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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ-Calling the port facilities overseen by the Port Authority of NY/NJ “the region’s economic driver,” PA chairman Anthony Coscia called upon industrial developers to build “complementary development” of new W/D facilities to support the port’s growth. “We will work with you and encourage the development of off-port property,” keynoter Coscia told attendees at Naiop’s Industrial Conference here Wednesday.

“The logistics business has been an incredible part of how the regional economy has changed from manufacturing to services,” Coscia said. “Industrial development is the backbone of the economy in the Northeast and New York metropolitan area.”

And while the various transportation-related activities operated by the PA, including bridges, tunnels and mass transit, are more obvious in their direct impact, “the port portion of Port Authority activities affects the most people because of all the goods and services that move through the port.” He conceded that one of the key challenges the port and its ancillary development face is “the constrained land environment.” Still, things are getting done, he said, including the PA’s recent $60-million land lease buyback deal and proposed cargo terminal development for 119 acres in Jersey City. He explained that the PA has undertaken an “aggressive plan to invest in the port,” an effort that has spent $1.6 billion in the past few years for everything from dredging to transportation improvements–including rail–and new terminals.

Coscia also told attendees that the PA would spend an additional $3 billion over the next decade to keep the process going. Besides keeping up with the port’s growth, “which has been in the 5% to 7% range every year for the past decade,” the capital outlays are also related to competition from other East Coast ports, which “are also spending money because they see what we’re doing.” And for East Coast ports in general, “the Panama Canal expansion will benefit everyone,” relating to shipping routes to Asia bypassing the West Coast.

Coscia also reminded attendees that the State of New Jersey has several programs to encourage off-port development, notably the Portfields Initiative, which has resulted in several million sf of new W/D space already. “Because we are land constrained, we need to deploy our real estate assets efficiently,” he said.

Asked about “green” as it relates to industrial development, “we recently instituted a sustainability program for the Port Authority’s footprint. We have green standards for new construction and are looking for potential cash-flow opportunities,” he said, specifically mentioning flat W/D roofs for solar installation as an example.

Asked about Gov. Jon Corzine’s proposed toll hikes for the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, and how that might affect the logistics industry, he declined to comment specifically on that proposal. But noting recent toll hikes on the bridges and tunnels connecting New Jersey and New York, operated by the PA, “we need money to make investments,” he said. “It’s a difficult issue, but we have ignored infrastructure issues in the past and we need improvements. It’s a challenge to deal with, just like other rising costs.”

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