Those who can remember Newark both in its industrial heyday and its years of decline have to admit one thing: The high-profile tenure of former Mayor Cory Booker put the city back on the map. Where it goes from here will be decided in May, when it will pick between Shavar Jeffries and Ras Baraka. NJBIZ got a chance recently to sit down with both…
Newark mayoral candidate
Ras Baraka,44,is a former deputy mayor. He currently is a South Ward councilman and principal of Central High School.
Q: What is the current state of business and economic development in Newark?
I think because of the Urban (Transit) Hub tax credits, the whole Grow NJ economic plan that’s moving forward in New Jersey, that’s actually prompted New York to respond to its tax-free zones. We try to take their business; they try to keep it. I think Newark has benefited from that tremendously over the last few years, and it’s going to continue to benefit.
The only problem is, I don’t think that business is directed, under a particular vision. People are coming to Newark particularly because we have these credits available to them and we are like a mold of clay. We’re not Hoboken. We’re not Jersey City. We’re too far away from New York to really benefit from it and too close to compete with it. We have to form our own identity here in Newark and businesses and companies are coming, but they need some direction. We need to let them know what we want, how we want it, and they have to be a part of what we think is going to grow our economy here, not just simply coming to Newark to benefit from our tax credits.
Q: What is its future?
Our plan is not to do what has been done, which is just to reach out for big businesses and big box industry to come to the city.
I think we’ve been trying to live under New York’s shadow for too long. We can’t compete with New York; we’re too close to it. We’re going to have to find our own identity, and once we find our own identity and we begin to do those things good, we rebrand ourselves.
Q: What’s the No. 1 thing you’ll do to bring new businesses to Newark?
The infrastructure itself attracts business to the city. The Budweisers and (others) came to Newark because we had great water, not because we had a charismatic mayor. So what we have to do is leverage the clusters in our community.