Aisha Glover is confident that Newark still has a strong chance to get a part of Amazon’s HQ2 award.
She also is confident that it’s not going to happen anytime soon. And she’s OK with that.
Glover said the quest for Amazon’s second headquarters is — and always has been — a long-term play.
In her most extensive comments since Amazon announced last week it is pulling out of its agreement to bring 25,000 jobs to New York City, Glover told ROI-NJ on Monday why she feels Newark is still in play — and what the city and state are doing in an attempt to bring any part of the project and its job total to the state.
“I think they have to revisit the list (of 20 finalists),” she said. “I think everybody is misreading their statement of them not going back out to the HQ2 bid process.
“To me, that just means they’re not going to go back out to bid. They’re not doing this all over again. They don’t have to; they have all the data and information that they already asked of us.”
Glover, who led Newark’s bid as the head of Newark Community Economic Development Corp. and has maintained that role since taking over as the CEO of Newark Alliance, said talent is the key. And one of the main reasons why Newark was on that list of 20 finalists.
“The whole HQ2 play was a talent play,” she said. “So, if they are truthful to that and they need to still address that, then the next logical city would be Newark, because you can still tap into that same talent pool.”
Amazon ended a year of harried speculation last November, when it announced it would split the 50,000-job, $5 billion investment promise between Northern Virginia (Crystal City) and New York City (Long Island City, Queens). The company also said it would ramp up a smaller facility in Nashville, Tennessee.
When Amazon announced it was pulling out of the New York City half of the process, Glover thinks, politicians and the media, who were looking for an immediate resolution to the issue, were not seeing the big picture — and were not listening to what Amazon has been saying all along.
“If you look at their statement and what they’ve said publicly, they are looking at this as a long-term play,” she said.
That long-term vision ultimately may have been what doomed New York City’s bid, she said.
“Amazon didn’t want to be caught up in the pushback and in that kind of public outcry on New York City’s side for the next decade,” she said. “They are consciously going in understanding this is happening over a decade. ‘What do we want our experience to look like over a decade?’
“Did they think that they were ultimately going to end up getting what they wanted? Yes. But they didn’t want to spend 10 years fighting. They’re going in acknowledging this is a long-term play. How were these dynamics going to play out over the next 10 years?”
It’s the reason why she said the city and state are in no hurry to press Amazon.
“Everybody’s also kind of forgetting this was 50,000 jobs over 10 years,” she said. “They don’t need to figure out what they’re going to do this year to accommodate that level of jobs.
“They certainly have enough time to figure this out. They could just do a couple of thousand jobs over the next two years and it will still match with their growth projections.”
Glover thinks Amazon may look away from the region in the short term.
“I think what they’ll end up doing is kind of focusing attention on Crystal City right now rather than doing (a) parallel path as they had originally anticipated,” she said. “I think, for the first year or two, they will be focusing on Crystal City and then figuring out ultimately where they’re going to put that other 25,000 jobs.”
Newark, she said, will be ready when the company begins to look outward again.
In fact, she acknowledged the worst-kept secret in the battle for Amazon: Newark and state officials have done their best to make sure Amazon knew they were around — without being too aggressive.
Glover said she and officials from both Newark and the state had been reaching out to both Amazon and New York City officials since the moment there was even an inkling of a problem between the two.
She also acknowledged that they have heard little back from either party.
“Yes, we have reached out,” she said. “I have reached out. The state has reached out, directly, at the first and early signs of New York City pushback. That outreach has included both Amazon and New York City officials.
“Our goal had always been to make sure that it stays in the region. We didn’t want New York City to lose Amazon and we didn’t want Amazon to lose the benefits of the New York City metropolitan area. So, our outreach was: Can we figure out something else that includes Newark that kind of lessens the blow to New York City and spread some of the wealth and investment.
“We did it with the understanding of (a) ‘Hey, just kind of keep this in the back of your head’ type of thing.”
When it’s time to move it back to the forefront, Glover said she is confident Newark will be top of mind.
“They could easily go back to that list and revisit some cities that they had some conversations with,” she said. “I think it would be a mistake of them not to look at Newark, because they already committed to New York City on the strength of the talent pool.
“They could still take advantage of that.”