DCA Affiliate Urban Enterprise Zone Authority Awards $7.4 Million in Zone Assistance Fund Grants to Lakewood

Zone Assistance Fund (ZAF) Grants Support Community Improvement Initiatives that Enhance the Quality of Life for Residents

TRENTON, NJ – The Urban Enterprise Zone Authority (UEZA), an affiliate agency of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, is proud to announce that Lakewood is the recipient of the largest total allocation of Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) grant funding in the state. Lakewood will receive more than $7.4 million in Zone Assistance Funds (ZAF) in 2024, up from $5.5 million in 2023. These funds will support various community improvement initiatives, with a special focus on bolstering quality of life for Lakewood’s residents.

The UEZA offers business and tax incentives with the primary objective of reinvigorating designated urban communities, driving economic growth by encouraging businesses to expand and create private sector employment opportunities through a blend of public and private investments.

Since the UEZA’s reboot in 2021, the Lakewood Development Corporation, which oversees Lakewood’s UEZ program, has implemented numerous impressive programs that have allowed the township’s businesses to grow and create jobs, in part by encouraging residents to shop local, and attracting residents from other towns to shop in Lakewood.

“Lakewood is seeing great success by utilizing the Urban Enterprise Zone grant funds as intended by the Legislature. By fostering economic growth and job creation through investment in small businesses, expanding essential transportation services so that people can access jobs, shopping, and entertainment, this program creates resilient communities like Lakewood that contribute to regional prosperity and improves the daily lives of residents,” said DCA Acting Commissioner Jacquelyn A. Suárez.

“The Lakewood Development Corporation proactively recruits new businesses through active engagement with business owners and utilization of creative marketing strategies. Under David Klein’s leadership, this organization has enhanced the presence of the UEZ in Lakewood. David and his team have worked tirelessly to bring great projects to Lakewood and are always willing to collaborate with other UEZ partners to enhance their local services. We congratulate the Lakewood Development Corporation for its efforts in receiving the top UEZ allocation of the year,” said UEZA Executive Director James Slaughter.

Currently, UEZ grants are funding several projects in Lakewood designed to improve the quality of life for residents including enhancing and expanding bus and shuttle services in the community using nearly $2 million of the secured UEZ funds. “Also, at the February UEZA Board meeting, members approved nearly $1 million dollars from the funding total to be used toward safety and security projects in Lakewood,” Slaughter added.

“Lakewood’s UEZ program offers a couple of financial assistance programs that are very popular with businesses,” said David Klein, Executive Director of the Lakewood Development Corporation. “These financial incentives include loan forgiveness if businesses hire full-time employees that stay in their jobs for 12 months, as well as reimbursable tech incentives that promote modernization, and a revolving loan program.” 

A cornerstone to Lakewood’s success is its robust and easy-to-use website portal, accessible at: Lakewood Development Corporation Urban Enterprise Zone : Township of Lakewood (lakewoodnj.gov).

The UEZ program was originally established in 1983. UEZ funds (known as Zone Assistance Funds, or ZAFs) are allocated to UEZs by a four-factor formula established by state statute at N.J.S.A. 52:27H-88. In August 2021, Acting Governor Sheila Y. Oliver signed legislation that appropriated $42.5 million to the program, enabling an expansion of UEZA services within designated zones.

A main benefit of the revitalized UEZ program is the ZAFs, which provide flexible revenue to communities for economic development. In the two years since the program’s relaunch, UEZA has awarded approximately $52 million in ZAFs to 115 municipal-level projects. Additionally, participating businesses within the zones receive a reduced sales tax rate (currently 3.3125%), as well as tax-free purchases on capital equipment, facility expansions, and similar investments. There are currently over 6,000 businesses participating in the program throughout the state.

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