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Panel Educated workforce, innovation key to Newark growth

Taking advantage of an educated workforce is key to transforming Newark, according to panelists at the VOICE Summit.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, served as moderator of the panel regarding the transformation of Newark and shared this tidbit: New Jersey has 44,000 unfilled middle-level jobs.

Amy McIlvaine, business development manager at AT&T Smart Cities, said it’s important to remember that economic growth needs to be nurtured over a span of decades.

AT&T Smart Cities works with cities to provide STEM principles.

David Wartell, chief technology officer of technology company IDT, said Google and Facebook were recent technological developers.

“People love to join a place that is about change and making improvement,” Wartell said.

Wartell said that Newark will look to the New Jersey government to be friendlier to businesses.

Don Sebastian of the New Jersey Innovation Institute wants to make Newark a place where people want to live, work and play.

“We have created some honey to attract the bears and to attract big companies,” Sebastian said. “We cannot rely on the solitary inventor in the basement.”

Medina Citi said access to high bandwidth has allowed companies to flourish in Newark. 

Jim Barrood, the CEO at New Jersey Tech Council, said that growth takes years of collaboration.

Seth Wainer, former chief information officer for the city, said Newark has two venture funds. Attracting a half-dozen or so additional venture funds should be a goal, he said.

Rick Thigpen, senior vice president of corporation citizenship at PSEG, said that talent exists in many people of many skin colors and nationalities.

“The workforce is diverse and multi-cultural,” Thigpen said.

Aisha Glover, CEO at the Newark Community Economic Development Council, said that New Jersey is exporting talent. She predicts Newark will become a model for development in terms of equity and inclusion in five years.

“Newark is the right size,” Glover said. “If you are in a larger city, you may never have the chance to sit with the president of a major corporation or the mayor.”

“We are excited to host VOICE because this city has the fastest Internet speeds in the nation,” Glover said. “We have room for growth.”

David Hutter
David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at:

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