Newark mayor’s race: Jeffries courts small business owners, promotes abatements

NEWARK – Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries spoke on Friday about how to support the city’s small businesses four days before the May 13 municipal election.

Jeffries reiterated his call for improved public safety in the city in order to encourage the growth of Newark’s small businesses.

“It’s very difficult for any businesses to grow, particularly small and mid-sized businesses, when we have the levels of violence that we have in so many of our communities,” said Jeffries, a former state Assistant Attorney General, at a press conference held at La Rogue restaurant, a recently-opened Caribbean and soul food restaurant on Broad Street. “Creating a foundation of safety is absolutely critical.”

Jeffries also noted that if elected he would work with developers, investment banks, private equity firms and venture capital firms to create seed capital to help both minority and female businesses owners open or expand businesses in Newark. 

“We’re going to take it to the next level,” Jeffries said, noting that Brick City Development Corporation, a public-private partnership dedicated to promoting Newark’s economic development, has already played a considerable role in forwarding the city’s growth. 

After noting that he planned to focus particularly on Port Newark as an area designated for a business boost, Jeffries added that city-provided tax abatements, prominently used as a development tool in neighboring Jersey City, will play a role in Newark’s future growth.

“We are not at the level yet where we can finance all of the development exclusively from the private market without incentives from the city,” Jeffries said, citing Newark’s high murder rate and relatively low credit rating. “We’re going to use [abatements] only to the degree that it’s empirically necessary to facilitate the growth and development that we seek. Sometimes cities grant out abatements like candy.” 

Genia Philip, an attorney who is also the co-owner of La Rouge, said that she helped to open the restaurant in January because she is committed to Newark’s revitalization. She said that she personally knows both Jeffries and rival mayoral candidate Ras Baraka, but is backing Jeffries because he believes that he is better for business.

“It’s not just who you are, but who you bring with you,” Philip said. “I don’t think that [Baraka] will be able to harness the level of expertise, skills and human capital needed to move the city forward.” 

Newark mayor’s race: Jeffries courts small business owners, promotes abatements