Big-city buy-in: Newark leaders say investing more B2B dollars locally would key post-pandemic recovery


Don’t be mistaken, three of the leaders helping Newark find its economic footing during COVID-19 would welcome — and are soliciting — donations from the city’s corporate and institutional partners to ensure Newark is in position to recover from the economic shutdown.

The ultimate goal is to raise the resources in Mayor Ras Baraka’s Small Business Emergency Relief Fund from $2 million to $5 million.

The fund is one way that the small businesses Baraka fears will fall through the cracks of some of the federal and state programs will get some of the aid they desperately need. But Deputy Mayor Allison Ladd, Newark Alliance CEO Aisha Glover and Invest Newark CEO Bernel Hall know there are other ways to help.

The three are hopeful that the city’s larger institutions will take this opportunity to double down on their procurement spending with local businesses. They feel that better establishing these business-to-business opportunities can be a key to the city’s long-term success.

In an effort to make this easier, the groups have created a procurement portal that appears on the Invest Newark website. (Click here.) The hope is that the portal, which just launched a few weeks ago, will centralize private and public procurement opportunities, allowing large corporate and government interests to offer bidding opportunities to Newark’s small business community.

The portal features a video tutorial at the bottom of the page for procurement officers interested in providing contract opportunities to Newark’s small business community. Newark Alliance will galvanize the anchor institution to submit procurement opportunities to the site in order to create long-term earning opportunities for Newark-based businesses.

The Invest Newark site also has a Newark Business Directory, which will boost the advertising exposure and digital footprint of Newark-based businesses, while limiting their marketing costs. Newark businesses can use the platform to promote their product or service free of charge as well as correspond with current and future customers via the site without having their own website. (Click here.)

“We’re hoping to use this opportunity to really encourage our corporate part of anchor institutions to buy local,” Hall said. “This portal is a combination of the work that the three organizations have been doing to really make it easy for these anchor institutions to post contract opportunities that are in a centralized location, so small businesses that are located in our community can download and respond to (them) in a very efficient manner.

“It’s a painless way in which these parties can start working together to create more earning opportunities without the small businesses having to incur large marketing costs in order to generate business with some of their anchor institutions that are locally based.”

The “Hire, Buy, Live” initiative — an attempt to get corporate and institutional partners to increase their local spend and incentivize their employees to live in Newark — is something Glover has been working on since she started working in the city in 2015.

Glover praised the thoughtfulness of so many of Newark’s corporate giants during this crisis, noting donations to hospitals and health care workers, to the Rutgers University-Newark emergency fund for students, as well as Audible’s efforts with Marcus Samuelsson and World Central Kitchen to feed residents while supporting local restaurants — to name a few.

“There are some very specific efforts tied to vulnerable populations,” she said. “I think what our job is, collectively — this kind of economic development trifecta — is to make sure our corporate and institutional partners also understand the role that small businesses play in a thriving local economy.

“Some of that will be direct donations into the mayor’s fund. But some of that needs to be going toward the long-term development of an economic recovery strategy that’s directly tied to buying local and increasing their local procurement dollars.”

The connection, she said, is more apparent —and more urgent —than ever before.

“We’ve always have been amplifying local hiring a bit more than we have around local procurement,” Glover said. “But, there’s a huge opportunity right now for us to just connect the dots between local procurement efforts, investing in the local economy, strengthening small businesses — without corporation and institutional partners looking at it as philanthropy. It’s the easiest, lowest-hanging fruit for us to really make sure that we’re being thoughtful, intentional and strategic.”

Ladd said it’s all about the idea of making sure Newark’s small business are not left behind. She said that’s been a goal of Baraka’s from the start.

“We worked to design the small business emergency grant program so that it could be really for Main Street businesses,” she said. “We have a very large immigration business owner population here. So, we’re trying to find a way to navigate our funding sources so that we can reach everybody where they are.

“Much of the small business program is funded with federal dollars, which have limitations. We’re trying to find ways to have private-sector funds — including dollars from Prudential, Wells Fargo and others — to reach the people that are in the most need.”

Yes, financial donations are always welcome and appreciated.

The group knows corporations and institutions are being pushed and pulled in all directions. Glover said she wants to let all Newark companies know dollars donated to Baraka’s small business emergency fund will go straight back into the city.

“I think the mayor and city had the foresight and ingenuity to think about how it’s structured,” she said. “It’s a small business fund that encourages the private sector to step up with a call to action.

“Prudential made a significant contribution of $250,000. The city, in an unprecedented way, seeded the fund with over $2 million. We’re thinking, let’s make this a $4 million or $5 million fund. That’s our end goal. And that’s why it’s so critical for the private sector to be playing a role.”

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: