FLORHAM PARK, NJ—New Jersey is well-positioned to persuade Amazon.com to locate its recently announced second headquarters facility in the Garden State, says Timothy Lizura, president and chief operating officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
“Fifty thousand high-paying jobs, $5 billion of capital investment, eight million square feet of office space certainly gets a country’s attention, doesn’t it?” asked Lizura, the keynote speaker at this year’s RealShare New Jersey Conference. “When you look at the RFP that Amazon put out, and when you look at the decision drivers that Amazon identified in the RFP, New Jersey is very well situated to make a compelling, compelling proposal.”
In his remarks, Lizura highlighted many of the factors that make New Jersey a contender for the headquarters. In fact, Lizura excused himself from the conference shortly after his keynote remarks, saying he needed to go to Trenton for a meeting with several municipalities hoping to make a pitch for the Amazon project.
Lizura recalled that seven years ago, Amazon had no physical presence in New Jersey, but had begun negotiating with the state treasurer about the question of a “nexus,” a presence that would require Amazon to collect New Jersey sales taxes. At the same time, the e-commerce company was considering opening its first distribution center, a million square-foot facility in Robbinsville, near Trenton, and now has seven facilities in the state.
“From no jobs, last I heard, I think it was 17,000 jobs in the state today,” he says. “Clearly, they recognized the business opportunity New Jersey presents.”
New Jersey’s economy remains strong, job levels are at “historic” highs, and businesses are being formed at a record pace with record low unemployment, Lizura says.
“Part of Amazon’s criteria is going to be affordability and availability of housing stock,” he says. “Since 2010, we’ve introduced 36,000 new residential units. 26,000 of those are residential rentals. That’s the kind of housing that’s going to be helpful in attracting businesses here.”
The transportation network, including 2,800 miles of Interstate Highways, along with railroads and ports, offers “easy access to anywhere in the world,” he says. The airports in the region make it the second largest air terminal in the country. A $1.6 billion project to raise the Goethals Bridge near Elizabeth has made the Port of New York and New Jersey, the largest on the east coast, accessible to the largest cargo ships able to traverse the newly widened Panama Canal.
New Jersey is also a leader in technology infrastructure, Lizura says, with one of the most extensive broadband networks in the country. Jersey City, Paterson, and Elizabeth boast the best fiber optic networks anywhere in the country, he says.
“Our historic and continuous focus on bringing technology advances into the country allow us to say to Amazon, ‘this is a state that you want to be a part of,’” he says, adding that the state has more scientists and engineers per square mile than any other state.
Amazon subsidiary Audible.com, which produces audio books, podcasts and other audio programming, is headquartered in Newark, and will be creating more than 350 new jobs in a 77,000 square-foot engineering and development center being built in a former church building in the city, Lizura says.
Jet.com, an e-commerce company recently acquired by Walmart Stores, has expanded its corporate headquarters space in Hoboken to more than 100,000 square feet to accommodate 320 new tech jobs, he says.
Attendees at the RealShare New Jersey conference also heard from expert panels discussing the overall industry and capital market outlook; unlocking value from multifamily properties; industrials and office assets. Stories summarizing those panels will appear in the next several days.