Senator Jeff Van Drew has welcomed the results of a review by the State Auditor of the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program that noted a need for improved transparency and setting quantifiable goals and objectives for success in the state’s 32 UEZ municipalities.
Van Drew said making auditor’s improvements would show even more conclusively how the UEZ program is creating economic opportunity in previously depressed urban areas. However, he said the audit simply proves the need to improve the program to correct reported shortcomings, and should not be misconstrued as a reason to end the 27-year-old UEZ program.
The audit found that the money that was used was never put back. In municipal government, money was used for programs but those dollars were not put back. Also, many businesses that got loans ended up defaulting. The auditor felt that better record keeping needs to take place on money that is leaving the fund.
The audit noted that nearly 135,000 jobs have been created in the state’s UEZ municipalities, and that nearly $29 billion in private investment has flowed into those towns since the program’s inception in 1983. Nearly 32,000 businesses are located in a UEZ.