The Opportunity State: Murphy’s responsible vision for N.J.’s economic future

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan talking about the proposed fund.

A budget is a reflection of a state’s values. Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a progressive and fiscally responsible plan to move New Jersey forward through transformative commitments to people, communities and families, with major investments in affordability and infrastructure.

Since taking office, Murphy’s economic development strategy has been centered on creating a New Jersey economy that makes our state the best place in the nation to live, work and raise a family. Today, perhaps more than ever, companies and people are making decisions about where to locate and live based on a combination of both value and values, and, under Murphy’s leadership, New Jersey is proving that social and economic progress can and do go hand in hand. Our economic momentum is strong at the same time as we are advancing policies that are pro-family, pro-democracy, pro-worker and pro-growth.

Murphy and the Legislature’s budget propels our economy forward by pairing progressive vision with effective programming — making major investments in the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s longstanding core strategies. From small business support to economic security, to inclusive innovation, to economic diversification, to community development, the 2023 budget provides the EDA with a slew of new tools, programs and resources designed to invest comprehensively in our economic competitiveness.

The 2023 budget provides the EDA with more than $500 million for programs and initiatives that assist small businesses, support economic infrastructure, grow the state’s innovation economy, increase economic diversification and invest in communities, including the following initiatives:

Small business  

  • $50 million for the EDA’s Main Street Recovery program, which ensures that New Jersey small businesses can continue to grow and thrive in the transition from pandemic to recovery, with a strong focus on equity and inclusion, particularly for minority-, women-, LGBTQ- and veteran-owned businesses;
  • $1 million for the Small Business Bonding Readiness program, run in conjunction with the African American Chamber of Commerce and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which provides courses and training to better position small businesses to qualify for surety bonding and more competitively bid on public works projects.

Economic security

  • $30 million for the Child Care Facilities Fund, which grants New Jersey child care providers with critically necessary funds for capital improvements, helping to guarantee that every child, regardless of ZIP code, has access to a safe, high-quality learning environment, expanding NJEDA’s recovery-related support for New Jersey’s child care sector to more than $100 million;
  • $20 million in capital construction funding for the creation of the Trenton-based Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center championed by first lady Tammy Murphy, which aims to make New Jersey the safest place in the nation to give birth to and raise a child and end the unacceptable racial disparities impacting maternal and infant health in New Jersey;
  • $12.5 million for the Child Care Employer Innovation Pilot Program, which will help support New Jersey workers and small businesses develop new ways of ensuring critically needed child care is available for more New Jersey workers.

Inclusive innovation

  • $70 million for Strategic Innovation Centers, which will invest in accelerators, incubators, research centers, innovative service delivery centers or multitenant innovation clusters that bring innovators and research institutions together to advance innovation within targeted high-growth industries;
  • $10 million in additional funding for Black and Latino startups designed to address and respond to the systemic racial inequities in access to early-stage capital for Black and Latino entrepreneurs, a first in the nation commitment to equity in entrepreneurship;
  • $5 million to jumpstart the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund, a groundbreaking tool that creates partnerships between the state and private sector to support New Jersey entrepreneurs, incentivize investment in emerging New Jersey companies and grow the innovation economy in our state.

Economic diversification

  • $35 million for a Manufacturing Industry Initiative, which will grow and strengthen the state’s manufacturing sector by spurring capital investment, increasing the adoption of new technology and attracting new manufacturers. This program will work hand-in-hand with new funding at the Department of Labor & Workforce Development for targeted workforce programming in this sector to create and maintain good family-sustaining jobs;
  • $15 million for the Film Industry Strategic Support Fund, which will create a Film Academy, partnering with higher education institutions, to develop and support the workforce around New Jersey’s growing film industry, as well as make needed infrastructure investments to support studio development;
  • Opportunities to support small businesses in the cannabis industry through recently signed legislation that allows NJEDA to create products and programs specific to the cannabis industry in the form of grants, loans and technical assistance, to ensure an equitable playing field in this new industry that can work to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs, particularly in communities of color.

Community development

  • $50 million in funding for strategic site assembly, which will enable more transformative, mixed-use, transit-oriented and affordable housing developments to advance;
  • $25 million for a pilot program to encourage the redevelopment so-called “Stranded Assets” such as suburban office parks or legacy retail developments;
  • $25 million for a Diverse Developer Fund, which will support projects led by developers of color to help improve diversity in the real estate industry and support small MWBE businesses;
  • $15 million for Arts Support and Creative Placemaking, which will provide grant funding to incentivize placemaking through public space activation and catalytic development in downtowns with commercial corridors that have been impacted by COVID-19.

New Jersey’s motto is “Liberty and Prosperity,” incorporating the two foundational tenets of our state’s fundamental promise: no matter who you are, who you love or where you come from, everyone is welcome to build their future here. Now more than ever, with fundamental liberties like women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, the right to safe communities, the right to vote and other bedrock democratic freedoms under attack across the country, valuing both Liberty and Prosperity is critical to our future. These commitments are central to our state’s long-term competitive advantage, making our state a magnet for people, businesses and investors looking to invest and grow in places dedicated to these fundamental American values.

Both in laws he has signed and in the budget recently enacted, Murphy is making New Jersey a national model in the fight to protect Liberty and, by doing so, enhance Prosperity for everyone.

This budget undoubtedly moves our state forward, and it will have a significant impact for our small businesses, manufacturers, downtowns and entrepreneurs. Frankly, it’s one we should be proud of.

Tim Sullivan is the CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.