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George E. Norcross III. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Norcross company says it ‘over-delivered’ on promises to EDA

Connor Strong rejects finding of tax incentives task force

By David Wildstein, July 16 2019 5:49 pm

The insurance and risk management company run by Democratic powerbroker George Norcross is pushing back on a task force report probing tax incentives, saying that the company “over-delivered on the promises it made to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The Governor’s Task Force on the EDA’s Tax Incentives issued a contemptuous report last month alleging that Connor Strong & Buckalew, Norcross’ firm, had been improperly awarded millions in tax credits.

“CSB maintains — and the record is compelling in support — that EDA acted appropriately in awarding the tax credits in 2017. The record is thorough in this regard,” said Connor Strong general counsel Heather Steinmiller. “The task force report does nothing to credibly refute that compelling record.”

The firm argues that they will spend more than the $86 million originally committed in their NJEDA application, and that they have created or retained 302 eligible jobs – 34 more than they promised.  Additionally, Connor Strong says it is currently recruiting to fill another 18 positions.

Connor Strong says Philadelphia offered some attractive options, like intellectual talent and mass transit, but they chose to go to Camden because of the tax incentives the state offered them.

The company says their application for tax credits was “compelling” and that they were transparent in their dealings with the EDA, saying up front that employees working at regional offices in Parsippany and Toms River would not be affected.

The application noted that they relocate some employees to less expensive locations outside New Jersey if their tax credits were not approved.

Steinmiller disputed the task force’s claim that consideration of Philadelphia was not genuine – the panel cited an e-mail between a Connor Strong employee and CBRE, a national real estate company.

“The report’s claim that CSB committed to move to Camden before its application was filed is completely false. It refers to statements made by others when LPT (Liberty Property Trust) announced its project,” said Steinmiller, who claims that LPT didn’t acquire the land until a year after the task force said they had, and that the contract was not signed until two months after the EDA approved the tax credits.

According to Steinmiller, the task force failed to cite any statements by Connor Strong suggesting a commitment to move their corporate headquarters to Camden.  She said that in a 2015 NJTV interview, Norcross said only that he committed to put $50 million into the LPT project.

“He was not asked, and he did not say, that CSB, or any of the other companies, had committed to moving their companies to Camden,” Steinmiller said.

Connor Strong Letter to Ciallella July 16, 2019 (1)
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