2 min read November 2021 — President and CEO Chip Hallock of the Newark Regional Business Partnership spoke with Invest: about a variety of challenging opportunities that the city of Newark, New Jersey, has taken on. He discussed how the Regional Partnership has grown, the shift in demand within different industries, and initiatives being implemented from a sustainability and legislative perspective.
How has Newark Regional Business Partnership grown in the past year and how do you plan to carry that into 2022?
While I can’t say that we have more members than we did at the beginning of last year, we have added new members and “grown” in other ways. We are a bridge between resources and people that helps our members to be more successful. That took various forms over the course of the pandemic such as informing members about ever-changing government restrictions and where they could seek assistance. While we’ve always been responsive to individual member needs, I think we got even better at addressing them by connecting them with member talent. That enhanced member care will continue to be a priority.
Like so many of our members, we had to implement changes in our operation to work remotely and replace our well-regarded in person programs with successful virtual events. While we look forward to and have already begun the return to live events, we see the opportunity and flexibility that online programming provides.
Which industries have experienced an increase or decrease in demand as a result of the pandemic?
Travel, entertainment and hospitality were obviously crushed and our venues, hotels, banquet halls and restaurants suffered greatly. Newark Airport which is an enormous jobs generator was a ghost town for quite a while. Domestic air travel is beginning to rebound but not as consistently or quickly as desired. Airlines will need to see business travel and international flights increase in order to make substantial progress. The hotel industry is certainly affected by the decline in air travel and until conventions and larger meetings resume, they will remain challenged to attain needed revenue. As we all know, restaurants, many of them small family businesses, were decimated causing some to close their doors. But there was also resourcefulness with programs like Newark Working Kitchens which contracted with local restaurants to prepare and distribute more than one million meals to struggling Newark families allowing some restaurants to retain employees.
In contrast, one of our great strengths is the East Coast’s largest seaport complex in the port of New York and New Jersey. One third of the country’s GDP is located within 250 miles making it one of the most populated and affluent markets. That’s why the transportation and logistics industry has been thriving. It’s also apparent that construction continued on commercial, industrial and residential projects, as well as roads and bridges once pandemic safety measures for workers were addressed. Many of our professional firms have remained very busy throughout the pandemic with some having record years.
What initiatives or projects are addressing sustainability and diversity?
Major corporations have many sustainability goals they’re working toward. Small businesses are beginning to think in greater depth about those issues, too. New Jersey has several different programs to address sustainability, such as a Clean Energy Program for residential solar installations and smart building incentives for businesses. Since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, there has been a lot of attention paid to safe drinking water, flooding, stormwater and wastewater management. While some progress has been made, recent storms and flooding have reinforced the importance of resolving these issues.
Almost four years ago, we began a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative after a member survey revealed that many business people didn’t grasp the basic difference between diversity and inclusion. We’ve embarked on a series of workshops, training programs and Intercultural Lunches to promote more understanding of underrepresented groups. Stakeholders are intent on making Newark a more equitable city. These institutionalized problems have prevented many people from gaining an opportunity to better themselves. Our programs are designed to highlight those problems and help our members take a proactive role in addressing inequities and systemic racism.
What legislative or regulatory initiatives are you following?
An infrastructure bill is absolutely essential. We’ve been long-time proponents of investments in infrastructure of all types. Newark Airport, which provides around 25,000 jobs when operating normally, will open a brand new terminal next year and is working on replacement of the monorail system. Newark Penn Station is getting a $160 million overhaul that will be much appreciated by NJ Transit, Amtrak and PATH customers. The Gateway Program to address rail capacity and reliability along the country’s busiest rail line is essential. And our roads and bridges are traveled hard every day – we’re an older region that is making up for decades of neglect.
Like the rest of the country, we need to be more determined and creative when it comes to addressing the employer/employee mismatch and provide people with careers not just jobs. A number of thoughtful programs are underway – with more needed – to ensure that employers, workers and our educational and training capabilities come together for everyone’s benefit.
For more information, visit: https://www.newarkrbp.org/