Consider: Amazon’s fulfillment centers may be as big for N.J. economy as HQ2 would be

By Tom Bergeron
Burlington | Jun 15, 2018 at 7:25 am
Editor’s Desk

The news came out without much more than a basic news release.

The governor didn’t mention it. Not on a day he was busy betting big on the impact sports gambling will have on the state.

And it certainly wasn’t national news.

No, a different Amazon announcement will get all those things.

But, Thursday, it was just news of another fulfillment center, the online giant’s soon-to-be 10th such facility in the state.

But the announcement of Amazon bringing 600 jobs to Burlington County — taken as part of an overall effort by the company — could actually have more of an impact on the state than Newark landing the company’s HQ2 second headquarters.

I posed the question to three prominent people on the New Jersey business scene: a government worker, an economic development expert and an academic.

None of them wanted to be quoted by name — “I don’t want to come across as someone who is moving on from the Newark bid” — but all agreed the news will have a huge impact in the state.

Every state in the country wants more working-class jobs. We’re getting them by the bucket loads and there’s hardly a celebration.

Doesn’t make sense.

Amazon already is one of the state’s largest employers, with more than 16,000 workers here. And that’s before you add the numbers that are coming to Burlington and West Deptford, which is getting 1,000 jobs along with the state’s ninth Amazon fulfillment center, according to a March announcement.

And, as great as these totals are, the impact of these jobs cannot be measured just in numbers.

“These jobs will do more to slow the opioid epidemic problems in those areas than any program every could,” said one respondent.

It will also lead to a lot more jobs.

“The trickle-down effect will be endless, as companies will want to be near their warehouses and distribution centers,” said another.

I get it: The HQ2 project would put Newark on the map.

And, in one announcement, potentially wipe out a (now-unfair) reputation the city has not been able to shake for 50 years.

It would bring thousands of high-paying tech jobs to the state, not to mention an increased demand for housing, urban and suburban (which will be both good and bad).

Of course, it also would bring more traffic. And an awards package that will make it harder for the state to convince other companies to come here without breaking the bank.

“Contrast this with Holtec in Camden,” another explained. “They got millions in tax incentives, but they need a highly skilled workforce that boxes out most of the Camden residents.”

That point should be stressed.

While the beauty of Amazon’s HQ2 project is the thousands of projected six-figure jobs, the state also is in desperate need of hourly work.

Especially from a company that won’t be closing down anytime soon.

The state is making progress in its desire to train a next generation of workers in medium-skilled jobs, working through the community colleges and strong manufacturing organizations, such as the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program.

But those jobs are not coming by the hundreds (and the thousands).

And they are not coming with systematic regularity, either.

So, people in the state should hope for HQ2 (especially if you don’t have to drive on McCarter Highway every day), but they should celebrate the announcement of another Amazon fulfillment center as a huge win, too.

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