Unless you are a landlord, you probably didn’t hear about the flap over sprinklers last year. But this is what Adam Kaufman and Trish Zita, partners in the Roszel Road-based Kaufman-Zita Group lobbying firm, consider to be their biggest success story of 2008.

Though both consider the state’s push to retro-fit every commercial and residential apartment building with a sprinkler system a well-intentioned goal, both also were dismayed by cost. Primarily, says Kaufman, landlords (and, by extension, tenants) would be saddled with a $1.5 billion price tag. Spread out over just a few thousand landlords, the cost would be prohibitive. Even if passed along to tenants, Zita says, nearly every renter in the state would see rents rise by at least $200 a month.

Second, she says, is that while sprinklers are a good idea, there are numerous (and less expensive) ways of protecting tenants — incuding safety doors, better exit routes, etc.

Kaufman Zita Group, which lobbies on behalf of interest groups, helped convince the state legislature to drop the issue. It was one of several victories in public policy influence that the firm can claim last year, its first on Roszel Road. The firm was founded in 2007 and moved to Roszel Road last March (U.S. 1, July 16, 2008). Already it has been involved in everything from helping certified trainers to expand their employment opportunities to giving Verizon’s FIOS service easy entry into New Jersey homes. Kaufman and Zita themselves had worked together already, having served as partners in the Capital Affairs lobbying firm founded by Kaufman more than 15 years ago.

Kaufman says the firm, with the seven employees it moved in with last year, is “comfy where we are” and plans to stay small for a while. And, despite its victories, he says, there are always issues to work on, so there is never much down time. A big one for this year will be the firm’s work with the toy industry.

Kaufman would not say what the issue is, but he admits it will be one an emotional one. Except for his firm. “We don’t have the luxury of the emotional response,” he says, referring to the detachment analyst must take when looking at a hot-button issue. “We try to guide it by science, not emotion.”

Kaufman Zita Group LLC, 12 Roszel Road, Suite C-104, Princeton 08540; 609-452-9800. www.kaufmanzitagroup.com.

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