Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Chief for Economic Development

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Chief for Economic Development

Article excerpt

Caren Franzini ended her 21-year tenure at the Economic Development Authority on Friday, leaving her job -- in charge of state grant and lending programs for businesses -- for pastures as yet uncertain.

She spent her last day with the Tri County Economic Development Summit, which honored the Atlantic County native for her work in South Jersey.

Michele Brown, a former assistant U.S. attorney who has served as Governor Christie's appointments counsel since January 2010, takes over from Franzini on Monday. At the same time, EDA is reviewing the agency's stable of programs with an eye toward possible changes and tailoring of programs to fit a newly strategic focus within the state's economic-development operation.

In Franzini's last days at the agency, colleagues credited her with creating a work ethic and culture that would survive her departure.

Al Koeppe, chairman of the authority's board, opened an emotional but low-key last meeting by praising Franzini, a former assistant treasurer, for her "diplomatic, affirmative leadership and innovative ideas."

He said she "has influenced hundreds of her colleagues, and created and nurtured an unshakeable culture of professional and fiscal responsibility at the authority," Koeppe said.

Later, Franzini said she was too busy to consider her legacy. "I have left no time really to think about it, because I've been working on the board meeting," she said to staff and business representatives.

At the last meeting, Franzini and the board approved an application by Honeywell for $40 million in tax credits over 10 years to stay and expand headquarters in Morris Township. But Franzini leaves two of the state's banner job-creation projects to her successors for consideration: She closed out September without further updates on American Dream, the development of the former Xanadu site in East Rutherford into a shopping and entertainment center. Likewise the online retailer Amazon, which four months ago said it would pursue potential incentives to help open two fulfillment centers in New Jersey, had filed no paperwork for incentives by Franzini's last day. …

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