By Michael G. McGuinness and Barbara A. Morford
As we come to the end of another challenging year, it’s a good time to reflect on the many blessings New Jersey can count.
Not just surviving, but thriving: Because New Jersey is a logistics state, our economy has been buoyed throughout the pandemic — much like it was during the Great Recession — by the warehouse and distribution sector. While delivering more and more goods to meet ever-increasing consumer demand, this critical sector of our economy has also been delivering good-paying jobs and investments to the Garden State.
NAIOP New Jersey’s Industrial Deal of the Year finalists are shining examples of gifts that keep on giving. The UPS project at Lincoln Logistics Bayonne, the Piscataway Logistics Center, the redevelopment of the Shoppes at Hamilton in Mercer County and our winner, the FreezPak Logistics facility in Newark and Elizabeth, represent hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in their host communities and thousands of construction and permanent jobs. The UPS project alone will create an estimated 1,400 jobs. At the FreezPak ribbon-cutting on Nov. 10, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said, “This wonderful new facility is a great addition to our community. It helps with our commitment in creating new jobs and opportunities for our residents, all while increasing services and meeting the distribution needs and demands.” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka noted, “Despite the challenges Newark has faced due to COVID-19, we continue to build a strong economy, with jobs and career opportunities for our residents in diverse fields, and revitalized neighborhoods. FreezPak will energize development and growth in this area and our entire city.”
The proliferation of warehouse facilities across the state has understandably caused anxiety in communities concerned about traffic, noise and environmental impacts. NAIOP is encouraging members to engage with local officials, decision makers and community members as “good neighbors” to address these concerns and explain how modern facilities operate and the high-tech, good-paying jobs they bring.
More good news: Our Office Deal of the Year finalists — Park Avenue at Morris County, Lincoln Equities Group and HIG Realty Partners’ acquisition of the Bristol-Myers Squibb campus in Hopewell and the winner, Eisai Inc.’s headquarters lease at Prism Capital Partners’ ON3 in Nutley — are evidence that the office sector has a strengthening pulse. With New Jersey’s high rate of vaccination encouraging more workers to return to the office, the year ahead looks brighter. At NAIOP NJ’s Nov. 1 CEO Perspective on Hybrid Work program, Cushman & Wakefield’s Brian Decillis noted, “Hybrid is here to stay, but the office is alive and well.” That sentiment was reinforced by Angelo Stracquatanio, CEO and co-founder of Apprentice.io., who said six-fold growth during the pandemic led his firm to lease 33,000 square feet at 101 Hudson in Jersey City. “When you have that much growth, collaboration matters, and some things just can’t be done over Zoom.”
By the way, now is the time to think about entering the 2022 Deal of the Year competition, the deadline for which will be early in the first quarter of 2022! The winning deals will be announced on the evening of June 16, 2022, at the Palace at Somerset Park during NAIOP NJ’s Annual Commercial Real Estate Awards Gala.
Infrastructure funds are on the way: The arteries of commerce include roads, bridges, mass transit, passenger and freight rail, power grids, ports and airports and broadband — the information superhighway. President Biden’s $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law on Nov. 15, includes more than $12 billion for New Jersey to invest in highways and roads, bridge repairs, electric vehicle initiatives, enhanced ferry services, resiliency, transit systems and more. And, finally, the long-delayed $11.6 billion tunnel rehab and construction portion of the Gateway Project will be funded. Infrastructure funding stimulates jobs and economic activity up and down the supply chain. This historic investment will pay dividends for years to come.
Let’s share the bounty: As the pandemic thankfully winds down, the many disruptions it caused continue to resonate, including higher prices for food. When food costs rise, food insecurity increases, and it exists in every community in the state. Carlos Rodriguez, CEO and president of the Community FoodBank of NJ said, “The shortages that supermarkets are dealing with translated into less donations to us and increased costs.” Before the pandemic, the Community FoodBank, which has been NAIOP NJ’s Community Action Partner for the past 12 years, purchased about 10 percent of the food it distributes, but is now buying up to 36 percent of meals, because retail stores and supermarkets don’t have the capacity to donate as much as they could previously. Given that the FoodBank is expecting to provide 98 million meals this year, up from 50 million in 2019, the situation is challenging, to put it mildly.
Please donate generously to the Community FoodBank of NJ or a food bank in your local community, including Fulfill Monmouth & Ocean Counties and FoodBank of South Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Food Fund.
As we enjoy our holiday celebrations, let’s all say a big “thank you” to the thousands of folks who really deliver our holiday cheer (you won’t find them at the North Pole): the port and warehouse workers, truck drivers, retail employees and last-mile delivery people who keep the store shelves stocked and our gift lists fulfilled.
On behalf of everyone at NAIOP NJ, we wish you a joyful season, and a healthy and prosperous 2022!
Michael McGuiness is CEO of NAIOP New Jersey and has led the commercial real estate development association since 1997. Barbara Morford is NAIOP New Jersey’s senior director policy and communications. NAIOP represents developers, owners, asset managers and investors of commercial, industrial and mixed-use properties, with 830 members in New Jersey and over 19,000 members throughout North America.