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NEWARK-As high-tech jobs are going to less expensive states like North Carolina and Massachusetts, the State of New Jersey is looking to both bring in new jobs and keep the existing ones. “We are not growing our innovation jobs like we need to,” said Caren Franzini, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, speaking at a regional economic outlook conference hosted by the Newark Regional Business Partnership here yesterday.

One program aimed at reversing the trend, according to Franzini, is a re-packaged Edison Innovation Fund, which Gov. Jon Corzine introduced last month. Backed by $150 million of state money, it’s looking to leverage $350 million in private capital to keep New Jersey in the forefront for technical and pharmaceutical jobs. It’s a technology-focused program similar to Business Employment Incentive Program, one of New Jersey’s successes in that area. The re-packaging involved switching the program’s funding from bonds, which will be paid in the future, to a more fiscally sound pay-as-you-go system, a change that had been recommended for years.

Related to the Edison Innovation Fund, Corzine makes personal calls to CEOs of New Jersey businesses to keep them in-state, Franzini explained. Similarly, he calls outside CEOs in an effort to get them to bring their business in-state.

As far as the economy in general, New Jersey is 59 months into its recovery from the last recession, James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, told conference attendees. This is significant because that’s the average length of the past 10 recoveries.

But New Jersey is lagging the overall US rate for job growth, said Rae Rosen, senior economist and assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Of the jobs New Jersey is creating, only one high-paying job is being created for every two low-paying ones. The national ratio is about 1:1, she pointed out.

Both New Jersey and New York had tax surpluses this year, Rosen said, noting that New York’s was 14% and New Jersey’s 9.7%. Both states used them responsibly, she said, but New Jersey’s didn’t cover its multibillion-dollar budget gap.

The conference was moderated by Alan Fishman, president and COO of Sovereign Bank and chairman of the bank’s Metro New York-New Jersey Division, who recently completed the acquisition and rebranding of Independence Community Bank. Rebranding New Jersey as a business-friendly environment was mentioned by multiple panelists as a way to achieve success. “Measures can be in place to make New Jersey more attractive to businesses, but people need to know about them,” Fishman said.

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