Ras Baraka has heard the speculation. But he’s not letting it bother him.
Speculation (and unnamed sources) are saying Newark no longer is being mentioned as a winner (or even a co-winner) of the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes.
And while the mayor is holding out hope that the speculative stories are not true, Baraka said he already has determined Newark’s place among the 20 finalists.
“In my mind, we’ve already won,” Baraka told ROI-NJ Tuesday afternoon. “In my mind, we won months ago.”
Baraka said just being named a finalist among some of the biggest and best-known cities in the country — New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles, among others — was huge for Newark.
He said it’s difficult to measure how much Newark gained since it got the word it made the Top 20 back in January.
“We’ve benefited tremendously,” he said. “We’ve gained a lot of notoriety.
“We are getting national tech conferences (such as the VOICE conference) coming here, tech companies are coming here (such as Broadridge) and Mars, the confectionery company, is coming here.”
Baraka said the city is just getting started in its approach to capitalizing on Amazon.
“We’re just going to continue to leverage all of the attention that we’re getting,” he said. “We want to leverage the focus that the governor had on the city and try to do some more things with that.”
Baraka, born and raised and a lifelong resident of Newark, said he’s proud the city is stepping up. And he said he enjoys playing the role of an underdog who surprises others.
“I tell people we’re like the Boston Celtics last year against the Cleveland Cavaliers (in the Eastern Conference finals),” he said. “Nobody expected us to be here.”
The Celtics lost that series. Baraka, however, said he has no intention of letting this potential setback slow down Newark’s progress.
“I don’t think it’s over for us,” he said. “I think there’s the opportunity for us to keep going.
“We just have to figure out what that looks like.”