Murphy: Creating an innovation economy won’t be easy, but it can be done

Gov. Phil Murphy said he doesn’t have to look far when looking for a state to compare with when it comes to his plans to build an “innovation economy” in New Jersey.

It’s right across the river.

“New York, in fairness, has been good in capturing the sort-of ‘Silicon Alley’ (startups),” he told ROI-NJ.

Murphy said New York’s success is the result of a lot of planning.

“You’ve got a Democratic mayor (for five years), a Democratic governor (for eight years), smart economic policy that’s been in place,” he said. “We’ve been there for five months.

“We don’t get there with one move on the chessboard.”

New Jersey has long bragged about its history in innovation and science — counting residents such as Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.

Murphy said that’s what he’s talking about when he says he wants to create an “innovation economy”: an economy built around STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

“(It’s) any economy that derives itself from those disciplines,” he said.

That includes The Hub in New Brunswick, the new Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine at Seton Hall in Clifton and Nutley, and the Propelify conference in Hoboken that highlights the presence of booming tech along the Hudson County waterfront, and, to a smaller degree, the tech presence in Asbury Park.

Princeton (University) is clearly making noises about getting its own anchor in the water in the innovation economy,” Murphy said.

It also includes the Economic Development Authority actively redesigning its incentive programs, and the state aggressively investing in its infrastructure.

“Newark has the biggest trove of broadband in the world; let’s take advantage of that,” Murphy said.

New Jersey doesn’t have a central hub of innovation or business from which to grow, the way that California has Silicon Valley, Massachusetts has Kendall Square and New York has Wall Street.

“I think that’s OK, though,” Murphy said. “I don’t think it has to be in one place. Particularly because we’re the densest state in the nation.

“We’re the fourth-smallest state in the nation. We’re the size of Israel. That’s more of an objective in terms of their tech community than (to) concentrate all of it on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto. I think that’s just not who we are. We’re going to have lots of different petri dishes in this economy around the state.”

Murphy said the state also needs to take advantage of the presence of the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlantic County.

“That’s another opportunity that’s been on tap,” he said.

But it’s still too early to see any movement.

“Under Gov. (Chris) Christie, we let a lot of the edge of the innovation economy go away, so I can’t get it back overnight,” he said. “But we are putting in place, across a range of initiatives, what I think ultimately will be a comprehensive plan to get that innovation economy reignited.”

Read more from ROI-NJ: