Freeholder Director Levine Pitches Amazon HQ2 In Somerville, Newark

County Freeholder Director Brian Levine, left, greets Gov. Phil Murphy at the 2019 Freeholder reorganization. Levine is hoping he can convince Murphy and others to buy into his effort to revive a plan to convince Amazon to locate its HQ2 in Somerset County and Newark.

SOMERVILLE – New York’s loss may be Somerset County’s gain, if the county Freeholder Director gets his way.

Freeholder Director – and former township mayor – Brian Levine on Feb. 22 announced that he is trying to revive the pitch the county made to host the Amazon HQ2 on a site in Somerville, but this time with a twist.

Levine’s proposal, unveiled during a speech he made to the Somerset County Employers Legislative Committee here, would include Newark, the city backed by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration during last year’s Amazon headquarters sweepstakes.

The Seattle-based company eventually settled on Long Island City, New York and Arlington, Virginia as the sites for its East Coast headquarters.

But political backlash in New York spurred Amazon to rescind its decision to locate there, hence Levine’s proposal.

Levine would still have to get a buy-in from Murphy, as well as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, not to mention Amazon.

That last part may be difficult, as Amazon announced on Feb. 14 – in the same statement in which it said it was cancelling its Long Island City plans – that it does “not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.”

But Levine believes that his hybrid idea might be more appealing to Amazon. He said the original plan was “in the top 10 percent” of ideas heard by Amazon.

“The site itself physically fits what they needed,” he said.

“I think it would be good more regional,” he said. “I want to reach out to Newark and to the governor’s office and say, let’s put a proposal together. Somerset County will cover the suburban end and let Newark cover the urban end.”

“We’re close to transportation, higher education, it’s a great place to live,” he said. “With Newark, it adds even more because it’s an urban area and has the airport and the trains. I think a consolidated proposal will be good.”

Levine said he will also reach out to county towns to see if they would like to participate with properties that could be used an ancillary sites.

“It will be pro-active, and it will have to be pretty quick,” he said.

Levine said he would contact Baraka and Murphy next week.

Levine said the idea to pursue this came to him because he always “keeping an eye on economic development.”

“When it was going last year, I was keeping my eye on it,” he said. “The other week when it all fell apart, I said to myself, this is the opportunity to do it. There’s also been a suburban-urban dichotomy in New Jersey. I thought this was an opportunity to put it all together and benefit everyone.”

“In Newark, I’m sure they’re in love with the concept of new development and jobs there,” he said.


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