Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday appointed a former partner at Goldman Sachs to take over as chairman of the board at the troubled New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which has come under fire for poor oversight of billions of dollars in tax incentives for businesses.
Kevin Quinn, who spent more than 20 years at Goldman before starting an advisory and investment firm, takes the spot of energy executive Laurence Downes, an appointee of former Gov. Chris Christie, who stepped down last week at Murphy’s request.
Out of five Christie-appointees to the board whom Murphy pressed to resign, Downes was the only one to do so, NJ.com reported.
“Reclaiming New Jersey’s status as an economic power requires a strong and focused EDA that will work tirelessly to implement the policies our economy needs to grow,” Murphy said in a statement. “Economic development is much more than providing tax incentives to a few big corporations, and requires investing in our diverse people, ideas, and businesses.”
Murphy said he’s confident that Quinn "will be able to advance our vision for a new economy in which companies flourish and workers prosper.”
Quinn retired from Goldman in 2012 as co-head of the firm’s global technology banking business. The company he went on to found, Genki Advisory, has more than 30 companies in its portfolio, across tech, consumer and health care sectors, according to the governor’s office.
The Essex County resident also chairs the board of Brady, the national gun violence prevention group.
“It is clear that the Economic Development Authority is in dire need of reform," Quinn said in a news release, “and I am committed to realizing Gov. Murphy’s vision of a stronger and fairer economy, and rebuilding our economy from the middle class outward.”
A special task force, which Murphy put in place in January, continues to investigate the tax incentive program. Earlier this month, the task force made its first criminal referral to law enforcement, citing evidence of “unregistered lobbying on behalf of special interests” that affected legislation for the tax credits.
More than a half-dozen progressive groups across New Jersey issued statements in support of the board leadership change, some decrying the tax incentive program as “corporate welfare.”
“For too long, the EDA has served as a tool for the politically connected to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of taxpayers,” said Sue Altman, who sits on the board of South Jersey Women for Progressive Change. "That must stop, and we’re going to continue closely watching the EDA’s activities to ensure that promised reforms are carried out.”
Businesses pledging to relocate in Camden and create jobs were approved for $1.6 billion in tax breaks between 2013 and 2017.
A report commissioned by the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors, and released in January, said recipients of the incentives had committed to making more than $1 billion in capital investments in Camden, and created an economic environment for other businesses to “open or expand their operations.”
On Friday, Ronsha Dickerson of the Camden We Choose Coalition, said the city’s residents want an EDA board "that prioritizes equity, racial justice, and sustainability.”