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Christie announces new state plan that focuses on business and job creation

jobsbriefcase031011_optWould attempt to bring development to urban and suburban areas

BY TOM HESTER SR.
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday announced the creation of a “State Strategic Job Growth Plan,” an effort he describes as an ambitious, flexible guide for the future of New Jersey’s economic development.

The governor said he expects the plan to become the state’s official statewide planning tool and replace the current state plan created 2001. The plan also will attempt to coordinate the action of government agencies to help bring economic development about.

“New Jersey’s challenges are too great to be approached in the stratified, haphazard and unrealistic manner that has characterized previous statewide planning efforts,” Christie said. “This is a plan that will foster job growth in a sensible, sustainable and truly effective manner over the long term. By focusing our planning and economic development resources around common goals – better identifying and investing in vibrant regions and critical sectors of our economy, supporting effective regional planning, and preserving our invaluable natural resources – we are positioning New Jersey for sustained job growth, competitiveness and prosperity.”

The plan calls for “targeting economic growth by promoting growth in regions of the state with clusters of “critical or emerging industries” that would be drivers of economic growth. The centers, which would be called “Regional Innovation Clusters,” and existing infrastructure, educational, intellectual and workforce resources would be used to lure additional economic development.

Examples include regions where bio/pharma and life sciences, finance, manufacturing, technology, health care, or emerging solar and offshore wind industries exist.

The plan also calls for “effective planning for “vibrant regions,” including areas designated as “Priority Growth Investment Areas” where an effort would be made to promote urban areas with access to quality education, housing, public transportation and infrastructure, parks and recreation.

Such areas would include the Regional Innovation Clusters, port areas, growth areas as identified by regional or county master plans and municipally designated redevelopment areas.

Projects that would especially have state support be those that increase job creation and business opportunities; are compact, mixed use, and accessible to existing development and infrastructure; redevelopment, support healthy communities through environmental protection, and offer diversify housing opportunities.

The plan also calls for continued funding of state preservation efforts and encouraging the use of preservation efforts like development rights transfers that require limited public funding.

The plan also would create by the governor’s executive order a “State Strategic Job Growth Plan Steering Committee that would be headed by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and include a representative of every department or agency of state government with a role in job creation and economic growth.

The panel would coordinate the development of plans decide how state economic development funds would be allocated. The panel also would work with a “refocused” State Planning Commission and Office for Planning Advocacy to provide a forum for public and local government input.

The State Planning Act, adopted in 1985, requires coordinated statewide planning that is in accordance with local and regional planning. Christie argues that goal has not been met in the plan, adopted in 2001, and has resulted in the development of state capital expenditure plans, land use and environmental regulations separate and apart from economic development, transportation and social services plans.

Christie said conflicting state regulations and inconsistent application of rules and standards discourage economic development and contribute to an existing system of planning that is restrictive, complex, confusing and difficult to navigate.

The governor Wednesday signed an executive order creating the plan and the steering committee.

Christie wants the State Planning Commission to adopt the plan as the official state plan after holding public hearings and providing other opportunities for public comment.

Christie’s action was welcomed by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and criticized by the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“While this is just the first step in a long, public process, the League is encouraged that the administration is focused on state government, and proposes no new requirements or mandates on local governments,” Bill Dressel, the League‘s director, said. “The failure of the state’s planning process in the past was rooted in the state’s failure to integrate the plan into the missions of the various state agencies. Local governments have gone through three rounds of cross-acceptance, while respective state agencies never engaged in cross-acceptance and never adopted the plan. Municipalities have often been stymied when one state agency approved funding for a project, only to have another agency of state government act as a deterrent.

“The administration’s focus on a horizontal integration of a strategic plan for growth will be welcomed by municipalities, who should now be viewed as trusted partners in the process,” Dressel said. “The League has long championed the bottoms up approach of the State Planning Act, and the efforts to revitalize our communities while protecting our critical natural resources. Unfortunately, the state has tended to attempt implementing the plan in a top-down, bureaucratic manner. As this blueprint progresses, the state should also embrace a bottoms up process to align the planning priorities across the state.”

“This plan was written behind closed doors mostly with developers and the business community with the intention of promoting sprawl and over development forcing government agencies to weaken protections of the environment,” Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. “the plan is the opposite of smart growth it is dumb growth. This plan is going to be used justify sprawl and overdevelopment to pave over New Jersey by weakening environmental protections and planning. By encouraging growth in the wrong areas it is going to undermine redevelopment of our existing cities and towns.

“This plan is a series of policies and goals without any map,” Tittel said. “There is no transparency since we do not know where the growth areas are written in a vague manner meaning almost anywhere in New Jersey can be interrupted as growth area.”

 
Comments (1)
1 Thursday, 20 October 2011 09:53
John Itanimulli
Why did it take 18 months for him to decide we needed to create jobs???

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