Mack-Cali's Mitchell Hersh (second from left) credited Mayor Steven Fulop's goals for Jersey City.

A previous version of this article had an error. Mack-Cali owns the Hyatt Regency Jersey City, not Tucker Development. We apologize for the error. 

SHORT HILLS, NJ-The Garden State has very strong potential to be a contender in the entrepreneurial start-up arena where Silicon Valley and, more recently, New York City have scored, panelist Dennis Bone said at NAIOP New Jersey‘s Annual Meeting & Commercial Real Estate Outlook presentation here Wednesday night. However, Bone and other experts agreed that to date, this potential has gone unrealized.

“New York is cleaning our clock in this area,” said Bone, formerly CEO of Verizon New Jersey and now director of the Mimi and Edwin Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University‘s School Of Business. “We need to get our act together a little better,” he added.

Panelists at Wednesday’s discussion at the Hilton Short Hills, moderated by Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, charted the progress that has been made in this area by the private and public sectors, including educational institutions.  Mitchell Hersh, president and CEO of Mack-Cali Realty Corp., pointed out the pricing edge that New Jersey has over Brooklyn when it comes to both building apartment properties and setting rents for them. This provides an advantage as the state’s bigger and smaller cities are reimagined as the live/work/play environments that attract millennials.

Hersh credited Mayor Steven Fulop, now a year into his first term, for his intention of making Jersey City into one of America’s best cities. The more that governments evince this attitude, the better off we’ll be, said Hersh.

What Silicon Valley, the Route 128 corridor in metro Boston and North Carolina’s Research Triangle all share is a strong support system from academic institutions. It’s a pool of research talent that companies ranging from incubators to larger biotechnology firms want to know they can rely on, Hersh pointed out. New Jersey has such a support system in place but doesn’t have the reputation yet, said panelists.

For example, Rutgers University‘s James Hughes noted that since Rutgers’ merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey last year, its annual research spending now totals $702 million, ranking it 24th among all US universities and sixth in the 15-member Committee on Institutional Cooperation educational consortium, which it joined last summer. “We never had that before; we have it now,” said Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

Panelists also pointed to the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, signed into law this past September, as another competitive advantage. Hersh said that with the Act now in the state’s economic incentives toolkit, it’s hard for major employers to not consider locating here.

With the Garden State’s first-ever Super Bowl scheduled to kick off Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, panelists weighed in on the disappointing economic impact that pre-game fever has had for New Jersey. New York City, in spite of not physically hosting the game, has gotten far more tourism mileage out of it, although Hersh noted that the Denver Broncos are staying at Mack-Cali’s Hyatt Regency Jersey City. Informally, panelists appeared to prefer Denver over Seattle in Sunday’s game.