Real estate, business professionals and government leaders were roundly upbeat in discussing Newark’s economy during a confab staged by the Newark Regional Business Partnership Monday at the Best Western Robert Treat Hotel.
Newark Regional Business Partnership’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Barbara Kauffman, said Newark’s being short-listed for Amazon’s headquarters has been a game-changer.
“A lot of partners in the real estate world and businesses made that happen,” Kauffman said. “At no point in my recollection has the spirit been higher than it is now. It is a good time to be in Newark. Nothing happens without great leadership.”
Savills Studley’s Chief Economist, Heidi Learner, said Newark has seen an increase in median household income, but more than 50 percent of Newark renters are paying more than 35 percent of their income on housing.
Learner suggested Newark diversify by attracting more professional services firms to strengthen the economy.
She added: “The percentage of people in the labor force is declining. Part of the decline can be explained by the relative level of educational attainment. Education is a large determinant of what happens with the labor force. One of the most positive developments is that Newark has regained control of its schools. [But] there is still room for improvement.”
Newark is showing growth with refurbished commercial properties, Learner said.
She also noted that Mars Wrigley Confectionary has committed to bringing 480 jobs to Newark.
New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan said Gov. Phil Murphy is a big believer that New Jersey’s best days are in the future. New Jersey has tremendous assets in its location, transportation system, a large corporate base and universities.
“But there is no question that growth has lagged,” Sullivan said. “The goals of a stronger and a fairer economy are both general and specific. It is about creating more employment opportunities — good-paying jobs. Gov. Murphy talked about investing in transportation and infrastructure. If you cannot move people and goods, you will continue to lag.”
Sullivan said talent is the most precious commodity and it dovetails with investments in education and workforce development.
“Companies want to be in cities,” he said. “Amazon put out an RFP saying they want a thriving city. Amazon is one of the largest, most successful companies in the world. If our cities are not ready, we will miss out.”
L&M Development Partners Vice President of Development Jonathan Cortell said Newark has everything businesses want.
“We are thrilled with the diversity that is a key to this city,” Cortell said. “… We celebrate [Newark’s] great infrastructure.”
Newark Community Economic Development Corp. CEO Aisha Glover said Newark residents came together to celebrate its being a candidate for Amazon.
“We were short-listed for a reason,” Glover said. “It was not just because of our incentive package. We were selling talent, infrastructure, location and diversity.”
John Palmieri is the deputy mayor for economic growth, transportation and infrastructure for the city of Newark. He touted Newark’s public transportation as a boon to attracting new businesses.
“We have so many opportunities,” Palmieri said.
“These kinds of investments that you do, do not happen in a vacuum,” Palmieri said. “Whether the Amazon project happens, we are going to continue.”