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A Candid Interview with Gloucester City UEZ Coordinator Howard Clark Regarding the EDC

update February 7, 2013 

BY BILL CLEARY

 CNBNews.net

 

(cnbnews.net)GLOUCESTER CITY NJ-According to a recent article in the 6a00d8341bf7d953ef010536e2a426970b-150wi Gloucester City News, a new group called the Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation was formed 8 months ago in June 2012. This corporation will be performing some of the same duties  previously carried out by Gloucester City UEZ Coordinator Howard Clark. Wanting to know what Clark thought of the change, CNBNews sat down with him recently for an interview.

The UEZ stands for the Urban Economic Zone which consists of 32 zones in 37 communities throughout the state of New Jersey. It is an incentive based program that is allowed to charge 3.5% state sales tax instead of the 7%  tax used elsewhere and creates credits to businesses that create good paying jobs. Although Governor Christie wanted to disband the UEZ when he first took office, the program is still in effect today.

Clark’s official title is UEZ Coordinator/Director of Community Development. Clark was hired in 2008 at a salary of $60,000. The person he replaced was receiving the same amount, according to Clark, "plus she was to paid an additional $20,000 in 2009 to come back periodically to run the city’s festivals, parades, etc. Upon taking over the position I informed her that her services would not be needed, saving the city $20,000".

CNBNEWS-- What local projects were you working on before the local UEZ was changed over to this new entity, the Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation?

CLARK--The Gloucester City UEZ continues each day to serve, recruit, retain, and expand business operations in the city of Gloucester. The current local projects that continue are façade loans for outside the business, as well as interior matching fund capital projects including HVAC, security, etc, and business signage grants. Monies from the the local UEZ office were used towards hiring an additional city police officer, along with purchasing a police car, trash truck and street sweeper. The state approved the spending in order to reduce taxpayer expenses. An EDC member said he was against using UEZ money for such purchases. He argued funds for such expenditures had nothing to do with community development.

CNBNEWS-- How much money did the local UEZ program raise during the time you have been director?

CLARK--Approximately $2 million from 2008 to 2012. I also was able to get  $870,000 for Gloucester City from BP( ARCO) in 2011 along with the deed to their nine acre property on Water Street for $1. The money was to go towards cleaning up that property on Water Street. The compost plant is going to be built on that site.

CNBNEWS--Does the city still receive monies from the local UEZ program?

CLARK--The State of New Jersey sent Gloucester City $896,000 in a lump sum check in December. Gloucester City was one of 32 UEZ cities to receive this money from the state treasurer. The money had been sitting in their individual accounts. Governor Christie ordered the money to be released. 

In 2011 the local UEZ had three accounts with TD Bank. Last month the statements received by my office indicated that all three accounts were closed. I was never informed that these accounts were going to be shut down. I am assuming the money was turned over to GCEDC. However, I have not been able to confirm that assumption. I suggest you contact the GCEDC as they might be able to shed some light on this question. 

CNBNEWS --How many businesses in Gloucester City participate in the UEZ program?

CLARK--Between 48 and 52 businesses at any one time.

CNBNEWS--Will you be working with the EDC group?

CLARK--I still work for the State of New Jersey UEZ until told otherwise.

CNBNEWS-- Would you list some highlights during your 4 plus years as director?

CLARK--

  • Brought in new businesses into the UEZ program, which increased tax ratable, and helped UEZ business owners expand their businesses to keep  them from moving out of town. 
  • Increased participation in the UEZ incentive programs.
  • Communicated with and coordinated partnerships with new businesses to existing businesses. 
  • The BP (ARCO) acquisition on behalf of Gloucester City’s Southport area that also paid Gloucester  City $870,000. 
  • The Chilean cold storage operation that had two Chilean world wide operations that wanted to place their new processing plant for food redistribution throughout the United States. A new plant, 50 new jobs, a 24-hour operation all paid for by the Chileans. The Chileans were willing to purchase the AMSPEC property so they would be close to the new Gloucester City industrial port. I would suggest you ask those in charge of the city why that project never got off the ground.
  • Set up an advertising campaign that featured local businesses in the Gloucester City News and on CNBNews.net 
  • Helped the citizens of Gloucester City by producing good companies that offered good jobs .

CNBNEWS-During your time as UEZ director did you try to develop the Monmouth Street business district?

CLARK--Yes. At the time we took over, the country was starting to drift into recession. Landowners that could not sell their properties for a large profit held onto the properties and did not want to sell. Potential new business owners were finding it difficult to find financing and banks willing to write new deals. Also, some absentee owners who lived out of state sat on their properties, even if they could have tenants but, would cost them more money to have an operational property if things needed to be updated, upgraded, it would cost them additional funds. People decided to do nothing with their properties. One owner wanted $3000 per month to rent his building in a recession. It was too much money for a new business owner and banks saw it as a risk.

CNBNEWS-Will your present salary of $73,500 remain the same now that the EDC is in existence?

CLARK--No. My salary has been reduced by $15,500 per year to $58,500. The Mayor, Council and Finance Committee said that the UEZ was in a “precarious situation” and  they made this decision with considering all options”. I will now be told what additional duties will be assigned to me. Incidentally, I was making $73,500 for the past month. White collar workers just got a 2 percent raise. As a result my $70,000 salary increased by $3,500. Now it has been cut to $58,500.

CNBNEWS-- Did the mayor or any member of council discuss the changes being made in the UEZ office with you? To be specific, did you know that this new group, GCEDC was going to be assuming so much power?

CLARK--No.  

CNBNEWS POSTSCRIPT--CNBNews has tried on numerous occasions to get some straight answers from Dave Stallwood, the EDC Chairman. As for the EDC statement in last week’s Gloucester City News none of the questions we had previously asked were answered in that release. 

To be precise we wanted to know how much money the body borrowed from the City’s UDAG program to buy the two properties on Monmouth Street.

 Some other questions included:

If a realtor can’t sell these businesses in five years how doe the EDC expect to sell them?

If the properties were in disrepair, why didn’t the Housing Office cite the owners?

Who has been awarded the contracts to make the repairs? Did you advertise for bids?

Why all the secrecy? This committee was formed 8 months ago in June 2012. Yet the public is just hearing about it.

Because of the EDC's lack of communication with the residents of Gloucester City we have submitted an OPRA request to find out the answers.

Besides Stallwood, the volunteer EDC board members include Frank Antico (vice chairman), Bob Booth (treasurer), Bob Bevan (aide to Mayor James), Nick Marchese (former councilman), Dan Spencer (councilman), Frank Wunsch (zoning board). 

  

Uploaded on Dec 4, 2008

Howard Clark, director of the Gloucester City Urban Enterprize Zone (UEZ) explains the program as it relates to the City of Gloucester City. "Success In Business Is All About The Numbers...here's the most important one for your business needs --856.456.6075 or via email at UEZ@cityofgloucester.org."

 

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