Referring to the successful adoption and implementation of a city-wide master plan in the City of Baltimore for the first time in forty years, Rolley described the key elements that were critical in gaining partnering support from the 300 Baltimore neighborhoods, “…active and strategic steps, open dialog and communication, clear understanding of specific and global needs and desires…. And arguably the most important, respect for the viewpoint and perspective, culture and history…” This approach is what overcame the “political drama” embedded in Baltimore’s neighborhoods, as described by Rolley while noting that Newark has just 20 distinct neighborhoods in comparison.
“We had conversations that normally did not occur. We used methods and means of communication that were often not utilized---had meetings where the public did not typically meet,” he detailed further. All part of the think “out of the box” strategy to proactively engage the local communities and foster change.
The panel discussion that followed was far ranging in the topics relating to economic development in Newark and the audience was very much engaged. A number of individuals used the occasion to give voice to problems that their business or organization was facing in the area of economic development. This included a fairly lengthy discussion of both the problems and potential of the Port located in Newark.
As the Port is projected to have significant growth in the coming five to ten years (explained by one audience member), the discussion gravitated to one of the forum’s stated areas of focus: employment opportunities and education. Dr. Roland Anglin, Director of the Cornwall Center at Rutgers University-Newark, noted that degree attainment was only 13% for Newark residents compared to other cities such as Cincinnati with 37%. Via the Newark City of Learning Collaborative the goal is to raise that number to 25% through collaboration of the higher education institutions in Newark that includes Rutgers, NJIT and Essex Community College.
“The Chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark is a national leader in using higher education as an anchor institution for community and economic development,” explained Dr. Anglin. She asked him and panelist Dr. Jerome Williams, Distinguished Professor and Prudential Chair in Business, incoming Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of Rutgers University-Newark, how the University can play a role in revitalizing Newark. This led to a discussion about a pipeline emanating from the colleges to New Jersey employers such as the Port, PSEG and Schindler Elevator, the last being a sponsor of the RBS-SCM High School Certificates program being recognized at the end of the forum.
Ralph LaRossa, President and COO of PSEG, explained the importance that PSEG places on having strong relationships with universities who provide individuals with education and training in the areas critical to PSEG. He referenced two educational models for consideration to bolster economic development in Newark. First, he noted the specialized programs that Georgia Tech offers in power engineering which is an important accreditation that PSEG values for filling its engineering hiring needs. Second, he explained the Texas higher education model whereby any student graduating in the top 10% of their high school class is guaranteed tuition free education at the University of Texas. These examples offered by President LaRossa exemplified what can be accomplished when private industry aligns with educational institutions, resulting in graduates entering an established pipeline leading to employment in well-paying jobs---and which in turn boosts economic development for the area.
Executive Panelists included:
Dr. Jerome D. Williams, Distinguished Professor and Prudential Chair in Business, incoming Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of Rutgers University-Newark
Mr. Ralph LaRossa, President and COO of PSEG
Mr. Bill Fiacco, SVP of Sales and Marketing, Schindler Elevator Corporation
Mr. Tom Bracken, President and CEO of NJ Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Roland Anglin, Director of the Cornwall Center at Rutgers University-Newark
Dr. Kevin Lyons, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, Rutgers Business School
Otis Rolley, President and CEO of Newark CEDC
Baye Adofo-Wilson, Deputy Mayor of Newark