NJBIA Report to Members

Tech and the City

Report to Members

Michele SiekerkaA robust high-tech sector signals a healthy, growing economy. It’s why NJBIA and Audible brought together more than 200 business executives, entrepreneurs, university presidents and state policymakers in Newark recently to brainstorm how to ignite more innovative startups in our cities and attract the workforce they need to grow.

The ultimate goal is to restore New Jersey’s stature as the Innovation State – reclaiming our glory days of the 19th and 20th centuries when the discoveries made in the New Jersey laboratories of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell revolutionized the way the entire world lived, worked and played. 

A Tale of Tech Cities: Innovation & Urban Revitalization, which featured keynotes from Gov. Phil Murphy and Audible CEO Don Katz, was held in Newark to showcase a city where billions of dollars in high-tech investment is already underway. Newark’s exciting rebirth serves as a model for how New Jersey can retake the innovation mantle in the 21st century and replicate it in urban areas across the state.

High-tech hubs attract investors, capital and entrepreneurs whose startups create new jobs and economic expansion. The high-tech sector, in fact, provides more indirect jobs than any other industry, with two professional and five entry-level service economy jobs generated for every new tech position.

New Jersey has the right mix of private capital, renowned universities, highly educated talent, rich cultural diversity and an ideal location to successfully hatch tech startups. Melding these assets together within a regional innovation ecosystem brings the type of economic, cultural and social dynamism that not only attracts investment, but serves as a millennial magnet, helping New Jersey retain its younger workforce and quell our national ranking as the No. 1 millennial outmigration state.

Governor Murphy has made reigniting the innovation economy a cornerstone of his administration’s economic agenda. Earlier this year, he outlined a vision for a technology innovation hub in downtown New Brunswick that would attract emerging tech and life sciences companies to an area renowned for its existing corporate, medical, and academic research activity.

As the founder of Audible, Katz grew a small tech startup into Newark’s fastest growing private employer and the world’s largest producer of spoken audio entertainment. His insights on how to replicate this success in other urban areas draws from his experience at Audible, as well as his role as the founder of Newark Venture Partners, a venture fund and ultra-bandwidth accelerator that successfully connects high-tech startups in Newark to the early-stage tech economy. 

Katz advised building consensus among stakeholders around a powerful vision first, and then writing a manifesto that sets forth the specific strategies and economic policies that will make it happen. Resist the impulse to sustain the status quo, he said, because that keeps innovation, economic growth, and the tax revenue it generates from coursing forward.

NJBIA and Audible’s economic policy conference was not a mere academic exercise; it was a call to action. NJBIA has made a commitment to continue working with all stakeholders at the event to produce recommendations that harness the inspiration and vision of our keynote speakers and build upon the insights that emerged during dynamic panel discussions.

 And, the urban revitalization deep dive doesn’t stop in Newark. We plan to host a similar discussion in Camden on the role of “Eds and Meds” to drive that city’s revival. There is so much opportunity to be harnessed. Look for our whitepaper this fall. Stay tuned!


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