Bill to enhance business incentives around Camden, Newark and New Brunswick advances

A bill that would enhance business incentive programs in and around Camden, Newark and New Brunswick cleared an Assembly committee today.

The plan would create "innovation zones" aimed at sparking collaboration between the technology industry and the public colleges and research hospitals in each of those areas. Under the bill, the state Economic Development Authority would modify its existing incentive programs to provide bonuses or "other enhanced incentives" to businesses within the three zones.

Much of the bill remains vague. The EDA would set the exact boundaries of the zones, and the bill does not specify the amount of the incentives or the cost to the state.

Still, the sponsors called the measure a "win-win" for universities, businesses, hospitals and the state.

"These zones will make New Jersey more inviting to businesses planning to move here as well as keeping the state regionally competitive," said one sponsor, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D., Camden).

Marie Tasy, executive director of pro-life group New Jersey Right to Life, criticized the bill, saying the innovation zones could be used to provide tax benefits for embryonic stem cell research. The bill does not specify that possibility, but Tasy said it also does not rule out the idea. A proposed amendment to bar such use was rejected.

The measure still must clear the full Assembly and has not yet moved in the Senate.

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