EDA marks its 50th anniversary as economic driver for state

Agency has been key to spurring economic growth — and economic recovery in times of turmoil


When the New Jersey Economic Development Authority was created 50 years ago, it was done with the intent of creating an authority that would seek to attract new industry and expand existing industry in the state.

Certainly, a noble endeavor.

The EDA has proven to be all that and more — in good times and bad. And few have put it to use as much as Gov. Phil Murphy.

Since he took office, the EDA has stood up more than 60 programs. Some have been an effort to spur economic growth. Others have been an effort to get business-saving funds quickly into the hands of owners at their most desperate times — certainly, starting with the pandemic.

Earlier this week, the governor and EDA CEO Tim Sullivan reflected on the significance of a bill that was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Herbert Klein and signed into law by Democratic Governor Brendan Byrne.

“Fifty years and 10 governors after its creation, the work of the NJEDA is more essential than ever as we continue to build and shape a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy that supports good-paying, family-supporting jobs of the future,” Murphy said.

Historically, the EDA’s core focus was traditional financing options such as loans, bonds and tax incentives. Under Murphy’s administration, the EDA has expanded to include a vast array of innovative resources that can be adapted to the needs of New Jersey entrepreneurs, small businesses, municipalities, industries and developers.

Sullivan said these offerings range from cannabis grants, to historic preservation tax credits, and offshore wind workforce development, to income replacement for entrepreneurs, new ways to help Main Street businesses grow and the attraction of high-profile film projects.

The EDA, however, has had its greatest impact in times of turmoil.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the EDA delivered federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program funds to small businesses and communities in the form of grants and loans.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJEDA created programs leveraging federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act money to help small businesses keep their doors open and staff on payroll.

Since the pandemic, programs created under the Economic Recovery Act of 2020 have continued to help small businesses expand their operations and strengthen communities across the state.

The governor said the ability of the EDA to react quickly has made a difference.

“The authority’s role has continued to grow and evolve over the years as new challenges arise, and, through it all, NJEDA has remained nimble, listening and responding to the needs of businesses and communities — large and small,” he said. “As a result, we have unleashed extraordinary economic growth in recent years, transforming New Jersey into one of the best states in the nation to start or grow a business.”

Sullivan agreed.

“Time and again, Gov. Murphy and the Legislature have entrusted the NJEDA with developing and executing on resources that address the needs of New Jersey businesses, and proactively foster the growth of industries and development projects that can deliver on the promise of Gov. Murphy’s Economic Development Strategic Plan,” he said.

“As we work to create opportunities for New Jerseyans from all backgrounds and foster the growth of New Jersey’s economy during 2024, we will continue to build on the momentum of 50 years of creating new jobs, driving economic activity and revitalizing communities.”