From left: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka were on hand in mid-October to announce the state’s endorsement of Newark’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. — Courtesy: Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen.
By Joshua Burd
Less than a week before leaving office, Gov. Chris Christie has signed off on a $5 billion incentive package to help land Amazon’s coveted second headquarters project.
Christie on Thursday signed a bill to authorize a special tax credit program to support the so-called HQ2 project, which would likely require 8 million square feet of office space for whichever city or region the ecommerce giant chooses. The outgoing governor has endorsed Newark as the state’s preferred choice for the project and its promise of up to 50,000 new jobs, but several other cities and towns in New Jersey have submitted their own bids.
In announcing that he had signed the bipartisan bill, Christie said the merit-based state tax incentive could reach $5 billion over 20 years in connection with the Amazon’s job projections. The state Economic Development Authority would administer the incentive, which would come under an expanded form of the popular Grow New Jersey program.
The overall incentive package for Amazon could total roughly $7 billion if it chooses Newark, Christie said. That figure would also include a local property tax abatement that could be worth $1 billion and a waiver of the city’s payroll tax that would allow Amazon HQ2 employees to keep an estimated $1 billion of their wages over 20 years.
“Today’s bipartisan action proves that nobody in any other state wants Amazon’s HQ2 more than New Jersey and the City of Newark, and there is nowhere better for this tremendously innovative job creator to grow and thrive,” Christie said in a prepared statement. “It shows we deliver on our promises, and Amazon’s leaders have to be thrilled about this premier opportunity to drive Newark’s technology boom and benefit from all that this diverse city has to offer, including its central location in the largest economic region, a phenomenal regional and global transportation network, a top-notch workforce and America’s fastest Internet.
“Amazon’s HQ2 in New Jersey means thousands of six-figure jobs for residents, as well as consumer and revenue growth for area businesses and vendors.”
Newark and several other cities in New Jersey are among more than 200 across the country that are vying for the project. Last fall, Christie joined Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker to announce the state’s endorsement of Newark’s bid.
The bill signed by Christie on Thursday calls for creating what’s known as a Transformative Headquarters Economic Assistance Program. According to a statement from the Legislature, the program is geared toward corporate headquarters projects that are “transformational to the regional economy, where at least 30,000 new full-time jobs are created and at least $3 billion in capital investment is made.”
The bill, which does not mention Amazon by name, requires such a business to submit an application for tax credits to the EDA before July 2019. The legislation also mandates that the capital investment and the jobs created as a result of the incentive must yield a net positive benefit to the state equaling at least 115 percent of the requested tax credit amount, while the benefit will be calculated for each phase of the headquarters based on the benefits generated during up to 50 years following completion.
Christie noted that Amazon now employs about 13,000 people in New Jersey, many of them at its vast network of fulfillment centers up and down the state.