Gateway Investment worth it for Newark and Amazon

Posted by On Mar 02, 2018 In Blog

This article originally appeared as a guest column in The Star-Ledger, written by Jim Kirkos. Jim Kirkos is president and CEO for the Meadowlands Regional Chamber and the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Gateway investment worth it for Newark and Amazon

Amazon’s proposed second North American headquarters could elevate Newark to a rightful place as an important peer to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. But in addition to a great workforce, a dynamic region and a comprehensive incentive plan, one of the big draws for Amazon is Newark’s proximity to New York City.

Newark – the only place with world-class infrastructure that offers a huge savings over other Northeast Corridor cities – offers Amazon accessibility to exceptional cultural assets and even the opportunity to further stimulate them.

I would argue that Newark is a no-brainer for Amazon, but I fear for one thing: Funding for the Gateway tunnel project has become a political football between the red Trump administration and a pair of blue states.

The lack of a clear funding pathway may create a gray area in Newark’s bid to win Amazon’s “HQ2.” If we are willing to put $5 billion into attracting Amazon alone, how much is Gateway worth to the region?

It’s something to think about as we define priorities going forward.

Gateway’s limbo hurts not only Newark; it hurts the New Jersey suburbs that need a boost in demand for housing. It hurts the Meadowlands warehouse districts and small businesses that are starved for a new economic driver. It hurts NJ Transit, it hurts Amtrak, it hurts the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – all of which contribute bones to the greatest infrastructure skeleton in the world, bones so brittle that a complete failure is a real threat not only to New Jersey’s economy but also to national security.

As a state, we are not blameless in the condition of our infrastructure. We were kicking the can down the road long before Hurricane Sandy, deferring maintenance and ignoring warning signs.

But we have committed the necessary resources for our share of the Gateway plan and we need the federal government to now commit to its share. Our region contributes benefits to the national economy that dwarf the needed federal investment in Gateway.

If threats to public health and national security are not enough to overcome the Trump administration’s seeming intent to undermine our region, with a project such as Amazon in the balance, there is all the more urgency for our lawmakers here and in Washington to prioritize Gateway or deal with much bigger problems later.