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Joe Cavaluzzi is a contributing writer for Real Estate New Jersey.TEANECK, NJ-The state of the economy was a key topic during the early morning sessions at yesterday’s RealShare New Jersey conference. Approximately 600 attended the event, produced by Real Estate Media Inc., publisher of Real Estate New Jersey and GlobeSt.com.

Port Authority of NY and NJ chairman Anthony Coscia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester and a who’s who of New Jersey real estate professionals were on hand to discuss a range of topics. Coscia said the bi-state authority has found itself again after losing 84 employees during the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and is focusing on a few areas of regional economic development. Those include building a transportation network geared to a service economy instead of manufacturing, increasing mass transit use and modernizing systems for moving goods. The PA is targeting 17 brownfield properties around it for warehouse development and investing $300 million to improve security and create a seamless transportation system.

“In September, we broke ground on a $2.2-billion mass transit hub in Lower Manhattan that will accommodate 85,000 people a day,” Coscia said. “The next step will be to invest in substantial retail development in Lower Manhattan. There’s a whole lot that needs to be done. We’ve begun with a very aggressive tempo.”

The PA’s plans won praise from NJ real estate professionals during a town hall meeting discussion moderated by RENJ editor Eric Peterson. Speakers included Jeff Gronning, managing principal of Normandy Real Estate Partners; Rick Marchisco, EVP of Grubb & Ellis; Gil Medina, executive managing director of Cushman & Wakefield; Bob Martie, SVP of Advance Realty; Ray Sohmer, SVP of CB Richard Ellis, and Emanuel Stern, president and COO of Hartz Mountain Industries. They expressed a sense that New Jersey’s economic growth has not lived up to the rosy picture being painted in Trenton.

Most agreed with Medina, who pointed out that the state’s leading job creators–currently, the food and health industries, construction, transportation and utilities–are not going to create much demand for office space. “The finance sector is showing job growth but much of it has been in the home mortgage business. If we are in a residential real estate bubble and it bursts, we’re going to lose the best-paying jobs being created.”

Mitchell Hersh, president and CEO of Mack-Cali Realty Corp., sat down for a one-on-one with Real Estate Media president and CEO Jonathan A. Schein and voiced his concerns about the impact of state tax policies. “We need fundamental business leadership in our government,” the state’s largest commercial landlord said. “What New Jersey needs is a continuum of knowledge-based jobs to fill office space and bring wealth to the state.”

Congressman Robert Andrews, (D-1st Dist.) appearing on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate US Sen. Jon Corzine, gave some insight into the candidate’s approach to development during comments on fear over the US Supreme Court’s recent eminent domain ruling. “Corzine understands the balance between the need to protect people’s homes but that growth is going to take place in urban and older suburban areas,” Andrews said. “With large areas like the Pinelands protected from development, if there is to be growth and prosperity in New Jersey, it will have to take place in already-developed areas and that will necessitate enactment of eminent domain.”

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