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Incentive Alert: Governor Murphy Proposes New Incentive Programs

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On Monday, Governor Murphy outlined his plan for revamping New Jersey’s main incentive programs, including the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program (Grow NJ) and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) Program, which are set to expire in July of 2019. While the creation of any new program will require new legislation, this is the first step in a process that will likely result in new incentive programs for businesses and developers.

The NJ Forward Tax Credit Program (NJ Forward) will likely take the place of Grow NJ as the State’s main job attraction incentive program. As proposed, NJ Forward will focus primarily on high-wage, high-growth sectors, including life sciences, information and high tech, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, advanced transportation and logistics, finance and insurance, and food and beverage. While the report does not outline specific programmatic details, it states that the proposed program will:

  • Increase focus on global/U.S. headquarters, R&D activities, and foreign direct investments

  • Prioritize new job creation rather than retained jobs

  • Encourage job creation in urban centers and other distressed communities, particularly those with public transit assets

  • Include an annual award cap and review to ensure fiscal sustainability and transparency

  • Feature lower base per-job credit amounts more in line with neighboring states, as well as more focused bonuses that ensure the administration’s policy goals

  • Limit transfers of credits to ensure that job-creating companies reap the primary benefits of taxpayer investment

  • Reward companies that invest in employee skill development and training

The NJ Aspire Tax Credit Program (NJ Aspire) will likely take the place of ERG as the State’s main incentive for developers. The administration is proposing the creation of a new place-based gap financing tool to help catalyze investments in commercial, residential, and mixed-use (including parking) projects, with a particular focus on cities, downtowns, and suburban neighborhoods served by mass transit. As proposed, the program will facilitate the conversion of surface parking lots, vacant and/or abandoned lots, and other underutilized properties into job and tax-generating development opportunities. The program will also assist in the development of market-rate housing in distressed communities and, where appropriate, mixed-income and affordable housing near transit in suburban communities. NJ Aspire will be structured as a competitive tax credit grant, giving the NJEDA discretion in awarding grants to the most impactful and development-ready project.

In addition to NJ Forward and NJ Aspire, the report also calls for the creation of a new remediation and development tax credit program and a dedicated NJEDA loan fund to support brownfield redevelopment, the creation of a state historic preservation tax credit program, and multiple programs aimed at encouraging venture capital investment in high-growth, high-wage sectors.

If interested in learning more about these or other economic development incentive programs, please do not hesitate to contact Chris Murphy at Murphy Partners LLP at (973) 723-7036 or cmurphy@murphyllp.com.

MURPHY PARTNERS LLP

Murphy Partners LLP is a boutique law firm specializing in real estate, development, and economic incentive advisory. With offices in Newark, New Jersey and New York City, the firm was founded to provide effective, efficient, and creative legal services to meet the distinctive needs of our clients. Through the development of comprehensive legal strategies, our team works tirelessly to create a blueprint for success and advance our clients’ interests in every matter.


Incentive Alert: Amendments to the Grow NJ Program Advance

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On Tuesday, multiple bills to amend the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program (Grow NJ) received favorable committee votes in Trenton. The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee voted 9-0 to amend provisions related to the classification of Garden State Growth Zones (GSGZ) under the program. The committee also approved a bill which would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to establish an “innovation zone” program, and modify the Grow NJ program to provide bonuses and other enhanced incentives to high-technology businesses located in an innovation zone.

Under A-4510, the Grow NJ program would be amended to add a sixth GSGZ, which will include the Atlantic City International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center, and the area within a one-mile radius of the outermost boundary of that airport and technical center.

Currently, there are five GSGZs, including Atlantic City, Camden, Passaic, Paterson, and Trenton. Businesses relocating to or remaining in a GSGZ receive enhanced incentives, including a base tax credit of $5,000 per job, per year, for up to 10 years.

In addition to creating an additional GSGZ, the amendment also allows projects located in the six GSGZs to take advantage of provisions only available for projects located in Camden, including an alternative grant calculation to determine the total incentive amount available. This provision has driven many of the program’s largest projects (and awards) to Camden. As amended, all six GSGZs would be entitled to the same benefits.

The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee also voted 7-0 to approve A-3747, which would require the NJEDA to establish an "innovation zone" program, which would consist of three innovation zones, each surrounding a research university or college or research hospital, and located in Greater Camden, Greater New Brunswick, and Greater Newark. The bill would require the NJEDA, with the approval of the State Treasurer, to modify its existing business assistance programs to give bonuses or other enhanced incentives to high-technology businesses located in an innovation zone.

Created under the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, Grow NJ is the State’s main job creation and retention incentive program. Under the program, businesses creating or retaining jobs in the State may be eligible for tax credits ranging from $500 to $5,000 per job, per year; with bonus credits ranging from $250 to $3,000 per job, per year (awards vary based on applicable criteria).

The Grow NJ program has been wildly popular and incredibly successful. Since its implementation, 232 projects have received awards, totaling over $4.4 billion in tax credits. Approved applicants generally have three years to certify, or complete, a project. A project is deemed complete when the applicant has hired or retained the number of employees listed in its application, and satisfied the program’s capital investment requirements. Once certified, the 232 projects will drive over $3.9 billion in private capital investment, create over 28,000 new jobs, and retain over 30,000 jobs at risk of leaving the State.

If interested in learning more about Grow NJ or other economic development incentive programs, please do not hesitate to contact Murphy Partners LLP at (973) 723-7036 or info@murphyllp.com.  

MURPHY PARTNERS LLP

Murphy Partners LLP is a boutique law firm specializing in commercial real estate and economic incentive advisory. Headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, the firm was founded to provide effective, efficient, and creative legal services to meet the distinctive needs of our clients. Through the development of comprehensive legal strategies, our team works tirelessly to create a blueprint for success and advance our clients’ interests in every matter.

The Importance of a Proactive Government Affairs Strategy in Light of a Changing Administration

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As the smoke clears after a long battle, New Jersey will have a new governor on January 16, 2018. Yesterday, Phil Murphy defeated Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in a race to succeed Governor Chris Christie as New Jersey’s 56th governor. Winning the race by 13 percentage points, Murphy will take office with large majorities in both the senate and the assembly. Having campaigned on a progressive platform, the new administration is likely to work quickly with members in the legislature to implement its agenda.  

The next few months will be filled with the excitement of the transition: the Governor-elect putting together a transition team, selecting key positions within the front office, and working to identify individuals to fill the 15 cabinet-level or principal departments in the state’s executive branch.

Having spent years in Trenton as part of two executive branch agencies, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the importance of a proactive government affairs strategy is often overlooked. Too many times, I sat in meetings with organizations or businesses who were fighting from behind. Had they simply paid attention while the legislature passed a law, or an executive branch agency promulgated a rule, that materially impacted their business, they may have been able to influence the process. Whether because of a lack of knowledge, or a limited understanding of the process, they would find themselves in a compromised position.

While everyone likes certainty, smart organizations and businesses find opportunity in change. New leadership leads to new policy. Whether the issue is clean energy, the legalization of marijuana, or the raising of the state’s minimum wage, it is important to have a say in the conversation.   

Chris J. Murphy is a partner in the governmental affairs group at Murphy Partners LLP, a boutique law firm located in Newark, New Jersey. He can be reached at (973) 723-7036 or cmurphy@murphyllp.com.