Senator Open to Sponsoring Legislation to Improve Accountability
TRENTON – Senator Jeff Van Drew today welcomed the results of a review by the State Auditor of the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program that noted a need for improved transparency and setting quantifiable goals and objectives for success in the state’s 32 UEZ municipalities.
Van Drew said making Auditor’s improvements would show even more conclusively how the UEZ program is creating economic opportunity in previously depressed urban areas. However, he said the audit simply proves the need to improve the program to correct reported shortcomings, and should not be misconstrued as a reason to end the 27-year-old UEZ program.
“In any state program, there always will be room for improvement, and our UEZs are no different,” said Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), whose district includes the Millville/Vineland joint UEZ. “This is one area where heeding the auditor’s recommendation will do more than simply correct identified weaknesses. With greater transparency and solid metrics for measuring success, UEZ communities will be able to show in even greater detail the immense benefits this program has had in revitalizing urban centers.”
The audit noted that nearly 135,000 jobs have been created in the state’s UEZ municipalities, and that nearly $29 billion in private investment has flowed into those towns since the program�s inception in 1983. Nearly 32,000 businesses are located in a UEZ.
“Because of the UEZ program, some of New Jersey’s historic downtowns have been transformed from virtual wastelands to thriving commercial centers,” said Van Drew. “Certainly, this audit shows the need for us to take the initiative and improve accountability. But in no way should this audit lead anyone to think that the UEZ program has failed. In fact, implementing these recommendations could prove even more conclusively how this program is creating jobs and spurring economic growth where it is needed most.”