Government officials and industry experts addressed the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on how the state’s regulatory agencies are operating, what the Legislature is prioritizing and the effect it is having on the real estate development process during NAIOP New Jersey’s annual Regulatory, Legislative & Legal Update. The agenda for the virtual event, part of the commercial real estate development association’s Building a Better NJ series, ranged from the latest on reopening efforts to compliance with new green infrastructure stormwater rules.
Keynote Jose Lozano, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey and co-chair of the state’s Restart & Recovery Advisory Council, shared insights on the COVID-19 response and higher-level policy issues that will affect decisions going forward.
“The advisory council is a fast-paced group that meets weekly to discuss everything from reopening to recovery,” said Lozano. “We send synthesized input to the governor’s office and our work has positively impacted the pace of the reopening of key sectors. We know folks are frustrated that we are not opening faster, but we did not get this far to just flip a switch.”
Asked when businesses that remain shuttered might expect to reopen as part of the governor’s Stage 3 plan, Lozano said, “It will be much sooner than when we first thought about it. I would start dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s for how to come back, and have those conversations with your people so you will not be caught off guard.” He also said that liability coverage for businesses that are actively following protocols is an issue that is being considered at both the state and federal level.
As for ramping up efforts to get ahead of the pandemic, Lozano emphasized the work being done by the Department of Health and Rutgers University on a contract tracing program that will complement what has been set up at county and local health departments. “Contact tracing is what will allow New Jersey to stay open and help control hot spots or regional outbreaks where the virus is spreading.”
Lozano noted that in the first six months of 2020, Choose NJ has been responsible for bringing 21 businesses to the state, half of which are international companies. “The most common question I get is who is coming to New Jersey at this point, and my response is that many people are. COVID-19 may have slowed the momentum, but it has not stopped businesses from being attracted to our state.”