By Joshua Burd
Long-delayed as it was, the opening of the massive American Dream retail and entertainment complex is making good on its promise of bringing thousands of daily visitors to the Meadowlands, providing a much-needed lift to businesses in the region.
Jim Kirkos feels that sends an important, overdue signal to local and state policymakers.
“Now the political leaders are starting to see that there is something to this destination-related economy, because now American Dream is becoming more of a reality,” said Kirkos, CEO and president of the Meadowlands Chamber. “And hopefully they can get through all of the financial troubles of the pandemic and carry on, as it looks like it will, and we can be this powerhouse destination.”
That message is at the core of the Meadowlands 2040 Foundation, an offshoot of the chamber focused on broad-based economic development planning in the region, and it will be top of mind next month at the organization’s first-ever Meadowlands Cup golf event. Slated for Monday, Aug. 2, at the Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, the competition will bring together business leaders and raise funds to support the foundation’s efforts — with a list of sponsors and participants that includes some of the state’s biggest names in the commercial real estate, construction and service industries.
The event also figures to have broader appeal, in part by offering a new twist on the typical golf outing and what the chamber describes as a “spectacular trophy,” one that will bear the engraved name of the winning company and its players and be prominently displayed at its new headquarters and visitors center in Lyndhurst.
“It is exposing what’s going on here to a wider audience,” said Bill Hanson, the president of brokerage firm NAI James E. Hanson and vice chair of the 2040 Foundation board of trustees. He promised that the Meadowlands Cup — a true competition with two-person teams and a better ball format — is “not just another golf outing.”
Established several years ago as a think tank-style organization, the 2040 Foundation is meant “to create awareness and partner with community leaders to build and sustain a strong economy through the year 2040,” Kirkos said. That can mean highlighting issues such as workforce development, flood control, transportation and government regulations, but also advancing discussions about high-profile projects such as a new conference center in the Meadowlands.
Central to those efforts is a board of influential trustees led by Fletcher Creamer Jr., the CEO of J. Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc.
“I’ve always said that this region is the core or the heart of development in New Jersey,” said Creamer, the fourth-generation leader of the Hackensack-based utility construction firm.
He added that the foundation in recent years — through events, a vision plan and other initiatives — has also sought to support the small businesses that make up the chamber’s membership.
“We’re not done by any means, and being part of this helps the members with some long-term vision,” Creamer said. “And with the trustees, we have a lot of brain power here and hopefully we can guide them in the future with a vision of continuing the growth in this area.”
Kirkos, who hopes the success of American Dream will build the case for other destination-related venues, said the foundation looks to provide not only long-term planning but a more regional focus that goes even beyond the 14 municipalities within the original state-designated Meadowlands district. He noted that the region has grown to encompass “a bigger piece of geography as time has gone on, so we need to make sure that what we’re doing inside the box of the core Meadowlands is also conducive to the growth of those that border it.”
That focus has been part of the draw for trustees such as Debra Tantleff, founding principal of Tantum Real Estate, who is one of six commercial real estate executives to serve on the 12-member board.
“I think there’s really an extraordinary opportunity to be involved with an organization that thinks a little bit more regionally, that is not beholden to any one specific policy or issue, but really weaves all of the pieces together … with all of the different items, issues and policies that affect economic development and growth,” said Tantleff, who joined the board last year.
Kirkos added that, when leaders from real estate and other industries “stand next to us, it means something … and I think we get our credibility from those that are actively engaged and are part of the organization.” Those connections will undoubtedly go a long way as the chamber and the foundation look to attract participants to the Meadowlands Cup golf challenge.
The Meadowlands Chamber CEO also believes the competitive format — and the potential bragging rights that are at stake — will also boost participation.
“A competitive corporate golf challenge is very similar to that of an innovator, a disruptor and an entrepreneur,” Kirkos said. “Entrepreneurs are go-getters, they’re competitors and they want to go out there and win. They want to succeed.”
To register for the Meadowlands Cup or to find sponsorship opportunities and additional information, visit https://meadowlands.org/meadowlands-cup/.