Murphy pushes economic master plan with small business leaders

On the morning after getting generally good reviews for his economic plan, Gov. Phil Murphy hit the road. The first stop: Asbury Park, just off the main street in downtown, to the hip new co-working space called Cowerks. It’s the kind of small, urban downtown space the governor hopes will energize local economies across the state.

“We’re coming out of a period where we were hog wild for tax incentives, blunt instrument, big companies only, very little care and feeding for our small businesses like these, where we are today, or startups, and what did that get us?” he asked.

At the bottom of the list of economic indicators, he said. But the governor’s plan calls for an emphasis on tech-focused innovation, with tax incentives to encourage small business, run by women and minorities in areas that have been considered too small or too risky to warrant much state attention.

Newark’s development czar Aisha Glover says now that cities like Newark are popping, it’s important to make sure mom and pop shops don’t get pushed out in favor of big chains.

“Kind of the next step of that is really looking at retail rent control and really thinking about accessibility to commercial space for artists and whatnot,” noted Aisha Glover, president and CEO of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation. “Often times when we talk about gentrification, we’re thinking of it from the residential lens, so we want to apply that and think about that for commercial and retail as well, small mom and pop shops.”

Philosophically, the governor’s plan is to de-emphasize the shiny corporate towers approach and replace it with a leaner, more diverse economic strategy, with thriving downtown city blocks fueling more equitable economic development in places like Asbury Park.

“Change is coming, but in the change we’ve got to recognize and celebrate the cultural diversity that’s in the community and then look for the opportunity to have them participate in the recovery of this town in particular,” added Paul McEvily, co-executive director of Interfaith Neighbors.

“Economic incentives are critical,” said Gary Mottola, a leader of venture capital firm Brand-new J, “but if people don’t have a place where they enjoy living and where they feel engaged, they won’t come. And what’s happened here is the community, west side and east side, has gotten together and created an incredible artistic and cultural destination.”

“I view yesterday, by the way, as a really good throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season. We now have to play the season, and we have to execute on all the things that we laid out there,” concluded the governor.

Forgetting that the regular baseball season is actually over, Murphy’s plan is to use October as a preseason of sorts, getting his arm in shape, for when he eventually has to pitch his plan to the Legislature.