In 2007, Audible moved its headquarters from Wayne to Newark. Katz told the audience that this turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made.
“Many thought we were just plain crazy,” he recalled. Newark was known for its poverty, unemployment, crime and civic dysfunction. “I was told I would lose 25 percent of my people.” Katz added that Audible received no government subsidies to make the move.
“I’m happy to say people like being at Audible because we are in Newark,” he said. And Katz thinks the Audible story could be a guide for entrepreneurs seeking to transform their own companies.
According to Katz, Newark is on a tipping point for a renaissance due to its creative economy. It’s a city where engineers and artists come together because of the nature of their work. These days, there is a combination of an art scene and an early-stage tech scene, such as the one that has revitalized Berlin.
This also is “the story in Brooklyn,” he said. “Now companies are going 55 minutes outside of Manhattan” to an area that has triple the rents of Newark, limited bandwidth, and terrible facilities. “But that doesn’t really matter because that’s the trend.”
Connecting Newark’s economy to the growing tech industry will make growth happen for the city, he added. “We need to invest to make this happen. … There really is a way to have capital become missionary rather than mercenary.” The concept of “social impact investing” is moving into the world of “double line investing,” meaning that the outcome has a financial upside as well as a meaningful, measurable social upside.
Moreover, Newark’s infrastructure is taking off, with 30 percent of the construction in New Jersey taking place in Brick City. The old Hahnes department store is being completely rehabbed with a Whole Foods committed to moving in, 3,000 new apartments are coming up in the next two years, and there are 40,000 college students living in Newark.
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