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Acting Gov. Oliver Signs Legislation Revamping New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone Program

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The Garden State is updating its Urban Enterprise Zone program.

Along with tax breaks, the new law signed Tuesday will provide millions of dollars in funding for business loans and grants, CBS2's Christina Fan reported.

The endless roar of tractor trailers threatened to drown out a ceremony by the Turnpike in Elizabeth, but the speakers didn't seem to mind.

It means the legislation they are renewing is working.

"Each one of those trucks carries economic opportunity," state Sen. Joseph Cryan said.

Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver signed the Urban Enterprise Zone Reform Bill into law in the parking lot of Seafrigo.

The program, which was created in 1983, offers UEZ businesses a sales tax exemption on new construction material, helping companies like Seafrigo, a food logistics warehouse, settle in the area.

"That translates into their ability to hire not only Elizabeth people, but people in the surrounding region," Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said.

"Now, we have more than 400 employees in the city of Elizabeth," Seafrigo CEO Stephene Desseigne said.

Tuesday's reformed bill keeps many provisions of the original program, and also restores $42 million in funding for loans and grants that dried up in 2011.

That's money that helped chiropractor Dr. Monica Gonzalez's practice, Pain Center of Morris, expand in size.

"Sometimes businesses don't have the collateral. Sometimes the Spanish, the language, is a barrier," Gonzalez said.

More than 7,000 businesses are UEZ certified across 32 zones. Many of them are in economically stressed cities with minority businesses underperforming.

"We asked for a seat at the table and I feel like what we have today gives us a seat at the table," said Carlos Medina, the CEO of the New Jersey Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The program has also been helping consumers, by cutting the sales tax in UEZ communities in half, from 7% to 3.5%.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.

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