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Senate Economic Growth Committee Approves Bills to Spur Innovation and Entrepreneurship in NJ

TRENTON – The Senate Economic Growth Committee today approved a bill package to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in New Jersey.  The bills aim to incentivize growth of manufacturing, customized services for small and mid-sized businesses, and development programs for startup companies in business accelerators and incubators.

S-366, sponsored by Senator Ronald Rice, establishes a business assistance program for manufacturers within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).  Under the bill, manufacturing facilities located in areas zoned solely for manufacturing purposes by municipalities, that meet certain criteria, would qualify for financial incentives and other assistance; the bill would define and create “priority areas” where program resources would be focused.

“We have to take advantage of our major infrastructure assets including our ports, highways and bridges and our location on the East Coast.  These will be beneficial in bringing manufacturing back to New Jersey,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex).  “I have been pushing for years to bring manufacturing back to the cities.  Places like Newark, Carteret, and Perth Amboy are experiencing a renaissance.  With this bill, we can help provide assistance to manufacturing businesses in order to grow this sector, create jobs and spur economic growth in our urban areas and beyond.”

The bill was approved by the committee with a vote of 5-0, and will next head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

S-1311, sponsored by Chairwoman Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, establishes an ‘Economic Gardening Program’ in the Department of State to provide customized services to small and mid-size businesses in New Jersey.  The bill would require the Business Action Center to establish a specific program that would be tailored to help ‘qualified second-stage growth businesses.’ A qualified second-stage growth business is a business that its center of operations has been located in New Jersey for at least 2 years, has annual revenues totaling between $600,000 and $50,000,000, employs at least five, but no more than 100 full time employees, demonstrates growth in annual revenue or jobs, or both, in two of the last five years, delivers products or services to customers outside the business’s local market area or demonstrates the capacity to do so, is in a target industry as identified by the center, and is organized for profit to perform a lawful, commercial function.

“One way we can help New Jersey succeed is to invest in our local businesses, and help to develop them.  Creating new and innovative industries will help make New Jersey’s economy competitive with other states,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester).  “This bill will strengthen small and medium-sized businesses, allow for them to grow within our communities and create jobs.”

The bill was approved by the committee with a vote of 5-0, and will next head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

S-1898, sponsored by Chairwoman Cruz-Perez and Senator Jim Beach, would create the “Startup Businesses in Business Incubators Development Program” for startup businesses in certain business accelerators and business incubators.  The program would offer tax incentives for startups, and financial assistance and support services to an accelerator or incubator located within an “urban transit hub” or within one mile of a research institution, whether that is a university or research hospital.  Innovative fields that would eligible for funding include: 1) clean energy or environmental technology, 2) life sciences, biotechnology, or medical device technology, 3) advanced materials, engineering, or manufacturing, 4) supply chain, transportation, and logistics, 5) big data, advanced computing, and digital technology, 6) defense and homeland security, or 7) food and agriculture.

“New Jersey has great research institutions that could potentially be the starting point for public-private partnerships with accelerators and incubator businesses,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester).  “This would be a great way to create employment and internship opportunities for students in science and technology, and also to utilize our research institutions to support business endeavors.”

The bill would require that the EDA promote and facilitate public-private partnerships between accelerator and incubator businesses, startups, and New Jersey research institutions.  Financial assistance given to an accelerator or incubator business would match 20 percent of the amount of funding provided by a research institution, up to a total of $200,000. The program would also provide 10 competitive grants annually of $100,000 for eligible incubators based on four criteria: innovative strength of their startups, strength of the partnership with research institution, quality of the services provided to startups by the incubator and accelerator, and the level of diversity in the entrepreneur population in the accelerator and incubator.  Startups in the program would be eligible to a partially refundable tax credit representing 15% of their net operating costs for 7 years.  The program dedicates $5 million of the Angel Investor Tax Credit to startups.  Should the bill become law, the tax credits and grants would be available for 7 years and expire afterwards.

“Harnessing the enormous talent within our State is good for the economy,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “By providing budding entrepreneurs with the tools and resources necessary to build successful startups, we are creating the jobs of tomorrow and ensuring that those opportunities exist here in New Jersey.”

The bill was approved by the committee with a vote of 5-0, and will next head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.