A bill sponsored by New Jersey Assemblyman Dan Benson would establish a program to help spur business development in smaller towns that have seen better days. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The New Jersey Legislature is looking at establishing a program to help spur economic development and growth in small towns.

“It’s meant to really help out a lot of our smaller, older municipalities that don’t have the ability to build out like so many of our larger communities,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson, bill sponsor. “Really, their whole thriving economic base is dependent on a downtown area. So this bill provides a small tax incentive for those that want to grow their business in a downtown. If they’re increasing hiring, they’ll get a tax break.”

Towns with a population of under 11,000 and that are more than 70 percent developed would be eligible, said Benson, D-Mercer.

“Many of these have aging infrastructure. Many of these downtowns have seen better days. So all it really needs is just a little bit of priming the pump to get some economic development,” he said. “We’ve seen it places like Cranbury in my district, Red Bank, and other great downtowns that have come back — but those tend to be slightly larger municipalities that have an established track record.”

The program would provide financial and technical assistance to businesses that may not be available in smaller municipalities, Benson said.