Economic Development

Giving Back is Good Business

Newark companies and residents benefit when community needs are in focus.

Prudential’s roots were planted in Newark in 1875 based on an idea that would change America forever; life insurance for everyday families. Over the past several years, AeroFarms, the world’s largest indoor vertical farm, has planted thousands of seeds in the city to grow safe, healthy and flavorful food in a sustainable and socially responsible way.

While different in nature and focus, these global leaders share more than a common hometown with dozens of diverse organizations, including many of New Jersey’s largest and most influential companies. Their common bond is a focus on the needs of Newark’s stakeholders that, in turn, has paid dividends in terms of business success and a revitalized city.

“Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s leadership and vision to make the entire city a better place to live, work and visit has been key to accelerating Newark’s revitalization,” Newark Regional Business Partnership (NRBP) President & CEO Chip Hallock says. “He challenges everyone in the city, including corporate partners, nonprofits, educational institutions and small businesses to work together collaboratively and creatively.”


Shané Harris, Prudential Financial, Inc.’s vice president, corporate giving, says, “Prudential’s relationship with the city and its people reflects our belief that by working together, we can create shared success for our company and for our stakeholders. We understand that the way to effectively drive change is by collaborating closely with key partners, with the shared goal of building a more vibrant, resilient and inclusive Newark. Prudential partners with Mayor Baraka and the City of Newark, non-profits and community-based organizations, our corporate peers and fellow anchor institutions in Newark, to launch catalytic projects and systematic improvements across the city.”

Prudential has committed more than $1 billion to Newark in the last decade alone, including $405 million in impact investments, $165 million in grants to nonprofits and $500 million in infrastructure projects, among other investments to help spread economic and social opportunity across the city and create meaningful and lasting change. It invests in neighborhood-based projects to rehabilitate affordable housing, support homeownership preservation and bolster retail amenities. It also uses philanthropic and human capital to support broader systemic reforms in education and public safety. 

“Prudential is committed to helping build pathways to meaningful employment for Newark residents,” Harris adds. “We do this through strengthening the infrastructure and supporting intermediary organizations that provide high-quality education as well as job skills training through organizations like My Brother’s Keeper Newark and YouthBuild.”

Prudential is also a member of Mayor Baraka’s “Hire. Buy. Live. Newark” initiative, a partnership with the city’s business community, higher education and medical institutions, clergy, philanthropies and workforce development programs to reduce poverty and unemployment and strengthen Newark’s economy. Through the “Hire” pillar, Prudential invested in the relocation of AeroFarms, on the condition that local residents would be hired. 


An environmental champion and certified B corporation, AeroFarms is leading the way to address the global food crisis by building, owning and operating indoor vertical farms that set a new standard for totally protected agriculture from seed to package.

AeroFarms’ global headquarters at 212 Rome Street occupies a 70,000-square-foot repurposed steel mill on an approximately 3.5-acre industrial site located in the center of Newark’s Ironbound community.

“By revitalizing this warehouse, we were able to breathe new life into an abandoned space, bring 50 local jobs to the community as well as provide year-round access to local, fresh, safe and nutritious produce to a food desert,” Marc Oshima, AeroFarms co-founder and chief marketing officer notes. 

A recipient of a New Jersey community development block grant, AeroFarms has made good on its commitment to hiring from the local community, bringing year-round fair-wage jobs with benefits to a city with an unemployment rate that is twice the national average. A formal partnership with the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) was set up to create a recruiting and job-training program targeting local residents for both skilled and non-skilled roles. AeroFarms has also worked with ICC through its prison reentry program, offering employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals.

In addition to 212 Rome, AeroFarms has repurposed three other sites in Newark alone, transforming them into productive indoor farms. Its research and development facility in downtown Newark was once a nightclub and urban apparel store. A 30,000-square-foot space in the Ironbound, which was formerly a paintball and laser tag entertainment center, is now the site of one of AeroFarm’s indoor farming operations and offices. Finally, there is a small AeroFarms growing unit in the dining hall of Philip’s Academy Charter School, fully operated by the elementary school students. The students gain access to fresh, healthy food that can be hard to find in parts of the city, along with a deep connection to how food is produced and why methods matter.

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, part of the RWJBarnabas Health network, also participates in “Hire. Buy. Live. Newark,” the first program in a US city designed to transform its economy by combining employment, procurement and residential strategies.

“Hire Newark: Employment Ready Boot Camp” is a non-traditional job readiness program led by Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health in partnership with Mayor Baraka and the City of Newark. The program provides opportunities to prepare members of the Newark community for entry level positions with Newark-based employers. It consists of a five-week immersive curriculum that includes social and presentation modules, management and employability skills, site visits to potential employers to assess organizational and/or industry culture, and one-on-one coaching, preparation and readiness assessments. To date, the program has a graduation rate of 100 percent and an employment rate of 95 percent.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield NJ

Kevin P. Conlin, chairman, CEO and president of Horizon BCBSNJ says, “Horizon has called Newark home for more than 85 years, and has actively supported (financially and through voluntary service) several dozen organizations that help make Newark a better, healthier community for everyone who lives, works and visits the city. Our leadership volunteers on the Boards of groups like the Newark Museum, St. Benedict’s Prep, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and our employees have provided thousands of hours of volunteer service, doing everything from restoring parks and working at soup kitchens to mentoring students in the public schools.

“Since 2004, Horizon and our Foundation have invested more than $25 million in Newark-based nonprofit organizations, including more than $4.7 million in grants and contributions in the last year and a half. We participate in Mayor Baraka’s Newark 2020 initiative, played a leadership role in Newark Celebration 350, and sponsor annually the summer-long outdoor concert series on the plaza outside NJPAC,” Conlin adds. “We’re also helping lead the transformation of healthcare in Newark, partnering with several community groups and RWJBarnabas Health to launch a boots-on-the-ground health initiative to expand access to primary care, and address social determinants of health like transportation, education and food scarcity to help Newark residents get the care they need. Horizon is a proud corporate citizen of Newark and we’re committed to doing our part to support the tremendous leadership that is moving this city forward.” 


Whether known as the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, Bell Atlantic New Jersey, or Verizon New Jersey, the company has a long history of community service in Newark and was formerly headquartered in the city.

Verizon has spent tens of millions of dollars upgrading its facilities and expanding its FiOS network in Newark while recent Verizon Foundation grants to Newark-based organizations support a wide range of educational initiatives that provide underserved students with the skills needed for success in college or career. Grant recipients have included universities, STEM and entrepreneurship programs as well as support for institutions that provide invaluable services for residents such as the Newark Public Library.

Exemplifying that ongoing commitment, Leecia Eve, Verizon’s vice president of state government affairs for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, was honored by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) with the 2018 Community Builder Award.

At the award event, NJISJ President & CEO Ryan Haywood said, “this gala is really about harnessing the momentum of the work our honorees have done.” Held on June 19, or Juneteenth, which marks the liberation of the last slaves on American soil, the date also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign, a watershed moment in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

In her remarks, Eve challenged the audience to harness the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Poor People’s Campaign with a renewed sense of urgency and humanity. 

United Airlines

In July, United Airlines New York/New Jersey President Jill Kaplan announced a $2-million grant to be split between the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Urban League of Essex County, and Year Up New York in a ceremony at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C with Newark Mayor Baraka and Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage.

The organizations were selected for their work within the local communities that surround Newark Liberty International Airport and their dedication to vital workforce development programs giving people opportunities for the future.

United’s donation of a half-million dollars to the Urban League of Essex County will support the development and improvement of a new soft skills program for residents within the city of Newark as part of the “Hire. Buy. Live. Newark” initiative. The organization supports disadvantaged urban residents through programs that drive sustainable social and economic self-sufficiency.

United’s contribution to the Community FoodBank, which serves the City of Elizabeth and neighboring counties, will support the Food Service Training Academy (FSTA). The Academy is a 15-week culinary program which provides the skills and training necessary for an entry-level job in the food-service industry. FSTA is open to low-income people who are facing obstacles to employment, including formerly incarcerated individuals seeking re-entry, people in recovery from substance use disorders and women re-entering the workforce.


In 2017, Audible celebrated its 20th anniversary and its 10th anniversary in Newark by launching the Project Listen Up initiative. Through the program, starting in 2018, every Newark high school student and teacher receives a free one-year Audible membership, a Fire tablet, Audible headphones, plus a bonus collection of more than 150 “recommended reading” titles identified by Newark educators and Audible experts. Students and teachers keep the content, tablets and headphones even after their free membership ends.

When Audible expanded and relocated its headquarters in 2007, the company chose Newark with the goal of revitalizing the community through job creation and the development of its historic downtown, believing in a synergy between Audible’s cultural ethos and the transformation happening in Newark.

At the time of the project’s announcement, company founder and CEO Don Katz said, “Audible is a better company and a better place to work because of our decision to move to Newark 10 years ago and include so many Newark high school and college students and Newark-born and educated people as our paid interns and employees. As our interns – who get free access to Audible memberships already know – students, parents, and teachers consistently tell us how powerfully listening to Audible has made a difference – whether it engenders a lasting love of stories, builds active vocabulary, helps with academics, or simply allows people to fit more books into their lives.”

Recently, South African comedian and host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah, donated his best-selling, self narrated autobiography, “Born A Crime,” to all Project Listen Up participants. In a “CBS This Morning” interview, Noah spoke to the power of performance, how audio can be used as a literacy tool, and how honored he is that Newark Public Schools and Audible chose his Audible book for a city-wide listen.

McCarter & English 

McCarter & English LLP recently created a Pro Bono Fellowship for the City of Newark and is hiring a full-time lawyer to represent Newark’s underserved residents with unmet legal needs. Initially, the fellow will represent vulnerable tenants facing eviction, which often is disruptive and potentially traumatic. Thousands of people in Newark face eviction each year, and only a tiny percentage has legal representation. 

The fellow will represent them in Housing Court, work with a team of McCarter lawyers and staff to assist even more residents, help residents know and understand their rights, and become a statewide authority, and voice, on eviction and related issues.

Nearly half of McCarter & English’s 400 lawyers are Newark-based, with a total of 350 employees in the city. That number, while significant, pales in comparison to the indirectly created jobs in and around Newark made possible by the firm’s commitment to help clients form, grow, thrive and hire.

“McCarter & English and Newark are inextricably bound together and have been since we opened our Newark office more than 150 years ago, being the first law firm to do so,” Michael P. Kelly, chairman of McCarter & English, says. “We’ve grown here, through good times and challenging times, and have always been committed to this great city. We are particularly proud of our philanthropic and pro bono efforts in Newark on behalf of Newark’s residents.”

Wells Fargo

A $100,000 Wells Fargo Regional Foundation Neighborhood Planning Grant will enable the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD), in partnership with Community Asset Preservation Corporation (CAPC), to compile an in-depth “Neighborhood Plan” with input from residents and other local stakeholders. 

At the time of the July announcement, Mayor Baraka said, “The development of our neighborhoods, particularly those with the history, diversity and energy of the Lincoln Park area, requires great thought and greater action. We must address these issues in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Equipped with this guide, we will be able to chart a course for Lincoln Park that will create a vibrant and strong neighborhood, with the highest quality of life for all of its residents. What we do here today will define Newark’s future for decades and generations.”

 “The Wells Fargo planning grant opens the next phase in the resurgence of the Lincoln Park neighborhood,” Tony Schuman, interim dean of NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design and LPCCD board chair, states. “LPCCD is pleased to partner with other key institutions and local stakeholders in undertaking this comprehensive study by analyzing the area needs and assets, as we work towards our long-term goal of creating an inclusive arts district in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.”


Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), New Jersey’s largest energy company, and one of Newark’s long-term residents of 114 years, continues to support Newark in its efforts to transform into a sustainable economy, with grants to university, arts and social services organizations across the city and focused support of the Newark 2020 initiative. 

In addition, the PSEG Foundation funds the Students2Science program, affording students live and virtual experiences, while employee volunteers provide hands-on education and mentorship to middle and high school students on workforce readiness and careers in science and engineering. PSEG employee volunteers educate and mentor Newark students through Junior Achievement as well as through its Energy Careers program in affiliation with Essex County College, and the company supports Newark Summer Youth Employment, an initiative that helps students develop leadership skills and financial literacy as they explore careers at companies and organizations throughout the city, and learn about energy resources, environmental issues, surface processing and engineering.


Panasonic has been helping Newark residents contribute to a cleaner and healthier community for the past five years by partnering with the City of Newark, the Ironbound Business Improvement District (IBID), Covanta, a world-leading sustainable waste and materials management company and operator of the Essex County Resource Recovery Facility in Newark, Urban Renewal Corporation, a local not-for-profit emergency housing and social services organization, and other community-based organizations through an ongoing series of free e-waste collection events.

The proper collection and recycling of electronic items helps keep hazardous materials out of the waste stream by reducing the amount of electronics discarded in regular household trash. This, in turn, reduces the need to mine more raw materials from the earth, further protecting the environment.

At an event in April, 7,700 pounds of electronic waste was collected at Peter Francisco Park near Newark Penn Station. That total included 6,281 pounds of old TV’s, in addition to computer laptops and desktops, monitors, keyboards and peripherals, small home office copiers/fax machines, photo/video cameras, and more.

Community health and wellness, educational and job training opportunities, pro
legal representation, and neighborhood development: Newark’s business community is contributing to the city’s continuing revitalization while growing and prospering. That’s a win-win situation for residents and businesses, and for the city’s future.


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