NJEDA Board Approves Rules for Aspire Development Tax Credit Program
TRENTON, N.J. (November 10, 2021) – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority Board today approved rules for the Aspire Program, a place-based economic development program created under the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA) that supports mixed-use, transit-oriented development by providing tax credits to commercial and residential real estate development projects that have financing gaps.
As authorized by the ERA, the Board approved rules that will be effective immediately for a short-term duration, enabling the NJEDA to move forward with instituting the program this year. Concurrently, the Board also approved publishing the rules for public comment prior to adopting longer-term rules.
“New Jersey’s economy is growing, and with economic growth comes the need for housing and commercial development,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “The Aspire Program is a much-needed incentive that will support the construction of new housing and commercial projects throughout the state, with an emphasis on communities that have been left out of growth in the past.”
“Supporting equitable development and growth that aligns with communities’ priorities is central to Governor Murphy’s economic plan,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “The Aspire Program rules approved today establish the framework for a robust policy that will support much-needed mixed-use, transit-oriented development in communities all around New Jersey. Importantly, these rules also build in much-needed safeguards to ensure transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. This is an important step forward for New Jersey that will drive sustainable, inclusive growth.”
“The Aspire Program rules that were approved today will facilitate the development of transformative mixed-income, mixed-use projects that will promote housing opportunity and economic growth throughout our state,” said NJHMFA Executive Director Melanie R. Walter. “We look forward to working with community and development partners to implement these rules, seamlessly combining Aspire and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, from the NJEDA and HMFA, respectively, and leveraging these valuable resources to produce high-impact, high-quality development that benefits our residents.”
The Aspire Program is part of the suite of programs created under the ERA to address the ongoing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and build a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy. The Board action taken today approved special adoption rules for the Aspire Program, which will go into effect immediately upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law and will remain in effect for 180 days. During this time, the NJEDA will propose the same rules as long-term rules and undertake the Administrative Procedures Act required 60-day public comment process. This dual-track approach, authorized by the ERA, will allow the Authority to begin accepting applications near the end of this calendar year, when Aspire’s predecessor program, the Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) Program, sunsets.
In line with the Murphy Administration’s Executive Order 63 and the NJEDA’s commitment to transparency and accountability, and in anticipation of today’s vote, the NJEDA publicly posted a draft copy of the Aspire Program proposed rules several weeks ago and actively sought public feedback. This feedback process included two public listening sessions, an opportunity to submit written overall programmatic comments, and a channel to submit detailed feedback on the proposed rules.
The Aspire Program encourages mixed-use, transit-oriented development in New Jersey by providing tax credits to commercial and residential development projects that have a financing gap. The amount of tax credits a project is eligible to receive is a percentage of the project’s eligible costs, subject to a cap that is determined by the project’s location, other financing available, and other aspects of the project. Most projects are eligible for tax credits up to $42 million, but projects that meet specific criteria may receive tax credits up to $60 million. Projects that qualify as “transformative projects” may receive tax credits up to $350 million.
To be eligible for Aspire Program tax credits, a project must be located in an eligible incentive location, which may include: Planning Area 1, Aviation District, Port District, or Planning Area 2 or other Designated Center that is within a half-mile of a rail transit station or a high-frequency bus stop. Film production projects may be located anywhere in the State.
Projects must also meet minimum size and cost thresholds. Commercial projects must include at least 100,000 square feet of retail or commercial space. Residential projects must have eligible project costs totaling $5 million to $17.5 million depending on location.
Projects that meet certain parameters can qualify as “transformative projects” and receive tax credits above and beyond the caps that are established for standard projects. Transformative projects must have eligible costs of at least $100 million and be at least 500,000 square feet or up to 250,000 square feet for film studio projects. Transformative projects must also demonstrate special economic importance to New Jersey and leverage New Jersey’s mass transit assets, higher education assets, and other economic development assets to attract or retain employers and skilled workers.
In addition to meeting these baseline eligibility requirements, the developer of a project seeking Aspire Program tax credits must be in substantial-good standing with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOL), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Department of the Treasury. Projects must also comply with environmental laws (including flood hazard requirements), meet green building requirements, and pay prevailing wages to construction workers and building service workers. Retail, warehouse, and/or hospitality establishments with a certain number of employees that are included in projects with a State proprietary interest and that receive tax credits must enter into a labor harmony agreement with a labor organization or cooperating labor organizations that represent relevant employees in the State.
In line with Governor Murphy and the NJEDA’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and transparency, the Aspire Program rules include provisions, such as a gap financing review, excess revenue sharing requirements, and a net positive economic benefit test for most projects, to ensure tax credits are awarded responsibly.
Collectively, projects under the Aspire Program and the Emerge Program – a separate ERA tax incentive program focused on attracting high-quality jobs to New Jersey – are subject to a program cap of $1.1 billion per year in tax credit awards for each of the first six years of the programs, with the cap split between northern and southern counties. Unused amounts may be carried forward each year, and any remaining unused tax credits are available in the seventh year.
The Aspire Program rules also include requirements to ensure that communities, where projects are located, participate in and benefit from the economic growth the project generates. As part of the application for projects, applicants must provide a letter of support from the governing body of the municipality or municipalities in which the project is located and projects with an eligible project cost equaling or exceeding $10 million must also enter into a Community Benefits Agreement with the Authority and municipality or county in which the project is located.
Furthermore, projects including newly constructed residential units must set aside at least 20 percent for occupancy by low- and moderate-income households. The NJEDA will build on the coordination and collaboration practices with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) that were established under the ERG program to ensure that Aspire projects with affordable housing components comply with housing rules and meet the housing needs of New Jersey’s growing workforce.
In addition to the Aspire Program, the ERA creates a suite of programs that includes tax credits to incentivize job creation, new construction, and revitalization of brownfields and historic properties; financial resources for small businesses; support for new supermarkets and healthy food retailers in food desert communities; new funding opportunities for early-stage companies in New Jersey; and support for the growing film and digital media industry. More information about these programs is available at https://njeda.com/economicrecoveryact.
NJEDA Board Approves $20 Million for Main Street Micro Business Loan to Assist New Jersey Businesses
Program Offers up to $50,000 in Low-Interest Loans and No Payments for First Year
TRENTON, N.J. (November 10, 2021) – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Board today approved the creation of the Main Street Micro Business Loan, which will provide financing of up to $50,000 to eligible micro-businesses in New Jersey with ten or fewer full-time employees and no greater than $1.5 million in annual revenues. The Program is the successor to the Micro Business Loan Program established by the NJEDA in 2019.
The Main Street Micro Business Loan is the newest product from the Main Street Recovery Fund—a $100 million suite of programs created or expanded under the Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA), signed by Governor Phil Murphy in January 2021. The ERA includes tax credits to incentivize job creation, new construction, and revitalization of brownfields and historic properties; financial resources for small businesses; support for new supermarkets and healthy food retailers in food desert communities; new funding opportunities for early-stage companies in New Jersey; and support for the growing film and digital media industry.
“New Jersey’s economy depends on small businesses for the jobs they provide and the unique character they bring to our communities said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to set the stage for a stronger and fairer recovery that creates opportunities for businesses that may have been left out in the past. The Main Street Micro Business Loan Program does just that by helping the smallest of businesses overcome some of the longstanding hurdles associated with accessing capital.”
With $20 million in funds allocated from the Main Street Recovery Fund, financing from the Main Street Micro Business Loan will cover future operating expenses such as inventory, equipment (that does not require installation or construction work totaling more than $1,999.99), and working capital to fund business operating expenses. The loan will have a standard 10-year term and the interest rate will be 2 percent, with no interest and no payments due for the first year.
“Micro businesses, which are often led by women and people of color, are an essential part of the state’s economy, and a major creator of jobs. Unfortunately, they often face disproportionate challenges when it comes to accessing low-cost financing,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “In line with Governor Murphy’s vision for a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy, the Main Street Micro Business Loan Program will ensure more businesses have access to the resources they need to not only survive the economic effects of the pandemic but to regain their economic stability and build their resilience to future economic disruptions.”
To help ensure all Opportunity Zone eligible tracts in New Jersey receive opportunities for investment that are equitable and inclusive, $8 million will be set aside to support eligible businesses and nonprofits with a primary business location within the 715 census tracts designated as eligible to be selected as an Opportunity Zone.
Nonprofit, for-profit, and home-based micro-businesses interested in applying for the Main Street Micro Business Loan must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Must have less than $1.5 million in annual gross revenue for the most current fiscal year (to the extent the business has annual revenues)
- Must have no more than 10 full-time employees
- Must be legally registered to do business in New Jersey, with a business location (other than a home office) in New Jersey
- Must be in existence, as evidenced by the date of formation/incorporation, and in operation for at least six months prior to the date of the application being made publicly available
- Must be in good standing with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) and NJ Department of Environmental Protection at the time of application to be eligible for a micro business loan
- Must provide a current tax clearance prior to approval to demonstrate the applicant is in good standing with the NJ Division of Taxation.
The Main Street Micro Business Loan will not require collateral, as the underwriting criteria will be based solely on credit score. Only non-profit organizations will need to be fully underwritten and required to meet a 1.0 debt service coverage ratio. For all other for-profit entities, at least one owner must have a credit score of 600 or greater to be considered eligible. Personal guarantees of all owners or principals will be required of for-profit entities, but not from nonprofit organizations.
Additionally, borrowers under the Main Street Micro Business Loan may be eligible for the balance of the loan to be forgiven at the end of the fifth year. To qualify for this forgiveness, the applicant must be current on all loan payments with no delinquency of more than 90 days and must be able to certify that they are still open and operating as detailed in the loan agreement. Furthermore, recognizing the extraordinary economic circumstances that make this program necessary, the NJEDA reduced the non-refundable application fee to $100 and a closing fee of $400.
Applications for the Main Street Micro Business Loan will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date/time at which the Authority receives the completed application. Any pending applications to the prior Micro Business Loan Program can still proceed toward closing on their loan. Past recipients of the Micro Business Loan Program are eligible to apply for the Main Street Micro Business Loan. Due to the favorable terms of this product, only one application per EIN is allowed.
For more information about the Main Street Micro Business Loan, go to https://www.njeda.com/microbusinessloan/