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Release Date: Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Media Contact: Evelyn Weiss Francisco (201) 796-7788

Chapter’s Annual Meeting and Real Estate Outlook also featured a Salute to the Super Bowl

SHORT HILLS, N.J., Feb. 4, 2014 – Cautious optimism for the economy and commercial real estate, a prediction that “urbanization” will continue on the upswing in New Jersey, and a vision that the Garden State has the tools to be the next Silicon Valley or Boston as a technology center tied to education. Those were some of the key points made by a panel of public and private sector leaders at NAIOP New Jersey’s Annual Meeting and Commercial Real Estate Outlook.

The event, at the Hilton Short Hills, also featured a Super Bowl Celebration featuring former New York Giants wide receiver Stephen “The Touchdown Maker” Baker, hero of Super Bowl XXV.

Responding to a question on the state of the economy by discussion leader Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, “I am cautiously optimistic,” Dr. James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, told the event’s more than 270 attendees. “National job growth has shown strong momentum, and New Jersey has had a good employment trajectory.”

That trajectory experienced the “pause button” at the end of 2013, Hughes noted, “but New Jersey should have a reasonably good year.”

“What are some of the headlines for 2014,” McDaniel asked panelists.

“Hopefully, the political issues will settle down, and I see tremendous momentum among the entrepreneurs and business start-ups,” predicted Dennis Bone, former CEO of Verizon New Jersey and now the director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University. That is especially true in the technology category, he said, where momentum is strong and New Jersey has the tools to rival New York, and even the Silicon Valley and Boston. The key: academia.

“Schools are a central focus for attracting companies and jobs,” said Bone. Noting, as well, that higher education has been added to Choose New Jersey’s arsenal of economic development weapons, “that is a very good move,” he said.

As well, the impact of the merger of Rutgers and UMDNJ, the state’s leading medical school, “can’t be underestimated,” said Hughes. Noting the potential growth of research as a result, “that is the baseline for our technology – and economic – future,” he said.

“The availability of an educated workforce is very attractive,” said Mitchell Hersh, president and CEO of Mack-Cali Realty Corp. For Mack-Cali, the response has been to “google-ize” the company’s office product in Jersey City. “The new office space is edgy, open, and conducive to collaboration,” he said.

Indeed, “the urbanization trend is very real,” said Hersh. “The workplace is being re-imagined for young urban professionals seeking a 24/7 urban environment.” And while New York has set the tone in the region, “New Jersey has some cost advantages related to residential and transportation. It is much more affordable, the urban amenities are expanding, and in combination with such incentives as the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 and the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit, the picture is increasingly positive.”

“Urban and suburban downtowns increasingly understand where people are going, where young people want to live,” said Richard Tucker, president and CEO of Tucker Development Corp. “Urbanization is significant in the development world in general, and in New Jersey. We will continue to see more and more of that.”

Noting his company’s mixed-use Springfield Avenue Marketplace in Newark, the urbanization trend “is creating real estate opportunities,” said Tucker. “The impact on commercial real estate is dramatic.”

“All things considered, it is hard for a company not to at least evaluate locations in New Jersey,” said Hersh. “Bringing in new employment, as opposed to job retention, can make New Jersey a player.”

“The future is bright if we can do this right,” Bone concluded.

“We are also here to celebrate the Super Bowl,” said Michael Seeve, president of NAIOP New Jersey who, along with the full slate of 2014 chapter officers and trustees, was sworn in to open the event. For that celebration, Seeve introduced Stephen Baker.

“I’m excited that the Super Bowl is here,” said Baker, who showed off his Super Bowl ring and trophy. “The buzz is exciting,” he said, noting that “my best moment in the Super Bowl was scoring a touchdown. We needed that touchdown at that point in the game, and my mindset when my number was called was, ‘this is my moment.’ I proved a lot of people wrong on that play.

“The magnitude of the game is guys living dreams,” he said. “It’s a time to enjoy the game and get excited.”

Coincidentally, the date of the NAIOP New Jersey annual meeting was Seeve’s birthday, and to honor that, Baker presented him with an autographed football and a DVD.

“What we clearly heard is that those towns which are welcoming the changing demographics – the younger Millennial generation – are reaping the economic rewards and morphing into vibrant mixed-use communities,” said Michael McGuinness, CEO of the commercial real estate development association. “With New Jersey’s first Super Bowl now behind us, it’s time to start investing in the future.”


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