April 23, 2017
Al Sullivan | Hudson Reporter
“During the past three and a half years, we have built a city that has become the economic engine of the region,” says Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop last week. Statistics show a trend in commercial prosperity. Since 2010, there have been more than 85 major new commercial developments in Hudson County, accounting for a public investment of about $1.4 billion and a private investment of more than $2 billion.
According to statistics supplied by Choose New Jersey, a group that works with the state of New Jersey to promote economic growth, 55 percent of these projects came here from other locations, 33 percent were retained, and about 8 percent are completely new.
More than 67 percent of commercial industrial growth has taken place in Jersey City, followed by 12 percent growth in Secaucus, 7 percent in Hoboken, 5 percent in Bayonne, and 2 percent each in North Bergen, Weehawken and Harrison.
Most of the businesses coming into Hudson County from other places relocate from New York, accounting for slightly more than half of the total. About 20 percent come from other parts of New Jersey.
Drawn here by the emerging financial district in Jersey City, the largest percentage of new or relocated industry is financial services, at about 27 percent.
This is followed by manufacturing at 21 percent, business services at 11 percent, the apparel business at 6 percent, media at 6 percent, life sciences at 5 percent, technology at 5 percent, and a few others.
A new technology village proposed for near Liberty Science Center may increase the technology draw, which could make Hudson County as attractive to start up companies as it is already to finance.
Huge advances in Jersey City
Since 2010, Hudson County has managed to create or retain 23,059 jobs and generate more than 7,355 more.
Fulop said as a result of commercial and other development, Jersey City’s unemployment rate has dropped to the lowest rate in 25 years.
“This has been no coincidence, but rather, has been the result of a deliberate process of working together with businesses to bring jobs and stability back to Jersey City,” he said.
Over the last three years, Jersey City alone has brought in more than 7,000 new jobs, and seen more than 600 new small businesses open.
Michele Brown, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, said Hudson County has brought or retained some very big names in industry, including Goya, which opened a new and larger operation in Jersey City while retaining its original facility in Secaucus.
“We’ve been looking at what kinds of businesses Hudson County attracted,” she said. “What we found is pretty amazing.”
Secaucus, for instance, attracted the medical laboratory Quest Diagnostics, which opened a centralized facility here, consolidating many of the operations were previously scattered around the state, particularly in Bergen County.
JPMorgan Chase’s move to Jersey City brought many jobs and created nearly as many in the Jersey City financial district. Other companies relocating to Hudson County included Tory Burch, Omnicom, and Newell Brands, each bringing jobs or hiring locally.
“We studied growth by sectors and where these companies came from,” she said.
State overview of Hudson County
The role of Choose New Jersey is to work with local municipal economic development agencies to help attract businesses to New Jersey. This is in conjunction with the lieutenant governor’s staff and other groups.
She said her group did a tally of what progress was made in Hudson County over the last six years, and the results were stunning.
While most of the progress was made in Jersey City, Secaucus and Hoboken also became desirable destinations.
The result, she said, wasn’t what she thought it would be.
“While we knew a lot of project had gone to Jersey City, we didn’t realize how much progress was made until we did the tally,” she said.
She said Jersey City’s success was no accident, and noted that Fulop was very involved in the process of engaging new companies to relocate here.
“A lot of this success has to do with proximity,” she said, noting that more than half of the companies come from New York, such as Komar Brands, a retail company that consolidated a number of expensive locations from Manhattan to a more economical and larger site in Jersey City.
She said, “Rents were going up. It had no first class office space. So they wanted to bring all these under one roof.”
The company, well-known for its sleepwear brands, “selected Jersey City and got a great space on the waterfront,” she said. “This allowed them to bring all their employees to one place.”
This, she noted, had the added benefit of allowing these people to interact more often, and enhance collaboration and creatively.
Komar, like some of the others relocating in Hudson County, found that they can still be connected to New York since they can catch a ferry or train to midtown Manhattan before many working in various parts of New York can.
Some of the new commercial development, she said, is home grown, or part of speculative development.
“About 10 percent comes from overseas,” she said. “These companies like being near Manhattan, but also like the diversity and the potential workforce here. These and access to mass transit are real calling cards for them.”
Jersey City attracts finance in a big way
Almost nothing in Hudson County can compete with the expansion Jersey City has seen in the financial industry.
“When you look at those companies drawn here over the last few years, it is simply amazing,” she said.
JP Morgan is only the tip of the iceberg. Brown Brothers Harriman & Co, Citibank, Fidelity and others have also opened up offices in Hudson County.
The growth in manufacturing in Hudson County is a surprise, too, especially because Hudson County saw a huge exodus of such companies over the last three decades.
Rubbermaid decided to open its East Coast offices in Hoboken, for instance.
One reason for this is the fact that the metropolitan area still retains its distinction as the center of commerce.
“These companies see this area as a place that has access to talent, the best marketing people, and access to finance and media,” she said. “These companies also know it is a relatively short train ride to regulators in Washington DC.”
New York still has Madison Avenue, capital of advertising, and Wall Street, which is capital of finance.
The advertising industry is even putting down roots in Hudson County.
Newell Brands, after its successful $15 billion merger with Jarden Corp., moved to Hoboken in 2016, bringing about 300 jobs with it.
Global Port Logistics Group recently three leased at two separate industrial properties in Secaucus.
A lot on the drawing board still
Incentives from the state’s Grow NJ program have been instrumental in encouraging companies to move to area.
There are significant projects in the pipeline, including commercial elements connected to massive residential redevelopment like the Hoboken Terminal and Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan and many of the projects in Downtown Jersey City and the Journal Square area. They form part of a design that would allow for significant foot traffic and those areas.
There are nearly 100 redevelopment zones in Jersey City alone, each of which has a sizable commercial component. New supermarkets are configured into two of these, one along the west side near the New Jersey City University western campus, and another to replace an existing supermarket near Newport.
Corporations that have expanded offices in Jersey City or plan to move here included JP Morgan RBC, Imperial Bag, Actavis, Peapod/Ahold, Forbes, and Nautica/Timberland.
Meanwhile, officials held a ribbon cutting for one of two Marriott Hotels in Jersey City in early April: the Marriott Residence Inn Hotel near the Grove Street PATH station. A second 267-room Marriott is rising in the Liberty Harbor North area. Construction on a new Hyatt Hotel is nearly completed near Exchange Place. Two new hotels are also planned for the Weehawken waterfront, as well as a significant shopping district there.
A Marriott Hotel is one of the centerpieces for the continually expanding commercial district along Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen.
Bayonne remains one of the most potential new markets for commercial and residential development, with several projects slated for the Broadway corridor that could generate new business there, as well as a number of residential projects along the Hudson Bergen Light Rail line. Its terminus at 8th Street also promises to create new business opportunities for what has historically been called The Bergen Point section of the city.
Transportation progress in Hudson County
Perhaps the most significant advance in transportation in Hudson County in the past year was replenishing the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which will likely lead to the long-awaited extension of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail line further south in Jersey City. Transit officials still also plan to expand the line into Bergen County, but have not set a date.
Hudson County, which is also served by the PATH system and a large network of bus routes, is also in the midst of a massive statewide transportation improvement program that started in 2016 and is expected to conclude in 2025. Funded largely by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, it includes improvements to four facilities: Route 7/the Hackensack River (Wittpenn) Bridge, Route 139 (the covered roadway at the foot of Jersey City Heights), the reconstruction of the Pulaski Skyway, and improvements to Route 1&9 to allow a better flow of freight.
The Wittpenn Bridge is slated to be replaced by a new bridge that will provide better access to Jersey City from Kearny.
Near the North Bergen/Secaucus border, a project is underway to replace the Route 495 and Ramp B and associated service roads, improving the approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel.
Perhaps the most ambitious of the projects underway in Hudson County is the restructuring of the Bayonne Bridge accessing Staten Island.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is currently reconstructing the 14A entrance in Bayonne that will help alleviate massive backups in and out of that part of the county.
Improvements to the PATH network have also been underway due to redevelopment pressures. A study conducted prior to the latest batch of development in Jersey City showed that the rail system is already near capacity. Officials will need to develop a plan to deal with the expected spike in ridership.
A report on transportation done in 2015 said Hudson County has seen 10 percent increase in population between 2000 and 2014 and that rapid transit to New York is the primary attraction for new residential development. Rental rates are highest on units that are within a 10-minute walk from a transit station.
One question that remains is the fate of the Gateway Tunnel project, which would create new train tunnels from Hudson County to New York City for use by commuter trains.
The $24 billion project could be derailed because President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to communities offering sanctuary to immigrants. But the Gateway Development Corporation, which oversees the project, said there may be a way to push ahead with the needed project without federal help. This alternative plan may be unveiled in the near future.