Amazon bid helped business community see Newark differently, too

Sometimes, you can’t see clearly what is right in front of you.

At least that was the take of Barbara Kauffman, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Newark Regional Business Partnership.

She said Newark’s bid for Amazon not only introduced many areas of the country to the new Newark, it also reminded those who live and work in the city each day what it has become.

As reports coming out seem to indicate Newark will not land a piece of HQ2, Kauffman and other members of the city’s business community reflected on what the spotlight brought.

“I think what the whole application process did was heighten everyone’s awareness of some of the unique attributes of the city,” Kauffman told ROI-NJ.

“It reminded us that we sit on some of the highest-speed fiber in the country.

“It reminded us that we’re the nexus of all the transportation hubs and that we’ve got an international airport 15 minutes from downtown.

“It reminded us that we have a really dynamic business community.

“It reminded us that we have a growing residential population in downtown, and in an area where there isn’t displacement but opportunity for new residents and to the city to grow as a whole.

“It reminded us that we can be an inclusive city and, thanks to Mayor (Ras) Baraka, that there has been a great emphasis on the ‘hire, buy, live’ idea and an real emphasis on the need for there to be engagement of the entire population.

“It reminded us that is not just about the newcomers, but it’s also about the people that have stayed and who have built the city.”

Others talked about how being on the list will make companies want to join the business community.

Peter Bronsnick, executive vice president of SJP Properties, said Amazon’s interest was a natural continuation of what has been going on.

“Newark was on an upward trajectory well before the Amazon HQ2 search was even announced, but there’s no question that being shortlisted during that process helped to raise the city’s profile considerably and in a very positive way,” he said.

“Newark’s resurgence is a testament to everyone’s collective efforts, especially the community leaders.”

Brosnick, however, said the Amazon search is a reminder that there still is work to do.

“The news that Amazon HQ2 will likely land elsewhere is simply a reminder that we all have to continue to work together toward our common goal and take advantage of the positive national attention that Newark was afforded during the HQ2 process,” he said.

Ben Feigenbaum, the chief operating officer at Edison Properties, agreed the city has seen a lift.

“Regardless of whether Amazon chooses Newark for its HQ2 or not, its inclusion in the selection process has shown it deserves mention alongside New York City, Washington, D.C. and so many other great American cities,” he said.

“Newark is home to a deep labor pool that flows from its institutions of higher education, unmatched access to public transportation, proximity to Newark Liberty International Airport and the incomparable network of dark fiber cable beneath its streets. We have already seen how those same attributes resonate with prospective tenants at our Ironside Newark project.

“Amazon clearly sees Newark in much the same light, and its interest will be an extra boost for a city already on the rise.”

Ted Zangari, chair of real estate department and redevelopment, business incentives and public policy practice groups at Sills Cummis & Gross, said the recognition by Amazon should be a tip of the cap to those who have helped Newark to his point.

“Making Amazon’s cut of the final 20 cities was a win in itself and another giant step forward in the path of economic development along with location commitments by Prudential, Audible, Whole Foods, Fabuwood, M&M Mars, and so many other companies,” he said.

Kauffman said she’s ready to get to work to help land the next company.

“Now it’s time to show that there’s plenty of companies that we can land,” she said. “Whether or not Amazon comes here, we have the opportunity to have a lot more companies coming.”

The pitch, she said, will be easy.

“We knew that we had all of these things, but when it was all put together in one package and we looked at, we said, ‘Hey, there is a lot to like about this place.’ ”