Mayor Nicholas Sacco and township officials welcomed more than 25 local business owners and representatives to Town Hall on May 16 for North Bergen's first ever Business Outreach Forum. Township Administrator Christopher Pianese moderated the forum, which addressed public safety issues, updates on township projects, and using the township website to promote local businesses.
Gov. Chris Christie has canceled the longtime Urban Enterprise Zone program that allowed urban business districts to charge a low, 3.5 percent state sales tax (half of the norm) to attract shoppers. In addition, the sales tax would be allocated back to the business district for capital improvements and police hirings.
Pianese said last week that the Urban Enterprise Zone program was a boon for the town, which was involved with the program for more than 20 years. “The concept was ‘cut your sales tax in half,’ ” he said. “The tax that was collected was put back into a trust fund to put back into the towns. That program was the best state program ever offered.”
North Bergen was able to revitalize its business district, especially the Tonnelle Avenue corridor, where businesses like Target, The Home Depot, and Lowe’s are now housed. Safety was increased by hiring additional 12 police officers and installing a camera monitoring system. Infrastructure improvements were also made, such as traffic upgrades.
“It was a great opportunity to get to know the township officials personally.” –Business owner Natasha Gonzalez
Township officials and local business people want the Department of Community Affairs program to bring back the full program.
At the meeting, business owners and representatives were given the opportunity to meet township officials, network with each other, and fill out a survey to share their opinions on various subjects related to doing business in the township.
"North Bergen has a strong and varied business community, from the big box stores on Tonnelle Avenue to the mom and pop shops on Bergenline Avenue and everything in between," said Sacco. "We decided to hold this forum in order to foster an increased dialogue between township government and our business community. We want to hear what is working for our local businesses and what we can improve to make North Bergen an even better place to do business."
69th Street Overpass
Some business owners and officials discussed the ongoing construction work on the 69th Street Overpass and the widening and improvements on Tonnele Avenue, two state projects. Business owners also expressed their interest in installing new "MuniMeter" style parking meters that accept credit cards in business areas.
"This event was fantastic and it was a great opportunity to get to know the township officials personally," said Natasha Gonzalez, owner of New Millennium Car Service on Dell Avenue. "I hope this continues and becomes a regular event. Being aware of the projects and initiatives going on in North Bergen is definitely helpful to my business."
Attendees provided the township with contact information so when another forum or other event is scheduled, they can be apprised.
Business owners who expressed interest in starting a local business association will be contacted by the township to help facilitate the creation of this type of organization.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.