How the Newark Alliance Is Driving Inclusive Economic Growth

The nonprofit connects major institutions to Newark's smaller businesses. It also works to address issues like the digital divide and the cost of living.

Prudential building in Newark, as seen from Broad Street
Prudential, a Newark staple for 150 years, is an anchor institution of the Newark Alliance, which supports the city’s small businesses. Photo: Greg Gard/Alamy

The Newark Alliance is a nonprofit organization comprised of such prominent Newark corporations as Prudential and Audible, educational institutions like NJIT and Rutgers University, major arts centers, small businesses, law firms and others. These major players have come together to drive inclusive economic growth in Newark, which, according to Evan Weiss, the organization’s president and CEO, “is more important now than ever, given Covid-19 [setbacks] and the need to recover from an economic perspective, and also, in the wake of George Floyd, from a racial equity perspective.”

In discussions of nonprofits like the Newark Alliance, the term anchor institution often comes up. Traditionally, anchor institutions were defined as hospitals and universities within a city that leverage their economic power to improve the long-term health and social welfare of their communities. In Newark, following the leadership of Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers-Newark, and Shané Harris, vice president of social responsibility and partnerships at Prudential and president of the Prudential Foundation, anchor institutions are defined a bit differently, according to Weiss. “We have had Prudential here for 150 years and PSEG for over 100 years. We consider both anchor institutions,” he says. “So, while we are grateful to have our universities and medical institutions, we want to be inclusive, and we want to recognize the impact organizations like Prudential and PSEG have had in driving economic activity in all of Newark.”

An important focus of the Newark Alliance is supporting small businesses and getting them more connected to these bigger anchor institutions. One way of doing this is to encourage larger businesses to buy local supplies and services. Says Weiss, “There are so many opportunities for these institutions to redirect their spending to Newark small businesses and help grow them. Something as simple as getting their catering orders from Newark small businesses rather than national chains is a victory.”

The Newark Alliance has also been working to address the issue of access to high-speed Internet. The pandemic shone a light on the impact of the digital divide in education and the workforce, particularly in inner cities. Weiss reminds us that Newark has been a key part of our infrastructure throughout American history through its railways and highways. 

“The Internet is a 21st-century version of this. If Newarkers are using Zoom on their phone for work or school, but don’t have a computer with high-speed Internet access, that’s something we can’t have. We need to make sure that high-speed, affordable Internet in Newark is available for all,” says Weiss.

Real estate values and the cost of living in Newark is another issue the Newark Alliance seeks to address. According to Weiss, Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka have been real leaders on the homeless issue and, in particular, the need to establish more affordability in Newark. “If you want to develop big in Newark or anywhere in New Jersey, you have to have affordable set-asides,” says Weiss. 


Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including his latest, Lessons in Leadership. He is also an Emmy® Award–winning anchor on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. Check out steveadubato.org. Steve has appeared on CNN, FOX5 in NY and NBC’s Today Show, and his “Lessons in Leadership” video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10 am on News 12+. Steve also provides executive leadership coaching and seminars for a variety of corporations and organizations both regionally and nationally. For more information, visit stand-deliver.com.

Click here to leave a comment
Read more News articles.