From left: Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker were on hand Monday to announce the state’s endorsement of Newark’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. — Courtesy: Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen.
By Joshua Burd
As the state prepares to submit its official bid later this week, Gov. Chris Christie has declared Newark “the clear winner” of the competition among several New Jersey municipalities that have expressed hopes of landing the coveted Amazon HQ2 project.
That was Christie’s proclamation on Monday as he announced the state’s official endorsement of Newark’s submission to the e-commerce giant, following a review of proposals from several other municipalities and regions. Joined U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the governor said his administration would back and advance the state’s largest city “as not only the best location for Amazon, but the only location for Amazon here in the state of New Jersey.”
“Now, I’m sure other states might approach it differently and might allow for multiple applicants sponsored by the state,” Christie said. “But Booker and I have always been the same on this —we’re not for participation trophies.
“In every competition there are winners and those who come close but don’t win. Let me be clear on this: Newark was the clear winner of this competition, Newark has earned the state’s support, and I want to thank the mayor and his team that he put together. They did an extraordinary job putting Newark’s best foot forward.”
During a news conference filled with expressions of confidence, Christie, Booker and Baraka also laid out the legitimate business case for what Newark has to offer: a robust transportation network, a large population, access to talent and education, unique cultural offerings and the fastest internet connectivity of anywhere in the country.
At stake for Newark and dozens of municipalities across North America are 50,000 new jobs and a once-in-a-generation economic development project. Those towns and cities have been scrambling since early September, when Seattle-based Amazon announced it was seeking proposals for a second headquarters location.
It’s why Christie and state lawmakers are prepared to offer $5 billion in tax incentives over 10 years, the governor said, adding that the package would be voted on and signed into law before the end of his term in January.
“Let any state go and try to beat that package along with what we have offered here in Newark,” Christie said, noting that the city also plans to offer a property tax abatement that could be worth another $1 billion and waive its payroll tax for the e-commerce giant. He also noted that the state’s two major party candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, have both said they would support the state’s proposal.
“So, Amazon should have no concern that we’re in the middle of an election year,” Christie said. “We have taken election year uncertainty out of the process.”
The state Economic Development Authority estimates the project would produce an economic benefit of more than $9 billion, Christie said.
The state will make its bid during a time of significant momentum for Newark. Fueled by state incentive programs and the growing popularity of urban centers, the city is in the midst of a development boom that now includes residential construction and growth by its anchor institutions.
Booker, the city’s mayor from 2006 to 2013, said Newark now has a “record of achievement” and has moved beyond decades of social problems and a bad reputation. The growth of longtime anchors such as Prudential Financial and newer companies such as Audible, an Amazon subsidiary, speaks for itself.
“Newark, New Jersey, isn’t a charity case,” Booker said. “It is the choice for companies that want to locate and remain competitive and strong, not just in New Jersey, not just in our nation, but in a global economy. Amazon would be smart to come here because of our unassailable assets as a city.”
He also made an impassioned plea for what he said was the moral case for Amazon to pick Newark. In the face of division across the country, much of it focused in urban areas, Booker said choosing Newark “not only will make the right business case, but they will demonstrate to this nation that our inner-city spaces are not places to be avoided, they are the undiscovered treasure, that you do not go across the globe for developing markets of opportunity.”
Baraka was equally emphatic that the case for Newark makes for more than business sense.
“Unquestionably, Newark has all that Amazon seeks, including something that’s not listed on the RFP, but which is at the core of social responsibility that the company is known for: the opportunity to accelerate the transformation of a great American city that is already experiencing enormous progress,” Baraka said. “It’s time to say, ‘Yes, it’s Newark.’ ”