Lakewood earns $7.4M in grant funding from UEZA

Zone Assistance Fund supports community improvement initiatives that enhance quality of life for residents

Lakewood will receive more than $7.4 million in Zone Assistance Funds in 2024, the largest allocation in the state, it was announced Thursday.

The award, up from $5.5 million in 2023, will support various community improvement initiatives, with a special focus on bolstering quality of life for Lakewood’s residents.

The money comes from the Urban Enterprise Zone Authority, an affiliate agency of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

The UEZA offers business and tax incentives with the primary objective of reinvigorating designated urban communities, driving economic growth by encouraging businesses to expand and create private-sector employment opportunities through a blend of public and private investments.

Since the UEZA’s reboot in 2021, the Lakewood Development Corp., which oversees Lakewood’s UEZ program, has implemented numerous impressive programs that have allowed the township’s businesses to grow and create jobs, in part by encouraging residents to shop local, and attracting residents from other towns to shop in Lakewood.

Acting DCA Commissioner Jacquelyn Suárez said Lakewood is an example for others.

“Lakewood is seeing great success by utilizing the Urban Enterprise Zone grant funds as intended by the Legislature,” she said. “By fostering economic growth and job creation through investment in small businesses, expanding essential transportation services so that people can access jobs, shopping and entertainment, this program creates resilient communities like Lakewood that contribute to regional prosperity and improves the daily lives of residents.”

UEZA Executive Director James Slaughter also was complimentary.

“The Lakewood Development Corp. proactively recruits new businesses through active engagement with business owners and utilization of creative marketing strategies,” he said. “Under David Klein’s leadership, this organization has enhanced the presence of the UEZ in Lakewood. David and his team have worked tirelessly to bring great projects to Lakewood and are always willing to collaborate with other UEZ partners to enhance their local services. We congratulate the Lakewood Development Corp. for its efforts in receiving the top UEZ allocation of the year.”

Currently, UEZ grants are funding several projects in Lakewood designed to improve the quality of life for residents, including enhancing and expanding bus and shuttle services in the community using nearly $2 million of the secured UEZ funds.

Slaughter noted that, at the February UEZA board meeting, members approved nearly $1 million from the funding total to be used toward safety and security projects in Lakewood.

The UEZ program was originally established in 1983. UEZ funds (known as Zone Assistance Funds, or ZAFs) are allocated to UEZs by a four-factor formula established by state statute.

In August 2021, acting Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver signed legislation that appropriated $42.5 million to the program, enabling an expansion of UEZA services within designated zones.