There was big news on the economic development front last week. No, we’re not talking about what some felt was an overly harsh audit of the Economic Development Authority that gave Gov. Phil Murphy unnecessary cover to update the EDA programs — which everyone already felt not only was his right as the head of a new administration, but also much needed.
(Just a thought, governor: Tread lightly when ripping an organization that was created by Caren Franzini and headed by Al Koeppe, two business giants of the highest character.)
What we’re talking about is the announcement that Choose New Jersey is moving its headquarters to Newark, where it will be joined by satellite offices of the Governor’s Office and EDA.
That move has the potential to have the biggest impact for business growth in the state.
State government may reside in Trenton, but (with all due respect to Jersey City) Newark clearly has become the economic engine of New Jersey. Having a place where all three key departments will be on one floor will be a huge asset to the state. As will having it at One Gateway, which is working to be a connector of the city under the new ownership of Onyx and others that was announced last week.
How do we know the move is a big deal? The previous administration wholeheartedly supports it.
Former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who championed the Partnership for Action among agencies when she led economic development in the state, was at the Choose board meeting (as a partner at Connell Foley) when the announcement was made. Afterward, she told ROI-NJ that having the three agencies together in the state’s most important city would help create a more unified presentation to perspective companies.
“To see them all go to Newark and be housed in the same building emphasizes that the model is the right model — that (the private sector) has to work hand-in-hand with government systems in order to attract business,” she said.
Everyone knows the state has serious economic challenges. New Jersey will soon have the highest corporate business tax in the country. And our property taxes (and shortage of workforce housing) are two more reasons to give companies pause when site-selecting. Then there’s the issue with public-sector pensions that could sink everything if something dramatic isn’t done soon.
As Murphy has learned in his first year in office, these issues cannot be solved overnight. Getting more companies to come here — and enjoy the great benefits we do have, including location, a skilled workforce and great schools — is a big step in any solution.
Those recruiting efforts need to start in Newark, a city that has the ability to wow people (just ask Amazon). Having the state’s top development arms situated there is a good start.