Mayor and Black chamber of commerce tout Newark as the place to do business

Newark officials and the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware on Thursday told entrepreneurs of color that New Jersey’s largest city is also one of its best places to do business and invited them to start or move their enterprises there.

In the chamber’s first conference of its kind in Newark, held at New Jersey Institute of Technology and co-sponsored by the city and the chamber, officials told about 80 mostly Black business people that Newark offers them a transportation network of major highways, railways, air and seaports; technical expertise and advanced training at highly rated NJIT and Rutgers University-Newark; a population of 311,000 potential employees and customers; and proximity to New York City.

They noted that the state’s largest city also offers an existing community of tech and other firms, one of which — Audible — offers relocation assistance and incentive programs from the city and the state.

“We know that Black businesses provide innovative goods and services, they provide jobs, and they anchor communities,” the Philadelphia-based tri-state chamber’s executive director, Regina A. Hairston, told the gathering. “If you’re here in Newark already, welcome. We want you to grow your businesses here in Newark. We want you to stay in Newark. And if you’re coming from other places, we’re excited to have you.”

Mayor Ras J. Baraka welcomed attendees, including NJIT President Teik C. Lim and Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor, whom Lim referred to as “my partner in crime” in an effort to promote Newark’s reputation as a college town and integrate their campuses into the art, commerce and all around life of the city.

Materials provided at the complex noted that Newark lies midway along the metropolitan corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C., a marketplace of 56 million residents and $3.75 trillion in economic output. With Newark located just 12 miles west of Manhattan and linked by road and rail lines, Baraka said, “We have an opportunity here with Newark to put you in the largest media market in the world.”

For businesses with import or export needs, Baraka pointed out that Port Newark, home of the world’s first container terminal, is the nation’s second-busiest shipping port after the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach complex in California.

The New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and Interstates 78 and 280 run through Newark. The city is the western terminus of the PATH community rail line extending east through Jersey City into Manhattan and is served by NJ Transit and Amtrak heavy rail lines, as well as freight trains in and out of the port.

Baraka told the potential employers that recent generations of skilled workers don’t harbor the same stereotypical images of Newark or other urban areas that their parents or grandparents might, and therefore, are happy to build their careers and make their home in Brick City.

“One thing that I think Black chambers understand, I think you folks will understand that a lot of people don’t understand, is that this next generation of young people that are coming up, they’re tired of the old way,” Baraka said.

“They don’t have the same prejudices that existed 30, 40, 50 years ago. They want to live in new communities. They want to live in diverse communities. They don’t want to live in communities that are wrapped with a bunch of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts,” Baraka said.They want to go to the Greek restaurant, the Italian restaurant, they want to dance to Afro beats, they want a soul food spot.”

“They want all of these things and these amenities in our communities,” Baraka added. “And the communities that have these look like ours. And the chambers that are pushing this are the chambers that look like us. Because we understand that when we are included, the economy does better.”

Baraka, who is weighing a bid for governor in 2025, clearly impressed a trio of women business owners of color seated at a table near the stage.

One of them, Phyllis McConnell, came to the conference looking to expand her cleaning company, Zherockz, from its base out of her home in North Plainfield. Another, Andrea Mullen, a builder based in Hillside who runs Upstate Development Group, said she wanted to know how to turn an idea for a new business into a reality. The third, Premise Martin of Plainfield, who founded Pedilicious Footwear, hoped to relocate her production facility to Newark from Buford, Georgia, and open a nail salon on the NJIT or Rutgers-Newark campus.

Martin, who described her patented main product as “a 4-pronged, toe-separating sandal that you wear before, during and after a pedicure,” asked panelists from a discussion on local business opportunities how she might make those things happen.

One of them, Maya Curry of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, suggested Martin contact the nonprofit New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program for help relocating. Another panelist, Ricardo Salazar of the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau, told Martin his group could introduce her to university officials.

“We’re happy to make that connection,” Salazar told Martin, who was happy to hear it.

Mullen said she learned Thursday that a tech incubator at NJIT, VentureLink, might be just the place to help realize her idea for a new business, which she wouldn’t divulge.

“I don’t have a patent yet,” Mullen explained. But, she added, “Now I know I can actually contact someone from NJIT and actually help produce it.”

Premise Martin and Ricardo Salazar at Newark Forward

Plainfield-based Entrepreneur Premise Martin talks with Ricardo Salazar of the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau at a Newark Forward business conference at New Jersey Institute of Technology on Thursday. Allison Ladd, the city’s deputy mayor for economic and housing development, center, and Ari Fox, left, from Audible’s Center for Urban Development, joined Salazar for a panel discussion earlier.Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media For

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