While Jerry Fennelly’s report paints a rosy picture of the Princeton-area commercial real estate market, the “Indicators of Innovation” report recently released by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) questions whether New Jersey can still claim to be the “Silicon Valley of the East,” as it was in the heydays of Edison, Tesla, and others.

In compiling the report the NJBIA studied 12 indicators across three categories: capital, talent, and business. Capital includes venture capital investment, small business awards, state spending on research and development, and National Science Foundation awards.

Talent was measured by number of colleges ranked in the top 100 nationally, net migration of college students, percentage of population with graduate and professional degrees, and rate of new entrepreneurs.

Business indicators were patents issued, startup density, percentage increases in total business, and the NJBIA’s business climate score, which takes into account the impact of taxation.

Researchers then compared New Jersey to six other states in the region: Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and — the current standard-bearer for innovation — Massachusetts. In NJBIA’s analysis New Jersey fell squarely in the middle of the pack.

As the report notes: “New Jersey possesses all the qualities that are needed to reinvent and grow an innovation ecosystem: an ideally centralized location, nationally recognized K-12 academics, quality higher education institutions, and a highly educated, highly skilled workforce. If the state leverages these assets, it can reclaim its competitive edge. This will require the Garden State to attract top-tier talent to New Jersey’s post-secondary institutions, build ‘live, work, and play’ communities, increase venture capital investment, and target industry clusters for growth.

“However, achieving these initiatives alone will not address today’s reality that New Jersey is lacking in regional competitiveness and affordability. As such, a sustainable plan will balance these initiatives with plans for tax and regulatory reform, as well as smart infrastructure investments.

“This can be done with the coordination and willingness to make tough decisions in the short term that will reap greater returns to the state in the long run. We cannot expect to leave this task to government alone. Coordination with academia, business, and government will be necessary to make this a reality.”

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