By ED SALVAS
Asbury Park has a lot to gain from participation in the state’s Urban Enterprise Zone Program.
That was the message this week delivered to about 45 members of the business community at breakfast meeting held by the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce with Sen. Vin Gopal and James Simmons, Business Development Representative for the New Jersey Urban Enterprise Program, part of the state Department of Community Affairs.
Asbury Park was active in the former UEZ program which ran from 1983 until it was closed down n 2010 by the Christie Administration. It was revitalized by legislation approved on May 30. Simmons said the program today has 37 active UEZ’s in 32 municipalities with about 6,800 businesses.
“Business doesn’t get the credit it deserves ,” Simmons said in opening the meeting. “Business is the creator of jobs and the foundation for good. Nothing energizes like a legitimate job.”
Simmons said the purpose of the Urban Enterprise Zones is to lure businesses into areas that need help. He added that developers often call the UEZ looking for places with UEZ programs because of the tax benefits.
In order to benefit from the UEZ a business needs three things: it must be registered with the state, have an address within an Urban Enterprise Zone and be in tax compliance with the state.
“Don’t waste the opportunity,” Simmons told his audience. “It gives you a competitive advantage.”
Sen. Gopal credited former Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson and former Councilman John Loffredo with bringing the UEZ to Asbury Park and said it was a big part of the city’s renewal. Businesses in the Urban Enterprise Zone benefit from a reduced retail sales tax of 3.3125 percent and can also receive up to a $1500 tax credit for each permanent full time new employee hired. Gopal said car dealers don’t qualify under the UEZ rules nor do businesses selling food, but there have been discussions about expanding the program to other areas.The Senator was a co-sponsor of the recently-enacted UEZ legislation.
Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvia Sylvia-Cioffi said the chamber plans to add a UEZ page to its website and will also coordinate with the state to have another meeting specifically for accountants who can advise clients on the program.
Interested businesses can contact the state UEZ at www.nj.gov/dca/affiliates/uez/