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HOBOKEN, NJ-The signing of new Business Employment Incentive Program (BEIP) was the centerpiece of the day, but New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey had a lot more on his mind last week when he sat down for an exclusive GlobeSt.com interview. To begin with, what happened early this year when his administration and the business community were suddenly at loggerheads over the announcement that BEIP was in jeopardy, combined with the unveiling of the so-called Blueprint for Intelligent Growth, or BIG Map (see earlier stories)?

“The difficulty was that we were confronted with a budget deficit that was not an insignificant challenge,” McGreevey tells GlobeSt.com. “With the support of the business community, we now have BEIP being financed through the state EDA, which will ensure consistency and predictability.

“As to the state map, we’ve been working with [NJ DEP commissioner Bradley Campbell] to provide increased consistency and predictability,” McGreevey says of his administration’s so-called “smart growth” plan to give priority to development in certain parts of the state over others. “The state map will largely reflect the historic underpinnings of the state plan.”

Specifically, “there are incremental incentives for urban areas–the real incentives, though, come from brownfield development,” he elaborates. “We’re working with the real estate community to substantially enhance brownfield redevelopment incentives.”

What about the state of the economy in general?

“New Jersey’s economy is in relatively good position because of our diversity,” McGreevey relates. “In fact, while the nation lost 328,000 jobs in the last year, New Jersey added 35,000 jobs, and last year we had a 13% increase in new business filings–a total of 66,000.

“We are in a competitive mode when it comes to attracting increased private capital investment,” he continues. “We are setting forth a long-term, blueprint to maximize the competitiveness of our economy. I would ask the real estate community to do what it does every day–namely, market New Jersey.”

What’s the key selling point?

“Location, location, location,” McGreevey responds. “Benjamin Franklin described New Jersey as ‘that valley of humility between the mountains of conceit of New York and Philadelphia’. We are blessed with an extraordinary location.”

Asked about development activity in the Meadowlands, including redevelopment of the state-owned Continental Airlines Arena, “it’s going to be exciting,” McGreevey says. “The Mills/Mack-Cali [Meadowlands Xanadu] project and the Encap [golf course] project will provide $2 billion worth of private capital investment. Our goal is also to secure the continuity of the Devils, Nets, Giants and Jets [franchises].

“Our perspective, however, is that we’re willing to make substantial investment in [New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority]-owned properties to maximize their economic competitiveness,” he says. “But considering the deficit, we don’t have the luxury of providing direct subsidies to the teams.”

What about the possible sale of the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park racetracks, both also state-owned?

“Our goal is to make sure that there’s increased investment in the Meadowlands and Monmouth–they are precious jewels in terms of economic benefit and quality of life,” McGreevey outlines. “We also need to evaluate how we can maximize private capital investment considering the financial circumstances of the state.”

Finally, what about transportation, one of the Garden State’s most nagging problems?

“People are spending more time in their cars–that’s why we have a $1.6 billion investment in transportation,” McGreevey concludes. “Transportation infrastructure is so critical not only as it pertains to ports as an economic engine, but also moving people and product throughout the state of New Jersey.”

(The complete interview with Gov. James McGreevey will appear in the October issue of Real Estate New Jersey.)

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