By Bill Cleary
I was sorry to hear that one of the programs that Christie’s proposed cutbacks will affect was New Jersey's highly successful Urban Enterprise (UEZ) Program which began in 1983. In 2008 it became part of the Department of Community Affairs.
From the DCA website,
The UEZ Program was created to foster an economic climate that revitalizes designated urban communities and stimulates their growth by encouraging businesses to develop and create private sector jobs through public and private investment. The UEZ Program supports more than 139,000 full-time jobs and has attracted $26.4 billion in private investment. There are nearly 6,500 businesses of all sizes and types participating and benefitting from the advantages of the UEZ Program. These include a number of tax and other financial incentives. Since the program's inception, nearly 28,000 businesses have enjoyed UEZ Program benefits.
According to Gloucester City UEZ Director Howard Clark the Governor is calling for a 35 percent reduction in the DCA “and the UEZ is included in that cut.”
Clark said UEZ managers from the 32 communities enrolled in the program were meeting to discuss what can be done, if anything. “We are hoping to meet with the Governor before July 1, which is when the new fiscal state budget begins. There is a chance in a face to face meeting with him we could come up with a way to keep it operating.”
Since the program is in limbo the City’s UEZ will not contribute funds to the annual Celtic Festival held in September for the past three years. When it first started the Festival committee received $50,000 from the UEZ and $25,000 the last two years. Maybe the festival committee can find a corporate donor to pick up paying for police overtime and trash pickup.
Council has held off adopting the City’s UEZ budget of $186,999 for the upcoming fiscal year. Normally the city would fund the program and be reimbursed by the state said Councilman Nick Marchese. “We are waiting on a final decision by Trenton on the program before taking any action on this budget.”
NJN interviewed Clark on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. Clark took the reporter and camera crew on a tour of the City’s riverfront. He spoke about the City’s plan to spend $5 million on renovations to that area. Included in the plans are a new restaurant, a pedestrian walkway, and some new homes. Clark said some of the UEZ funds were going to be used on that project. He didn’t know if the governor’s cutbacks would have an effect on those plans. Click link to view interview...http://www.njn.net/television/webcast/njnnews/wednesday.html
Senator Jeff Van Drew, Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing of his Committee on the value of the UEZ program and the devastating impact of their potential loss.
“The UEZ program has brought more than 1,800 full-time jobs and 790 part-time positions in Millville’s Urban Enterprise Zone since the program’s inception and helped create more than 5,000 jobs in Vineland. There are other UEZ’s in New Jersey that have been extremely successful in stimulating economic growth and job creation as well. We need to hear the success stories as well as the shortcomings throughout the State of NJ. This program has tremendous potential to help bring New Jersey out of this current economic crisis’” said Van Drew.
I agree with Senator Van Drew and urge Governor Christie to reconsider his decision to slash the 27-year-old program.