The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) recently awarded The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University a $155,000 grant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the DCA’s Urban Enterprise Zone program (UEZ).
A zone in which policies and programs that encourage economic growth and development are implemented, a UEZ designation provides financial incentives for local businesses within the zone. These incentives can drive capital improvements, business expansion and employment and improve the overall quality of life for residents.
The research, analysis and assessment that The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy (Watson Institute) will be conducting under the auspices of the grant will measure whether the UEZ program is a viable tool for encouraging economic development within the state and provide recommendations on the future design and administration of the program.
“The DCA has entrusted the Watson Institute to conduct this report, given our nearly three decades of conducting research and analysis on urban policy. In response to the opportunity, we will focus our capabilities on a comprehensive assessment of the critical factors that impact enterprise zones,” said Barbara George Johnson, executive director of The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, who serves as a project lead for the initiative. “The Watson Institute has always been dedicated to providing research expertise, technical assistance and analysis surrounding the persistent public policy challenges of local governments, businesses and community organizations with the objective of improving the quality of life for those living and working in those districts. The grant will allow us to redouble our efforts in this valuable endeavor.”
The New Jersey Legislature created the Urban Enterprise Zone Program in 1983 to help stimulate economic activity and spur employment within the boundaries of each zone. Businesses within each UEZ receive a variety of benefits including reduced sales tax, financial assistance, subsidized unemployment insurance and tax credit options. Trenton was awarded its UEZ designation in 1985. According to the City of Trenton, N.J., website, the program has successfully served more than 800 businesses that have invested millions of dollars in the construction and rehabilitation of new office, commercial and retail space, sports complexes and other improvements to the city’s landscape and, by extension, the lives of its residents.
“I look forward to receiving the study findings from the accomplished team at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy,” said Tracy Fredericks, executive director of the Urban Enterprise Zone Program at the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. “We are optimistic that the results will provide appropriate data and a clearer picture that will help legislators decide on the direction the program should take in the future.”