With Amazon’s “short list” of locales it’s still considering for its HQ2 project, New Jersey could be heading for “split the baby” moment.
The City of Camden, as well as Salem County and Atlantic City, are out of the competition at the end of Round 1. As game-show hosts say before losing contestants leave with their Rice-A-Roni as their consolation prize, “Thanks for playing.”
Still standing in the race for Amazon’s $5 billion facility and its 50,000 jobs are Newark, Philadelphia and New York City. That Newark is still under consideration justifies the “official” New Jersey backing given to it by former Gov. Chris Christie, as legislative leaders signaled approval.
The state’s Newark endorsement may have caused some bruised feelings in Jersey City, Camden, etc., but it’s academic now that Newark is the only finalist with “NJ” in front of its ZIP Code. It’s not worth debating now whether this was a chicken-and-egg outcome: Is Newark on still alive only because the state concentrated an eye-popping $5 billion toward incentives there? The tax breaks clearly put a “Hey, Look at Me!” sign on Newark’s proposal that metrics-crunchers at Amazon’s existing left-coast headquarters could not ignore.
It’s probably selling Newark short to claim it was the money alone that got the attention of the online retail giant. Other factors suggest that Newark is a place that is looking forward, with or without Amazon.
But here’s the conundrum: What if Philadelphia — or New York City — emerges as a front runner, and Newark doesn’t? How much, if at all, does New Jersey attach itself to Philly or the Big Apple and cite it as a “regional” bid? In either case, economic benefits surely would accrue to a portion of the Garden State — but at only to one end of the state. Already, some informal lines are being drawn.
“This is great news for Philadelphia, Camden and South Jersey,” reacted Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. upon being informed last week that Camden, but not Philadelphia, had been dropped.
“We believe that if the Philadelphia metropolitan area makes the final cut it will be a big win for the overall region … ” added the chief booster of the Camden bid.
We find this approach to be refreshingly pragmatic. It surely makes sense, going forward, that South Jersey’s assets be placed in a gift box with Philadelphia’s for the next pitch that Philly makes to Amazon. For a company that needs scads of well-educated tech workers, why list Drexel University’s engineering graduates as a resource without including Rowan University’s?
In terms of moral support, South Jersey needs to contribute to and enhance Philadelphia’s effort, more than Newark’s. When Carson Wentz is injured, folks around here rally around Nick Foles, not Eli Manning.
If Philadelphia — or New York — make the next cut, but not Newark, it would be ridiculous for New Jersey’s $5 billion to continue along on the ride. But it’s not ridiculous for New Jersey’s planning and economic development personnel to willingly offer technical assistance to mayors Bill de Blasio and Jim Kenney. Nor would it be unrealistic for New Jersey to offer some smaller degree of financial incentive for any related component of “Philadelphia” or “New York” Amazon development that is located in our state.
Around here, we’d have to go with Philadelphia’s Kenney as first choice for the head coach most likely to win us the Super Bowl of landing corporate headquarters.
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