Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read September 2021 — The Meadowlands Regional Chamber has been helping businesses grow and succeed in the Meadowlands for the past 40 years. In an interview with Invest:, Jim Kirkos, the Chamber’s president and CEO, recapped his experience of the pandemic, why businesses should relocate to or expand within North Jersey, as well as what a new convention center at the Meadowlands Sports Complex would add to the region.
How impactful did the Chamber have during the pandemic?
The mission of business service organizations, such as regional chambers of commerce, has been elevated exponentially. Our ability to disseminate credible, accurate information on how to sustain and survive in this unprecedented time was unbelievably impactful for our hundreds of members. I can point to the things that we do as a business organization on a daily basis, such as connecting our members to resources, information and networking opportunities, as that’s what we do best, but in this particular case we were the glue. We pulled information from state, county and federal resources. We stood up a curated business resource page, making sure that information was accurate on a constant basis. We hosted virtual calls daily with business leaders, figuring out how to navigate the pandemic. We played a critical role. Chambers and other organizations like ours probably saved tens of thousands of businesses across the country.
Why should businesses relocate or expand within North Jersey?
It’s always going to cost more to do business in New Jersey. It just is. However, you get a lot for your money and it’s a great place to do business. We have an extremely educated workforce, access to tremendous transportation infrastructure, great colleges and universities, a superb quality of life and, quite frankly, we’re at the center of the universe with our proximity to NYC. There isn’t anything you can’t get within an hour’s drive of where I sit. You put all those things together and New Jersey is a pretty great place to be. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to work on making NJ as cost-effective as possible and further improve returns on our investments as a state.
What makes Meadowlands an attractive region to reside and do business?
The Meadowlands is a really unique piece of geography. Right in the middle of this very densely populated region is this 10,000-acre wetlands that 30 to 40 years ago was an environmental catastrophe. Through the reclamation practices of all types of entities, it has come back in such a way that we actually promote eco-tourism. The Meadowlands has almost 275 species of birds that migrate to it, with 70 to 80 of those species migrating to no other place in the world but here. There are 15 active American bald eagle couples in the region. Add to this the parks systems in Bergen, Hudson and Essex County, and that makes the quality of life in this region very attractive. We have a great balance of tremendous job creation, a greatly educated workforce and quality of life.
In what ways do you expect to see the region’s economy grow?
The Greater Meadowlands area has always been a warehouse, logistics and light manufacturing hub. These sectors have grown exponentially. Fulfillment and warehouse spaces are now renting at upward of $12 to $15 per square foot; 10-15 years ago, it was $5. A housing construction boom has also taken place in the region. The third element for us is tourism. Tourism and destination development is one of the big driving factors for us. We’re in the process of choosing a company to do a study to potentially build a convention center at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. With the incoming infrastructure bill, which will help to improve our transportation systems, and our proximity to New York City, we are a primary destination. We’ve already hosted the world’s biggest events, such as the World Cup, Wrestlemania and the Super Bowl. We know we have the wherewithal to do all of these things. Now, it’s just a matter of leveraging our assets and continuing to grow our presence as a tourism destination.
What would a new convention center at the Meadowlands Sports Complex add to the region?
If we build a convention center or a multi-use youth and amateur sports/convention center at the sports complex, we would have the Meadowlands Racetrack, Metlife stadium, a convention center and the American Dream. It’d be an unbelievable multi venue sports and entertainment complex that could be a driver of growth over the coming decades. When the original horse racetrack was built in the ‘70s, it was so popular that it became what’s called the Big M, recognized anywhere in the world. The money from the Big M built the original Giants Stadium and then eventually the arena. That sports complex powered this economy for 30 years before it went into decline. However, now we’re in a resurgence with the new MetLife Stadium, the new Meadowlands racetrack, and the American Dream. If we build a convention center, that nucleus could be the thing that powers the region for the next 25 years. I’ll be very bullish if we can convince our policymakers to get behind this project.
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