We are now more than six months into the pandemic that shut down much of New Jersey’s economy in early March. I thought it would be a good time to pause to look at where we are in terms of recovering from the staggering unemployment and economic losses caused by the health crisis. There is some surprisingly good news, but it must be taken with a strong dose of caution.
Despite the ongoing adverse impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, some experts report that the macroeconomic trends are looking favorable nationally, and especially for New Jersey, but it’s going to be pretty slow going. Marked differences exist among the various sectors, not all of which have bottomed out yet.
Much of the workforce has been absent from offices/workplaces and transportation systems since mid-March. Has this absence “made hearts grow fonder” to return? Not entirely, according to some experts.
With eyes on recovery, Gov. Phil Murphy has formed a “cabinet-level” advisory commission to focus on the macro issues, including resilience, infrastructure and messaging, and a Restart and Recovery Advisory Council with subcommittees to work out the details of how and when various sectors of the workforce will resume operations. Landlords and tenants will confront myriad issues as the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and businesses reopen under a new set of protocols.
My original plan for this Earth Day was to report on New Jersey’s sustainability challenge and how commercial real estate is adapting to natural, governmental and market forces. Given the magnitude and velocity of the COVID-19 disruption that is hourly reshaping our economy, industry and very existence, that plan quickly evaporated. Instead, this piece discusses the general impact of COVID-19 on our economy, and how CRE developers, owners, asset managers and affiliated professionals are meeting these challenges, assisting in relief efforts and informing government at all levels on how best to navigate their strategic response.
Jersey is looking better all the time — especially the suburbs. That’s my conclusion after reading a new Rutgers University report that provides an impressive amount of detail and analysis on economic, demographic and market trends which can help public officials plan for the future in ways that may help regenerate our suburbs and the overall state economy.
My hope for 2020 is that our government officials will find the courage and willingness to tackle some thorny issues, including: overhaul New Jersey’s retirement and health care plans for state and school employees, consolidate school districts and remove barriers to allow regionalization of tax assessment, health services, municipal courts and fire and police services. If tackled, these measures will, over time, provide for better care and services to taxpayers while freeing up billions of dollars to invest in infrastructure, retraining and education programs and reducing the crushing tax burden on residents and businesses.
Times are good now for the commercial and industrial real estate industry, and those professionals that comprise NAIOP are an integral component in successful economic development projects. These same industry professionals also are doing great things for our fellow New Jerseyans.
Messaging from Trenton over the last several months, “airing dirty laundry” and delayed payments and responses to companies involved in the state’s incentive programs are scaring away legitimate businesses from setting roots in New Jersey. Businesses need certainty and clarity. Why don’t we pivot the conversation to one about how to make robust investments in our people and infrastructure without any further distractions and political roadblocks?
Industrial real estate is still surging as commercial real estate’s hottest property type, and that’s no more evident than right here in New Jersey, providing a chance to showcase the innovation and creativity that’s taking place in the industry.