New Jersey, AFL-CIO Team on Tech Center

New Jersey, AFL-CIO Team on Tech Center

By John Makulowich

Contributing Writer

New Jersey is teaming with the AFL-CIO to further develop the Technology Centre of New Jersey in a partnership designed to create jobs and promote the state's technology industry.

Using a $14.6 million equity loan investment from the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust Pension Fund, New Jersey will create a 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art laboratory and production facility to support emerging technology companies.

The AFL-CIO investment makes the labor organization a majority partner in financing the center, which is under development at a 50-acre site off Route 1 in North Brunswick. It is planned to help develop the bioscience and microelectronics industries.

Under development by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the center can hold 800,000 square feet of space for high-tech businesses. Modules as small as 6,000 square feet can be designed for lease to meet the production and research needs of emerging high-tech firms.

During ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the facility, the state's governor, Christine Todd Whitman, said, "This center will help us expand the New Jersey economy into the 21st century and help us compete for businesses and high-paying jobs of the future."

"The state's Route 1 technology corridor is one of the nation's key research and development hubs. The Technology Centre is a win-win situation for labor," said Helen Kanovsky, general counsel with the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust.

"Not only is the center built with 100 percent union labor, but it fits the trust requirements for prudent investments with an eye on the future," Kanovsky said.

Part of those requirements, according to Karla Garland, director of public affairs for the AFL-CIO Building Investment Fund, is an expected rate of return on the lease payments by the occupants of at least 8 to 9 percent.

The Building Investment Trust, begun in 1987 as a way to prudently invest the pension assets of union members in real estate, is part of the labor organization's overall investment program that currently has over $2 billion in assets.

In New Jersey, both the Housing and Building Investment Trusts have financed almost $250 million in construction and permanent loans. The investment program itself has provided financing for 17 projects throughout the state, including the New Jersey AIDS Scattered Permanent Housing Program, a 117-unit high-rise, a 150-unit affordable housing high-rise and townhouse complex, and a six-story office building.

According to the recently completed survey by the American Electronics Association called "Cyberstates," New Jersey ranks seventh nationally in the number of high-technology jobs. The state added 3,400 new high-paying, high-tech jobs in 1996, raising the number of high-tech workers there to 168,300 from 164,900 in 1995.

For comparison, the high-tech industry nationally added close to a quarter of a million jobs to the U.S. economy between 1995 and 1996, a record high for the decade, according to preliminary 1996 data released by the Washington-based trade association.

The top 10 high-tech states, judged by the AEA's so-called Cyberstates Job Scorecard, are California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Georgia. Georgia achieved the highest percentage (9.1) of job growth, while California added the most workers in real numbers (54,832).

AEA New Jersey Council Chair, Stanley S. Binder, president and CEO of Barringer Technologies Inc. in Murray Hill, said, "New Jersey is re-establishing itself as a center for the high-tech industry. Although the state's high-tech industry declined between 1990 and 1993, we have since seen a turnaround, with steady employment increases every year."

Part of New Jersey's high-tech success Gov. Whitman attributes to its Business Employment Incentive Program, which has been directly responsible for creating almost 11,000 jobs. Since the program was signed into law by the governor in May 1996, 48 companies have received BEIP grants totaling $37 million. The grants will create 10,776 jobs over a two-year period.

Among the nationally prominent companies awarded grants are Hoechst Marion Roussel (pharmaceuticals), KPMG Peat Marwick (professional business services), Hewlett-Packard (computers) and the Pershing Division of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (securities).

The BEIP, an economic development initiative, provides companies that create jobs with grants equal to from 10 percent to 80 percent of the income taxes paid by new employees to New Jersey for up to 10 years.

To qualify, a company must create a minimum of 25 jobs in urban areas or 75 jobs elsewhere in the state and certify that receiving a BEIP grant would be a material factor in their decision to expand or relocate to New Jersey.

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