One year after the city became a designated Garden State Growth Zone through the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, economic development is slowly following, according to data provided by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Of the five designated cities – Atlantic City, Camden, Passaic, Trenton – Paterson has received the second largest dollar amount in economic development incentives. City companies received $51.5 million in awards.
During the one year period, the city saw three projects enabled by the incentives provided through the act: Paterson Common II, an affordable housing project, that received $7.73 million in February; Accurate Box Company, a box manufacturer seeking to expand its facility, received $39.85 million in September; and MasterShield, a gutter guard manufacturer seeking to consolidate operations in the city, received $3.79 million in October.
“That looks like a good result for Paterson,” said Tim Evans of New Jersey Futures, a non-profit, that advocates for smart growth in cities. “It only had one project that got an award the whole point before the EOA [Economic Opportunity Act],” said Evans.
Evans looked at six months’ worth of data provided by the authority finding Camden, a city that also had only one award prior to the act, has been the recipient of a large number of awards. In fact, Camden managed to secure $650.59 million in incentives luring big name companies like fighter jet maker Lockheed Martin, automaker Subaru of America, nuclear reactor component maker Holtec International, and basketball team Philadelphia 76ers.
Paterson has not been able to take advantage of the act, at least not as much as Camden has been able to do in the 12-month period. Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who assumed office in July of this year, said Camden was able to get the 76ers to locate a part of their operations in that city because of its proximity to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Torres said Ruben Gomez, the city’s economic development director, is extending efforts to bring companies into the city. He said Gomez was among governor Chris Christie’s delegation to Mexico.
Lack of land also presents a difficulty for the city to attract and allow outside companies to build within its borders. “I think Camden has one thing that Paterson doesn’t have. They have space, whereas Paterson doesn’t,” said Torres.
Gomez did not respond to a call seeking his comments for this story on Tuesday.
“I would say they’ve certainly benefited from it,” said Margie Pilere, director of business development at the authority, when asked whether the designation has helped the city. Pilere mentioned Accurate Box which received a large award of almost $40 million over a ten-year period.
“Accurate Box is able to get that high of an award because they were in Paterson,” said Pilere. “They would not have gotten that if they were in any other city that was not a Garden State Growth Zone.”
Prior to the designation, Medical Missions Inc., the group behind the hotel project near St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, received a $105.5 million award.
City officials in late 2013 rushed to join the act hoping it will bring jobs and economic development to one of the least affluent cities in the Garden State.
“It looks like it’s having the intended result,” added Evans. He said it’s still too early to judge whether the designation has been a game changer. “It looks like it’s helping Paterson too just not as dramatically.”