Business & Finance

Online Retailer Amazon Rejects Somerville as Potential Location for Massive “HQ2”

179187c01481da513189_sompixamazonsign.jpg
179187c01481da513189_sompixamazonsign.jpg

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Amazon released its short list of  20 potential sites to build a massive east coast headquarters Thursday, disappointing more than 200 other cities and smaller towns that had salivated over the prospect of 50,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in associated economic benefits – including Somerville.

The 20 finalists include the city of Newark; a total of 238 cities, towns and counties had submitted proposals.

Other finalists include Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis Los Angeles, Miami, Montgomery County, Md., Nashville, New York City, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, N.C., Toronto and Washington, D.C.

Sign Up for E-News

In October, Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and assorted state and Essex County officials submitted a formal RFP (Request for Proposal) to Amazon in an effort to convince the online behemoth to invest billions in the state’s largest city, promoting Newark as the ideal location for Amazon’s “HQ2”, an east coast headquarters complex totaling 8 million square feet worth billions to the state and local economy.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has said its expansion could generate 50,000 new jobs.

Christie, accompanied by Booker, the former mayor of Newark and his successor, Mayor Ras Baraka, presided at a white-collar, bi-partisan pep rally in mid-October in Newark at Rutgers Business School, where Christie announced that the state would endorse Newark as New Jersey’s preferred location for Amazon’s self-described HQ2.

Former Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher said at the time that Somerville had just as much to offer the Seattle-based conglomerate as did Newark.

Failing to garner the state’s official endorsement, Somerville decided to go it alone.

“We responded to their RFP and worked with the Somerset County Business Partnership to pull together a package,” explained Colin Driver, Somerville Economic Development director. “We knew there were bigger players and that the state was pushing Newark, but we felt we had to throw our hat in the ring so we did.

“It was quite obvious from day one that the state wasn’t going to support the smaller towns, they put all of their eggs in basket; they put together a huge financial package for Newark,” Driver added.

“That’s what Amazon is looking for, the biggest financial break they can get; if they can essentially build a facility where the costs are offset by the financial incentive and generate a whole lot of jobs, that’s a good thing, wherever they go,” he added.

“I would have liked it be in Somerville, but we weren’t picked, obviously.”

The borough’s Amazon proposal was centered on a 22-acre tract of property at the former landfill, a portion of which fronts on Route 206. The tract has been undergoing environmental remediation for several months.

Driver said the property could have easily accommodated a 500,000 square foot building, which Amazon has cited as the first step of its planned expansion.

“Their RFP says they’d like their first building to be close to a transportation hub and/or buses,” Driver said. “They would like to be in proximity to a downtown that’s got arts, entertainment, restaurants, an overall good community feel,” he added.

“They also want to be close to highways, airports and have available open space for recreation. It sounds like they’re describing Somerville,” Driver said.

The borough-owned property is also adjacent to the NJ Transit Raritan Valley line; close proximity to rail is one of Amazon’s criteria, along with access to interstate highways and airports. The proposed site is adjacent to the borough’s “Green Seam,” a passive recreation park that will weave through the 80-plus acres of the former landfill. Retail and/or residential development is also planned for the site.

Further expansion of a network of satellite campuses would have afforded adjacent towns in Somerset County an opportunity to cash in on the Amazon jackpot, according to Driver.

Early in October, Somerville, in conjunction with the Somerset County Business Partnership and an assist from the Somerset County Freeholders, had submitted a formal RFP to the state’s Partnership for Action and the Business Action Center for consideration, as did other municipalities, including Jersey City and New Brunswick.

New Jersey had instructed those towns interested in pitching Amazon to send their proposals for its review and eventual endorsement; Somerville was notified that its proposal “did not meet the criteria set by the state and would therefore not be submitted with the state’s response,” according to a resolution approved by the Borough Council authorizing the submission of the FP directly to Amazon.

"Newark was the clear winner of this competition, and Newark has earned the state's support," Christie said, citing the city's status as a unique education, technology, transportation, and cultural hub. 

Christie noted that the state was willing to give $5 billion dollars in tax incentives over ten years upon the creation of the 50,000 new jobs. 

"Let any other state go and try and beat that package," Christie said, also noting that the City of Newark was willing to offer a local, 20-year property tax abatement that could be worth another $1 billion dollars, and would waive its municipal wage tax to encourage Amazon to come to the city.

"Newark, New Jersey has often been maligned over the previous decades, but let's tell the truth about this incredible city. For centuries, Newark led this nation in innovation, in invention, and in industry as one of America's premier cities," said Booker, who served as the city's mayor from 2006 to 2013.

"Like all major Northeastern industrial cities, we saw tough times. But the truth of Newark in the last decade plus has been of a city charging back, and reclaiming its space, step by step, as one of America's greatest cities," Booker said. 

"Newark is not a charity case. It is the choice for companies who want to relocate and remain competitive and strong, not just in New Jersey and not just in our nation, but in a global context," Booker added.

Driver said a state planning official had likened the competition for Amazon to a “feeding frenzy.” Jersey City hired a team of lawyers and planners to work on its proposal; Newark had a team of 10 people, according to Driver.   

 “The state obviously has its favorite cities that they drive significant development to all the time; it’s not right,” Gallagher said in October. “It shouldn’t be that way. We took a look at the criteria that Amazon has put forth in their RFP and you know what, Somerville and Somerset County hits every mark.”

Gallagher said Somerville’s entry in the sweepstakes may pay dividends in other ways.

“We have the ability to attract Amazon; if not Amazon, there are those who are watching what Amazon does. It puts us on a map that we’re not on right now.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

I will draw on my experience to deliver a great future for Berkeley Heights

May 22, 2018

I am impressed with the day-to-day leadership of our Mayor and Town Council and I hope to help them continue to do great work. As I have been doing my research since deciding to run for a seat on our Town Council, I have learned a few things about all the work that has been happening in recent years.  For example, while plans for the Stratton House development were recently announced, our ...

Christopher Rinaldi for Town Council - Leadership, Judgement, Experience

My name is Christopher Rinaldi.  As a long-time member of the Republican Party, I am running in the Republican Primary on June 5th for Township Council and Republican Municipal Committee of Berkeley Heights.

As a follow-up to my Candidate Statements from the last two weeks, I would like to share with you a few areas of direct work experience garnered over the past 25 years that I believe ...

Redevelopment: Taking the First Step Together While Protecting Berkeley Heights

Redevelopment. It’s something that takes careful planning, foresight, the ability to negotiate for the most favorable outcome, and, of course, patience. I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to reach all of these milestones. Tomorrow, on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, we as a community will take the first step together in the culmination of these efforts, when the ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Rain Didn't Dampen Our Vision for Art in the Park

The rain did not dampen our vision for Art in the Park!! Columbia Middle School was transformed into an art paradise, filled with an array of artists whose talents are nothing short of magical! The Peppertown Park Art in the Park Committee would like to thank all of the artists who came to our very first Art in the Park event. We are in awe of your creativity and immeasurable talents! You all ...

The Ducks Are Here

May 22, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Just arrived. Over four thousand little yellow rubber duckies, ready to swim their little webbed feet off for their adoptive “parents.”

Ducky adoption tickets are just $5 each and available throughout Berkeley Heights oAm Bagel, 7-Eleven, Stop n/ Shop, and out front of our town post office to find and adopt as many duckies as you’d like.

Field Hockey Is On the Rise in Berkeley Heights and Mountainside; Fall Registration Open

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights PAL has opened registration for Fall 5/6 and 7/8 travel field hockey teams, as well as a second through fourth grade Fall clinic and a Summer clinic for current second through eighth graders.   Visit the PAL website, www.bhpal.org, to register. Please indicate if you need to borrow a stick.

The PAL Field Hockey program ...

Congressman Lance To Hold Annual Service Academy Information Fair

FLEMINGTON, NJ – Congressman Leonard Lance, U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, announced he will hold his annual Service Academy Information Fair for high school students.

"I look forward to the Service Academy Information Fair every year and meeting the talented and poised young leaders from our district,” said Congressman Lance.

The ...

Host an International Exchange Student

EF High School Exchange Year announces annual search for student exchange host families in communities across the New Jersey

EF High School Exchange Year—a division of EF Education First, the World Leader in International Education—has kicked off its annual nationwide search for caring host families to welcome exchange students into their homes. Last year EF connected over 3,000 ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Video Shows School Board Member In Altercation With Police at Traffic Stop in South Orange

May 16, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad got into an altercation with a South Orange police officer who stopped her for speeding last month, in which she used profanity, complained when she was issued a ticket and called South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll “a skinhead cop.”

Lawson-Muhammad also appeared to suggest that she would ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_c2872dd7b6bba99b4cf7_ducky_drop

Wed, May 23, 12:00 PM

Passaic River Park, Berkeley Heights

The Ducks Are Here

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

Thu, May 24, 9:30 AM

Junior League of Summit Thrift Shop, Summit

Here Comes Summer! Junior League of Summit Thrift ...

Giving Back Green

Fri, May 25, 9:30 AM

Junior League of Summit Thrift Shop, Summit

Here Comes Summer! Junior League of Summit Thrift ...

Giving Back Green

Sat, May 26, 9:00 AM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

Aunt Carrie's Attic Sale

Giving Back Other

Sat, May 26, 2:00 PM

New Providence

Memoir Writing Workshops @ NPML

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, May 31, 11:30 AM

Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit

Fortnightly Club Scholarship Luncheon

Food & Drink Giving Back

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...