recent months, and management of the research portion is being transferred from Stockton University to New Jersey Innovation Institute. Potential plans also include Atlantic City Airport becoming a smart airport and test site for a number of aviation tech projects.

Armato said the growth zone designation should attract highly-skilled jobs to the area.

“Innovation, aviation educational research and economic development, there’s great potential for growth in the western part of Atlantic County and surrounding areas,” he said.

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Clifton) agreed.

“There’s an opportunity here to bridge aviation with education while building up Atlantic City Airport,” he said.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

ascena retail group inks SVP, general counsel

Mahwah-based ascena retail group inc. announced Monday it has appointed Wendy L. Hufford as senior vice present and general counsel, effective immediately.

Hufford will be responsible for all legal matters for the company and will serve on the company’s leadership team.

She will report to David Jaffe, chairman and CEO.

Prior to ascena, Hufford was at Boehringer Ingelheim USA as its chief operating officer, legal department and vice president, U.S. litigation, risk management and human resources. Before that, she held executive roles at ITT Corp. and Cardinal Health as well as in-house roles at GE Consumer Finance and Credit Suisse First Boston. Earlier in her career, she was in private practice.

“We are thrilled to welcome Wendy to our team,” Jaffe said. “In addition to her impressive legal career, she is passionate about leading initiatives to help working women and families in the workplace and has been recognized for her dedication to mentoring and leadership development. This made Wendy the right person for this important role.”

Honeywell buying warehouse automation firm for $492M

Honeywell has agreed to buy warehouse automation business Transnorm for approximately $492 million, it announced Monday.

The Morris Plains-based conglomerate said in a news release that it will pay 425 million euros to IK Investment Partners for the German company.

Transnorm provides engineered conveyor solutions for e-commerce and parcel delivery companies. About 60 percent of its annual sales of 100 million euros — a total that is on track to grow, Honeywell said — are in Europe. The company, noted for its curved conveyors, has more than 500 employees.

“Faced with rising e-commerce demands, distribution centers and parcel delivery providers are looking to automation solutions to improve productivity, speed and accuracy,” John Waldron, CEO and president of Honeywell’s Safety and Productivity Solutions unit, said in a prepared statement. Transnorm complements our portfolio of automated material handling equipment and supply chain software to enable us to deliver our vision of the connected distribution center to our customers. It also substantially enhances our presence in the European market.”

The transaction is expected to close in November, pending customary approvals and conditions. Transnorm will become part of Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions.

Honeywell also said it has completed the spinoff of Garrett Motion Inc., its former Transportation Systes business. Garrett is now trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “GTX.”

“Today’s announcements show the continued progress Honeywell is making to transform our portfolio to be more focused and growth-oriented for our shareowners,” Chairman and CEO Darius Adamczyk said in a statement. “We have completed the spinoff of Garrett and are making good progress in executing the spin of the Homes and ADI global distribution business, which will be named Resideo.

“The acquisition of Transnorm will build upon the tremendous success of the intelligrated acquisition and allow our warehouse automation business to take part in very strong European growth driven by e-commerce. The acquisition provides multiple avenues for continued growth and margin expansion for Honeywell. We are excited to add this market leader to an already robust business.”

Read more from ROI-NJ:

UCEDC one of 32 U.S. groups to win SBA grant to help N.J.’s underserved entrepreneurs

UCEDC, a nonprofit economic development corporation based in Cranford, was one of 32 organizations throughout the U.S. to receive a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs.

The PRIME grants, which total $5 million, will help the organizations continue providing assistance to underserved entrepreneurs and help them gain access to capital and training.

“The SBA really has such a vital role not only in helping small businesses access capital, but also to ensure they have access to the resources and training needed to create healthy, sustainable businesses,” SBA Administrator Linda McMahon said. “This year’s PRIME grant awardees are dedicated to providing underserved entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to strengthen their businesses and create more jobs.”

UCEDC will get a $150,000 grant from the SBA, according SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone, to help low-income entrepreneurs in New Jersey. It will help strengthen UCEDC’s mentoring programs and develop a new training program that will target low-to-middle income areas throughout the Garden State.

“Although UCEDC is based in Cranford, the organization has a statewide reach and is a much valued economic development partner of the SBA,” Titone said.

Titone said this year’s awards emphasized organizations participating in the SBA’s Community Advantage Program.

“This program provides mission-oriented, nonprofit lenders access to the SBA’s 7(a) loan guarantees to help small businesses that have outgrown micro lending but are not able to access more traditional financing including funding from SBA commercial lending partners,” added Titone.  “UCEDC was one of eight Community Advantage Lenders selected for a PRIME grant award this year.”

This year’s grant recipients come from 24 states and the District of Columbia. The grants range in size from $75,000 to $250,000 and usually require at least 50 percent in matching funds. In total, 111 organizations applied for PRIME grants in 2018.

Topgolf opens another venue in N.J.

Topgolf officially opened its second New Jersey location on Friday, the global sports entertainment company announced.

The new 65.000-square-foot Mount Laurel facility is the company’s its 48th location worldwide.

“We have been working very hard to get this venue open, “Danielle DeFalco, Topgolf New Jersey – Mount Laurel director of operations, said. “We are very excited to finally be opening our doors to provide year-round entertainment to the local community.”

Guests at the center can participate in point-scoring golf games using microchipped balls. There’s also a chef-driven menu, alcoholic beverages, big screen TVs, private event spaces and music. Year-round entertainment includes social leagues, golf tournaments, instruction and more.

The Mount Laurel venue is located at 104 Centerton Road. The company hired more than 500 workers in advance of the opening, it said.

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Avenel waste management firm buys Conn. provider

Avenel-based ACV Enviro Corp. has acquired CTR Industries Inc., a Connecticut-based provider of industrial services throughout the Northeast, it announced Monday.

ACV, a portfolio company of New York-based Kinderhook Industries LLC, picked up the Bridgeport-based former Connecticut Tank Removal Inc. for an undisclosed price, representing its second add-on acquisition.

“The ACV team is extremely excited to welcome the impressive CTR team to our rapidly growing organization,” ACV CEO Andrew Shackett said in a prepared statement. “Cuturally, the CTR team aligns with ACV’s values of safety, compliance and providing our customers with superb service.”

ACV provides integrated hazardous and nonhazardous waste management services throughout the Northeast from 25 service locations. CTR operates out of four facilities in Bridgeport and Medford, New York.

Potters & Della Pietra LLP was Kinderhook’s legal counsel, while Jacobi Case & Speranzini P.C. was CTR’s legal counsel.