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Newark said most socially impactful site for Amazon

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Picking Newark as the site of Amazon’s second North America headquarters would have a “strong positive social impact” on the online retail giant, according to a new social responsibility report by the nonprofit Just Capital.

Newark is one of 20 finalists across the U.S. for the so-called HQ2. The winning city would be in line for up to 50,000 new jobs, according to Amazon. An announcement is expected by the end of the year.

According to the nonprofit, Newark has a 19.4 percent unemployment rate among its residents of color, the highest of any HQ2 finalist.

Poverty rates in Newark are at 29 percent and the median income is hovering at $33,000, the report adds.

“These actions could have long-standing and far-reaching benefits,” reads the report.

In the nonprofit’s 2017 rankings of America’s Most Just Companies, Amazon ranks 55th out of 875. But a move to Newark would bump the e-commerce giant up to 9th, according to Just. The rankings are based on criteria that include fair pay and equal treatment for all workers; whether the company creates good jobs and understands the value of strong communities; and its commitment to a healthy planet.

Just Capital was co-founded in 2013 by a distinguished group of people from the worlds of business, finance and civil society, including author and public speaker Deepak Chopra, corporate consultant Rinaldo Brutoco and businesswoman Arianna Huffington, among others.

On Oct. 2, Amazon unveiled its plan to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $15 an hour, partly in response to calls from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

 “This report makes it clear that companies such as Amazon that prioritize corporate responsibility, benefit by choosing Newark,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a written statement. “When a corporation recognizes their role in transforming a city, that is not only good for their bottom line, but it sends a powerful message to their workforce and consumers who are committed to making a positive social, economic and human rights impact.”

In a recent op-ed for the Bergen Record, former Gov. Tom Kean said Amazon could be the final piece in Newark’s revitalization.

“The Just Report says we are at that long wished-for final stage of recovery in Newark — if Amazon embraces social impact improvements that no other candidate city can match,” Kean wrote. “The slow but steady footfalls led to the decades of gradual improvements in Newark, including a transformed downtown, a major league arena, full office buildings, downtown hospital and college construction, and flourishing restaurants and stores — once again.”

Aisha Glover, the new CEO of Newark Alliance, said Amazon’s presence would extend the city’s existing renaissance.

“There’s a lot of growth and opportunity, but they can certainly accelerate that,” Glover told NJBIZ.

Newark and New Jersey have put billions of dollars in tax credits on the table to woo Amazon. In August, Newark finalized $2 billion in proposed tax credits, on top of the additional $5 billion in incentives New Jersey is offering.

Part of the incentive package would waive the city’s 1 percent payroll tax entirely for Amazon employees who live in Newark and by 50 percent for the others.

Another incentive calls for a long-term tax abatement for companies that create at least 30,000 new jobs and create investments of at least $3 billion over a 20-year period.

“We’re definitely in a climate now where corporations are thinking about social responsibility and what it entails to be a good corporate citizen,” Glover said. “Making sure that we’re harnessing that as part of our broader strategy is key.”

In October 2017, the New Jersey Institute of Technology said its presence in Newark, along with the Rutgers-Newark Business School and headquarters for Amazon-owned Audible Inc., make the city a prime location.

“Newark offers all of what Amazon seeks in a headquarters location and is a city in the midst of a renaissance,” NJIT President Joel S. Bloom said in a letter to Amazon.

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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