Hoping to spur growth in New Jersey’s population centers, the head of the state’s Economic Development Authority discussed a program last week to infuse five of those areas each with up to $100,000 to map out their futures.
“Economic development is not a one-size-fits-all game,” Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, told members of New Jersey Tech Council at the group’s annual meeting in New Brunswick Wednesday, July 18th.
“You can’t just have large scale incentives. You have to customize,” he said.
“We are trying to empower our local communities, the cities, where the innovation economy battle will be won and lost, in cities large and small, to give them the resources they need to do the planning and investments that are critical catalysts for innovation,” he said.
“We want to be the most inclusive and diverse tech ecosystem in the country,” he also noted.
“I don’t think we are going to be the biggest. We are not going to be the first to get there. Everyone wants to have a tech ecosystem. Our opportunity and our hook is going to be the most diverse and inclusive tech ecosystem in both country of origin and gender and ethnic background and race. We got a chance to get that right,” he said.
The announcement of the Innovation Planning Challenge is spelled out on the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s website.
The Innovation Planning Challenge will award up to five six-month contracts of up to $100,000 each to the winning municipal and/or county government partnerships.
The winners must best show how their economic development plans will catalyze planning and key investments to their cities and regions, according to the authority.
Proposals must include a higher education partnership, meaning a partnership with a public or private institution of higher education, to leverage external expertise to best achieve the goals of the Innovation Planning Challenge, according to the authority.
While all proposals are required to have a higher education partnership, preference will be given to proposals that also include additional strategic partners and additional dollar commitments to the public or private institution of higher education and strategic partner.
Only a New Jersey local or county government or municipal partnership with a combined population of 25,000 or more, or regional partnership with a combined population of 100,000 or more can participate, according to the website.
The deadline to submit proposals is Aug. 27.
The announcement follows Governor Phil Murphy’s March announcement that he supports a project in New Brunswick that could serve as example as the type of redevelopment with all the right stuff.
Called the Hub, the 12-acre, city-owned site in New Brunswick has the green light for up to 4 million square feet of commercial development that officials envision being filled with residential and retail space, research facilities, and space for science and tech companies next to existing corporate, medical and university research.
But more growth is needed and other areas in New Jersey are prime for it.
“We have some great incubator- and accelerator-type space, but not really enough,” he also added. “We are working on a few things designed to supercharge that in the short term to get more companies out of the coffee shop and into collaborate work space.”