Gomez speaking at chamber meeting Photo by Sheri Ferreira, Downtown Paterson SID
Councilman Kenneth Morris with Valiotis family members at chamber meeting Photo by Sheri Ferreira, Downtown Paterson SID
Mayor Jones speaking at chamber meeting Photo by Sheri Ferreira, Downtown Paterson SID
Dykes speaking at chamber meeting Photo by Sheri Ferreira, Downtown Paterson SID
The mayor with attendees at chamber meeting
Chamber Board Member Irwin Bailey asking Gomez a question at chamber meeting. Photo by Sheri Ferreira, Downtown Paterson SID
Gomez (second left) at chamber meeting Photo by Sheri Ferreira, Downtown Paterson SID
A Coming-Out Party For Paterson’s New Economic Development Chief
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 • 3:31pm
PATERSON, NJ – The city’s new economic development director, Ruben Gomez, promised to make Paterson “as business-friendly as possible’’ during a luncheon meeting on Wednesday with The Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce.
On the job for about a month, Gomez faces some daunting obstacles as the city’s tax base continues to shrink, crime remains on the rise and the regional economy struggles. On top of that, for almost two years, the city has lacked a full-time economic development director.
“I knew this was going to be a difficult and challenging position, but that’s what I like,’’ Gomez said to the chamber of commerce members. “I’m here to work with the people and organizations that want to change this city.’’
“It’s an uphill battle, but it’s not so daunting that it can’t be accomplished,’’ said Mayor Jeffrey Jones.
Gomez previously worked as vice president for business attraction at the Brick City Economic Development Corporation, the agency that has worked on Newark revitalization. He also served at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and worked for private banks that did business in Paterson before that.
City business and community leaders are optimistic about Gomez’ arrival.
“We feel that Ruben is a great hire,’’ said Jamie Dykes, executive director of the chamber of commerce. “He has the tools to hit the ground running.’’
“The city hasn’t had someone like him in a very long time,’’ said George Waitts, owner of Crown Roll Leaf Inc., a Paterson-based manufacturer.
Jones said Gomez showed a clear understanding of the issues facing Paterson and has ideas on how to generate much-needed growth. The mayor said “the pre-work” the city already has done on projects like the new national park at the Great Falls, the Armory and solar energy will help get the new director moving in the right direction.
Paterson is paying Gomez $105,000, which amounted to a pay cut from his Newark position. Gomez declined to disclose how much more he was being paid at Brick City, but said he took the Paterson job because he saw it as a “career opportunity.’’
Gomez fielded a variety of questions from the crowd of more than 85 people who attended the luncheon.
Irwin Bailey, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, asked what Gomez would do to address the “disconnect” among various city government offices that makes doing business in Paterson more difficult. “I think that perception is one of the hardest things to get rid of,’’ Gomez said, adding that he planned to make the process more transparent.
Robert Guarasci, director of the New Jersey Economic Development Corporation on Spruce Street, asked for Gomez’ views on the national park. “I consider it to be one of the most important assets the city has,’’ Gomez responded.
Councilman Kenneth Morris, who chairs the committee that oversees economic development, asked Gomez about “best practices” he would bring from Newark. Gomez said it will be important to communicate to prospective developers the realities of Paterson’s situation. “We give a little, the developer gives a little and the tenant gives a little,’’ he said.
Barbara Dunn, of the Paterson Habitat For Humanity chapter, urged Gomez to include the nonprofit groups in the efforts to revitalize the city. She asked Gomez about the impact of public safety on development efforts and “the reality of crime and violence in Paterson.’’ Gomez said his experience in Newark was that successful redevelopment had a ripple effect that improved the safety of surrounding neighborhoods.
Efstathios “Steve” Valiotis, the developer from Queens who built the Center City Mall and is widely considered the city’s biggest investor, asked Gomez about tax abatements and other business incentive programs. “My recommendation is that we do enter tax abatements, but not do zero taxes,’’ Gomez said.