Andre Sayegh Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK
Before the pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy proposed a robust plan to create a stronger and fairer economy in New Jersey. His ambitious vision included achieving the following five goals by 2025:
- Job growth: 300,000 new jobs.
- Wage growth: $1,500 increase in annual median wage.
- Diverse innovation ecosystem: 40,000 new minority workers and women in STEM fields and $625 million in new venture capital.
- Close the racial and gender wage and employment gaps: 42,000 more women and minorities employed and an increase in annual wage between $15,000 and $23,000.
- Thriving, inclusive communities: reduce urban poverty rates to today’s statewide average.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has required fierce focus, and our governor has risen to the challenge. His stewardship of our state during this turbulent time should serve as a national model. He has kept us informed, assured and, most importantly, safe.
As we continue to crush the curve, our attention must be centered on reviving our economy. On Nov. 20, 2019, I stood side by side with the governor to express my steadfast support for his aforementioned proposal outlining his strategic priorities for prosperity. Today, during one of our nation’s lowest economic moments, I am reaffirming my support.
Investing in people is paramount. Murphy’s plan aims to assist all New Jersey residents in finding work that supports and sustains families. More specifically, it would provide computer science for all and create a New Jersey Apprenticeship Network, a New Jersey Career Network and a Future of Work Task Force.
Investing in communities is crucial. Building world-class cities, towns and infrastructure is aspirational and attainable. The governor is proposing a New Jersey Tax Credit Program, an Expanded Brownfields Program and a Historic Tax Credit Program to help achieve that objective. Moreover, his plan calls for the creation of an Opportunity Zone Strategy and investing in NJ Transit.
Innovation is an essential ingredient in economic vitality. Focusing on growth-oriented sectors should produce better jobs. Furthermore, the development of the New Jersey Forward Tax Credit Program and the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund will buttress efforts to improve employment opportunities.
Small businesses have suffered during the course of the last seven months and need both short-term and long-term solutions for recovery. The new EDA small-business loan program is viable option for struggling business owners, and his Murphy’s administration is diligently seeking additional avenues to assist those who have been adversely affected within the commercial industry.
In Paterson, our unemployment rate has skyrocketed, and at the height of the crisis it hovered in the vicinity of 26%. This has led to financial, emotional and mental distress, which are contributing to a whole host of socioeconomic challenges. In spite of those obstacles, we are forging ahead with our catalytic projects. We plan to restore Hinchliffe Stadium, one of the last stadiums still standing that hosted Negro League games, for the sake of acknowledging and honoring Paterson’s prominent role in the struggle for justice and equality in America.
We also plan to develop a world-class visitors’ center named after our city’s founding father, Alexander Hamilton, at the site of our crown jewel, the Great Falls. That project is being spearheaded by one of the most reputable and resourceful real estate developers in the state, Chris Paladino, and his team at DEVCO.
We are also advancing our efforts to use the $130 million in tax credits awarded by the state to provide affordable housing for grandparents raising children and to leverage our train station to bolster downtown development. Furthermore, Paterson stands to benefit from Murphy’s proposed economic incentive package for future projects.
During his gubernatorial campaign in 2017, Murphy often said, “I’ve got your back.” Well, I have his back, especially since I believe his plan will help bring our economy back.
I urge both chambers of our Legislature to immediately approve his plan so that we can put people back to work and provide a path for a stronger and fairer economy in New Jersey.
Andre Sayegh is mayor of Paterson.