While the loss of jobs in 2009 affected many residents and businesses in Hudson County, new jobs and innovative ideas have also flourished during the national economic downturn.
Pending legislation introduced in November will, if approved, increase the tax breaks given to employers under New Jersey’s Business Economic Incentive Program (BEIP). If the bill passes, employers will be allowed to receive a tax break of up to 80 percent of the salary for each job created if a company expands into New Jersey.
Hudson’s unemployment rate for September was higher than the national average
Hudson County’s average unemployment rate was 11.6 percent for the month of September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s unemployment rate in September was 9.8 percent. Union City had the highest unemployment rate at 15 percent, and Hoboken had the lowest rate at 6.3 percent.
This year, Hoboken was rated by Business Weekly magazine as one of the 50 best small cities for starting a small business. The publication said that a robust workforce, proximity to higher education institutions and the availability of small government made the municipality a place where small businesses can purchase space, grow, and flourish.
For example, the Monroe Center, the Hoboken Business Center and the Neumann Leathers Factory are just a few locations with affordable rents for artists and small businesses.
This year. Marazui Charters in Weehawken benefited with a surge of calls for travel arrangements to Cuba after President Barack Obama lifted bans and allowed Cuban relatives to travel to the island once a year, rather than waiting three years between trips.
Bob Guild, program director of Marazui Charters, said they had a 30 to 40 percent increase on trips sold in their offices in Weehawken and South Florida, increasing their sales.
Mom and pop survive
Stores along the main streets of Hudson County have done their best to ride the recession, which began almost two years ago, and stay afloat.
Joseph Marra, a registered pharmacist at Marra’s drug store in Secaucus, said that the week before Christmas is when they judge how well their sales have been.
“Being in the health care business, people always need their medication, but we’ve definitely seen some decline on gift items,” said Marra. However, he said that their loyal costumers have helped their business.
Hair stylists in Hudson County, whose customers are avoiding luxuries, have seen ups and downs.
Union City barber Anthony Reza said last month that one of his customers told him that he works a 40 hour a week job, and when his girlfriend lost her job last year, he got a second one on the weekends. Even with two jobs, they could not afford to pay the rent without her income. Now he is living with his sister, and the girlfriend and their two kids are living with her mother.
But a stylist in Jersey City’s Silk Salon, Jennifer Sosa, said that the gloom was lifting.
“The mood among my customers is, ‘Things are getting better,’” said Sosa. “I’m hearing stories of new jobs and promotions again. These are stories I probably haven’t heard since I can’t remember.”
Dora Mara, owner of the NY Head Dress, an accessories wholesale business, said that one way to stay in business is to change with the times.
“In the economy, you have to change,” said Mara. “You have to be almost like a chameleon. The business that I had a year ago is so different from the business that I have now. It’s more Web-based now.”
Kevin Lavelle, the owner of Snip n Clip, an animal grooming business in Secaucus, said that instead of cutting back, he’s been trying to brand his business more through business cards, advertising, and coupons.
In North Bergen, a recently opened mall developed by Vornado Realty Trust, Inc. has created more than 200 jobs, and stands to gain approximately 500 more people when the Walmart, Sleepy’s, Staples, and PetSmart open next year.
Another potential source of jobs in the area is in limbo right now. The proposed Xanadu Meadowlands recreation/retail complex on Route 3 was supposed to boost the Meadowlands region with 20,000 temporary construction jobs and 20,000 permanent jobs once completed.
Construction has been stalled for months. Some retailers that had initially signed leases to open there have backed out of their commitments.
The CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jim Kirkos, said last month that while the economy has “wreaked havoc” on business’ ability to sign leases and be approved for credit, he still believes that Xanadu will make it through and can still be successful and a benefit to surrounding communities.
Next year, Gov. Christopher Christie will have the ability to appoint a new chairman to the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which owns the land on which the construction is taking place. In the past, Christie has been critical of the Xanadu project. It remained to be seen whether he will commit to keeping it going.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission last summer hosted its annual Sustainable Business and Technology Seminar, which attracted 300 participants and 40 exhibitors. The half-day event featured ways that are companies could “green” their operations to be environmentally conscious and cut costs.
Some of the ways to green a business included trading paper coffee cups with ceramic mugs and replacing traditional florescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs.
Even school districts like North Bergen have invested funds into installing solar panels in the effort to be more green, and also save on electricity costs.
Libraries help job-seekers
Due to the economic slump and reduced financial support, many libraries in North Hudson have seen their traditional role in the community expand as more residents began to use them for job search assistance and other purposes.
Some people may have taken that expansion too far, like the woman who was found last spring bathing in the women’s rest room of the Union City Public Library. While it is unusual for such an occurrence to happen, libraries are often one of the few places where people can receive help preparing resumes and get access to public computers.
Libraries in Union City, West New York and North Bergen all host free seminars on topics that range from job searching the web and creating a resume.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.