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TRENTON - Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) that would help industrial businesses in the Pinelands create jobs was unanimously approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee on Monday.

The bill, S-2338, would allow existing rural development areas zoned for industrial use in the Pinelands to qualify for incentives through the Grow New Jersey and Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG) programs.

“The Economic Opportunity Act has done wonders to attract or retain jobs and investment in New Jersey,” said Whelan said in a news release. “Expanding the Act for these very limited situations would throw a lifeline to Atlantic County’s economy, which is still reeling from casino closures and one of the worst housing markets in the country.”

If enacted, the bill would help Comar, a company that manufactures plastic bottles and other specialty packaging materials for medication, powders, supplements, and more. Given its recent growth, Comar is at the point that it needs to expand its existing facility in Buena Vista Township or it may be forced to leave New Jersey. If Comar gets assistance from the state to expand, it says it will create about 150 new jobs and bring in more tax revenue to the township.

“I am grateful to Senator Whelan and Assemblyman Mazzeo for introducing this legislation in their respective houses,” said Buena Vista Township Mayor Chuck Chiarello in a news release. “As a rural Pinelands community, losing a major ratable like Comar would be devastating to our budget and to our economy. If we can help them expand and they can create more jobs in our area, that’s a win-win.”

Whelan noted that he solicited feedback from various environmental groups on the legislation, including the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the Sierra Club.

“It was important that we didn’t pass a bill that could jeopardize the pristine nature of the Pinelands,” said Whelan in the news release. “Comar isn’t looking to increase its footprint. It simply wishes to expand its existing facility that is already zoned for industrial use. In talking with various environmental groups, this is consistent with the Pineland’s Comprehensive Management Plan.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) is sponsoring the companion legislation in the Assembly.

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