Newark is now officially in the running to become the home of Amazon's next headquarters, joining cities across the country hoping to count the tech giant as the new anchor of their economies. Being born, bred and publicly educated in Newark, I've watched its economic ups and downs. Landing Amazon would instantly transform the city both physically and economically, and raise its stature among metropolises across the globe.
While securing Amazon’s HQ2 will be a challenge, the very process of putting together its bid has given rise to something Newark has historically found just as elusive – “true unity.’’ Over recent decades, I’ve seen first-hand how many of the city’s opportunities have been driven by silos, often drawn around economic or geographic lines.
This month, those divisions appeared to vanish as city, state leaders and local stakeholders coalesced around a common goal. Political and business leaders, many of whom are accustomed to being rivals, helped put together a package that could change the course of the city forever. A prize as transformative as Amazon does not appear often, and everyone involved clearly understood the extent to which a rising tide lifts all boats. All put self-interest aside to achieve the common good.
This change is indicative of just how far Newark has come in recent years. After years as a national punchline, the narrative surrounding the city has shifted dramatically. Billions of dollars are being poured into development across the city, and harbingers of revitalization such as Whole Foods now dot its formerly blighted streets.
Putting my hometown bias as far aside as I can manage, I believe Newark – with its vast public transportation network, international airport, supply of educated, tech-savvy talent and proximity to NYC – simply checks all the boxes Amazon is hoping to fill. The city is already beginning to emerge as a tech hub thanks to the recent arrivals of Panasonic, Audible and others who are fueling its revitalization, and few towns possess the ready-made infrastructure to welcome such a game-changing operation.
Mayor Ras Baraka often speaks about creating “One Newark,” and if recent events are any indication, he appears to hold the rare distinction of transforming a political slogan into reality. For the first time in a long time, we are all believers.
Francis J. Giantomasi is a Newark native, real estate attorney and member at the West Orange-based law firm Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi P.C.