For Newark, Amazon Shortlist Affirms Changes in New Jersey's Biggest City

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

New Jersey's largest city landed on the shortlist for Amazon.com Inc.'s second headquarters, a distinction local officials said reflected its revitalization but may also be tied to a $7 billion incentive package.

Mayor Ras Baraka said he believes Amazon took notice of the city's proximity to an international airport and the East Coast's busiest seaport as well as its robust fiber-optic network and large pool of college students and other potential workers.

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Newark "is not a bus stop, it is a destination and people are beginning to see it as a destination," Mr. Baraka said Thursday.

Newark, which has struggled economically since manufacturing jobs began leaving the city after World War II, has attracted investment from both real-estate developers and corporations in recent years. But the city continues to struggle with poverty and violent crime.

Just days before he left office, former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed legislation offering up to $5 billion in tax incentives over 20 years in exchange for Amazon creating as many as 50,000 new jobs over time.

Newark, a city of more than 280,000 in the state's northern Essex County, has offered up to $2 billion in tax abatements and wage-tax waivers, but Mr. Baraka said the incentives would come with a condition that the company make a significant commitment to hiring city residents.

"The win for us is to get Newark residents hired, to get them trained, to get them employed, to raise our economy, to get people walking and moving around our city, to increase our population," he said. "All those things are benefits that we see."

Newark has about $3.1 billion of development projects in the pipeline with about 1 million square feet of commercial space, 620,000 square feet of retail and 2.2 million square feet of industrial space, according to the city.

Compared with New York City, Newark is a "value proposition" said Jonathan Cortell, vice president of development at L+M Development Partners Inc., a firm that is involved in a number of Newark redevelopment projects. Downtown Newark has an abundant supply of unique buildings from an older era that can be redeveloped, he said.

Newark didn't talk with Amazon representatives during the proposal process, but nearly 50 corporations and other groups already located in the city, including Prudential Financial Inc., volunteered staff and expertise to help with the proposal, said Aisha Glover, president and chief executive of the Newark Community Economic Development Corp., a quasi-city agency that spearheaded the proposal.

"I don't want to sound smug, but we're here because we expected to be here, and we deserve to be here," Ms. Glover said about Newark's spot on the shortlist. "We have the tech, talent, infrastructure, diversity, location. We're on the map."

Keiko Morris contributed to this article.

Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2018 18:00 ET (23:00 GMT)

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