The recoveries from Hurricane Sandy and the recession are virtually complete, attitudes are positive, and Hudson County is primed for a solid business year. Major companies like Forbes and minor mom-and-pop shops are opening along the waterfronts and main streets of ever town.
That’s the feeling from Bayonne all the way to the western reaches of suburban Secaucus.
Optimism is everywhere, whether it’s because of a rebounding real estate market, the increased need for specialized services, or a once-again busy restaurant industry.
Municipal officials queried about business prospects in their towns say Hudson County is back, and in a big way.
Jersey City and Hoboken, big and small business
In bustling Jersey City and Hoboken, towns on the waterfront that are popular with young people, restaurants and services businesses are doing well, and bigger companies are moving into waterfront buildings.
Economic development is high on Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s agenda.
“The mayor talked about it a great deal” in his state of the city address, said Jersey City Deputy Mayor Vivian Brady-Phillips. “We’re the leading the state in job creation, in
new building permits, and in square footage in new development.”
Since Jersey City is projected to be the largest city in New Jersey in a few years,
policies are aimed at attracting new commercial and retail businesses.
Another good sign for the municipality? More people are working.
“Our unemployment dropped three percentage points from June to November as compared to the national average, only a half a percentage drop [from 7.5 to 7.0],” Brady-Phillips said.
Forbes is bringing 250 jobs to Jersey City’s Newport section by year’s end, and Nautica about 200, she said. And DaVita Dialysis is breathing life to Ward F near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
A Marriott hotel is under construction downtown and there’s “significant” commercial activity.
“On the West Side, we’re working with business owners there to create a Special Improvement District,” Brady-Phillips said. “That will happen definitely sometime this year.”
“We’re climbing out of the recession more quickly as a result of what we’re doing here,” she said. “Globally, by in large, the city is flourishing; it’s thriving. We’ve seen all businesses rebuild.”
Additionally, real estate is doing well.
“Who would have thought we’d have a Lebanese restaurant in Guttenberg?” – Mayor Gerald Drasheff
In Hoboken, business health has been linked to the recovery after Hurricane Sandy.
“Recovery from Sandy is ongoing,” said Communications Manager Juan Melli. “There are still people working to rebuild their homes and the city is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to make Hoboken more resilient from future storms. We are working very hard to secure funding.”
“The real estate market is strong,” Melli said. “Sales are strong and property values are increasing.”
Though the city does not have an Urban Enterprise Zone or Special Improvement District, the administration thinks these are projects worth exploring.
A big coup for Hoboken was the wooing of communications giant Thomson Reuters’ subsidiary TR US, Inc. in October to the Reuters location on River Street. That move will bring 450 jobs.
Others are interested in selling their wares and services here. Various restaurants and retail establishments have opened recently, including Anthropologie on Washington Street, and more are scheduled to open.
Karen Nason, owner of the Hoboken Hot House garden, gift, and home décor shop at 120 Washington St., is so high on Hoboken that she opened a second location in October at 200 Monroe St. But this time she added a café, so customers can sit down, relax, have something to drink, and eat while shopping at her establishment.
“It’s me taking a risk in an area that’s booming now,” Nason said, speaking of the nearby Light Rail station and Skyclub condominium and health club.
“Well I think the economy is having a scary moment, but if you give people what they’re looking for; a place to get together, I think it will be fantastic,” she said. “Absolutely business will pick up this year – if you do it right.”
North Bergen’s business corridors
Business was good in the township in 2013, and is expected to be better this year, according to municipal officials.
“We have a very positive outlook on the business climate for 2014, based on preliminary discussions with developers and plans being submitted to our building department,” said Township Administrator Christopher Pianese.
North Bergen continues to do well with its mix of big box and smaller size stores, and 2013 was no exception.
Last year, the township welcomed several new businesses and restaurants, including the new WineMart on 89th Street, restaurants El Panoramo, Church’s Chicken and Lido Restaurant on Tonnelle Avenue, and Tawill Physical Therapy on Kennedy Boulevard, according to spokesman Phil Swibinski.
Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, which moved from a facility in Brooklyn to a Tonnelle Avenue site in 2010, has been extremely successful and is in the process of expanding its operations in the township.
“The company’s CEO called the move to North Bergen ‘the best thing we have ever done’ and it has been an excellent corporate citizen, donating to several township events over the past few years,” Swibinski said.
Secaucus gets major entertainment companies, shopping, eateries
For this town of six and half square miles, it’s about the old real estate adage, “Location, location, location.”
At least that’s the opinion of a proud Mayor Michael Gonnelli. And he may have something there. Situated by Route 3 and the New Jersey Turnpike, travelers coming to and from New York City and to northern New Jersey can’t help but traverse his town.
And with that access comes commerce opportunities, and therefore businesses.
“Our Wal-Mart on Black Friday was number one in the country. I think it’s still in the Top 10 stores in the country,” Gonnelli said. “Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings opened restaurants late last year. The restaurants are always busy here.”
“People stay in Secaucus because of our proximity to Manhattan and MetLife stadium,” he said. “We expected to be busy because of the Super Bowl [on Feb. 2] and we were. We expect that they [the hotels] will continue to be busy.”
In fact, two new hotels will be opening up this year, a Marriot Residence Inn, and an Aloft, a high-end part of the W franchise.
The National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Goya Foods, Hartz Mountain Industries, Children’s Place, and COSCO shipping all have presence there, and all are doing well.
Additionally, Secaucus has become the “data center of the country,” according to the mayor. Coresite opened up a site there.
“We always have a bright future here. People want to come here and do business,” Gonnelli said. “Our taxes are affordable. You have the Lautenberg train station, where people can go right into the city. It all makes for a good fit. It all falls into place for Secaucus.”
Nearby on Route 3, the American Dream project [formerly known as “Xanadu”], is moving forward and may bring new visitors to the Secaucus area, even though it’s in East Rutherford. Two weeks ago, the developers settled a suit with the New York Jets and Giants that was stalling progress. Now, they can continue their vision to bring an indoor ski slope, chain restaurants, and other major retailers to the Meadowlands.
Tiny Guttenberg even has Lebanese cooking
For this tiny North Hudson hamlet, business is booming. And it’s mostly in restaurants and professional services.
“We have four different commercial areas,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff. “And there’s activity in every one of these locations.”
Bergenline Avenue, Broadway, Park Avenue, and Boulevard East are the four business districts, and each has their own niche.
Bergenline is the “services” center. Need some things at the supermarket, want to make a bank deposit, visit an attorney, get medical care, or have your hair styled? No problem. You’re covered on this thoroughfare. You can even get a Lebanese dinner at the Golden Pita.
“Who would have thought we’d have a Lebanese restaurant in Guttenberg?” Drasheff said.
Broadway is small in area, but big in restaurant offerings. It’s especially good if you’re looking for tasty Italian or Spanish food. Choose from the recently-opened Luca Tony or Dona Antonia, or try Good Eats, with an informal, broader menu.
On Park Avenue, you go for “distinct” stores, Drasheff said, including Lotus for Thai food, Skylight Wind and Spirits for your alcohol or lottery purchases, or Tickle Pink Petunia, a true antique store.
Boulevard East hosts the Galaxy Mall, restaurants and retail shops. But the bigger news may be the relocation of Rumba Cubana restaurant from North Bergen to a site across the street.
“It’s important to have a viable and robust business district,” Drasheff said. “And it’s important for a town to have those to take care of all their needs.
Waterfront hotel openings are the big news in one of Hudson’s smallest but most important municipalities, which is also home to the Lincoln Tunnel, which brings a lot of travelers and consumers into the town and the whole county.
Weehawken is looking forward to two hotel projects that are on their way to completion.
Late last year, city officials announced that developers will build connecting Marriott hotels there: a 226-room Renaissance by Marriott and a 154-room Residence Inn for extended stays.
Aside from what’s happening by the Hudson River itself, the business climate has improved through upgraded storefronts on Park Avenue, one of the town’s main business thoroughfares. In addition, new stores have opened up, including a pharmacy.
Ganshyam Patel, owner of Park Avenue Liquor & Grocery Store, said that while business has been lagging during the cold months, he is looking forward to the rest of the year and an upturn in sales.
“It’s been a little slow, but it’s alright,” he said. “The weather has affected business. For the rest of the year, I hope it’ll be good.”
Patel said that anticipated new restaurant openings in town will help his liquor sales. He also said that his area is in need of a bank branch, and that such an opening would help the business community there.
Small and new in Union City, West New York
In terms of Sandy recovery, “We weren’t as hard hit as other communities,” said Mark Albiez, a spokesman for landlocked Union City. “Stores have indicated they have seen a bounce, that things are coming back a bit. That’s a good sign.”
Union City’s biggest challenge in attracting new businesses is, of course, space. A city so densely populated is limited to the types of retailers it can bring in. And yet attract the city does.
“We always have new businesses and new restaurants opening in town,” Albiez said. “We try to make an environment conducive to business, to make them understand that this a consumer-friendly environment.”
The retailers in town are upgrading their facilities to make them enticing to shoppers. And the city should see stores grow and prosper.
“We’ll continue to remain in contact with residents,” he said. “We host forums with business owners. We invite owners and employees to voice their concerns. We work to better enhance our continuous communications with businesses in the city. We think this is paramount to success.”
In also dense West New York, things are looking up all across the town, including a growing Chamber of Commerce and business base, according to spokesman Pablo Fonseca.
“7 -11 is opening on Park Avenue, and Bergenline [Avenue] is mostly rented; not many empty store fronts [there],” Fonseca said.
Real estate market is trending up, he said, with new middle- to high-end rentals on Park Avenue and the waterfront.
In addition, the town is currently reworking its master plan, something not done since the 1960s, with a strong economic component to it which will deal with parking issues and transportation.
The Peninsula City is back on track when it comes to the business world.
New businesses have shown a strong interest in the city within the last year. TSC Total Safety Company moved to Bayonne, bringing over a hundred new jobs. Other businesses that have opened here include A&W Steakhouse, Bayonne Energy Center, Manhattan Bagel, Otaiko Restaurant, Verizon Store, and Visionworks.
And businesses that are already here are staying and improving their facilities. Royal Wine Corporation (which produces Kedem wine) has selected Bayonne to be the site of its world headquarters, building a new warehouse at East 22nd Street and Avenue J. Gel Spice is expanding with the help of an Urban Enterprise Zone loan, adding more space and hiring more people.
Among the types of businesses thriving are personal services, the restaurant industry, and the medical field.
And help is on the way for the main shopping district of Broadway.
“The increase in apartment buildings in the vicinity of the 22nd Street Light Rail Station will create a critical mass of people who will naturally migrate onto Broadway,” said Business Administrator Stephen Gallo. “This increased demand will foster business growth and expansion in the central business district.”
And an important bellwether of any city’s business health, real estate, is showing signs of a strong comeback in the city, according to Gallo
“This year for the first time since the national recession, Bayonne property values have increased,” he said. “Values are up by 2.5 percent. This modest increase is a harbinger of things to come and the [Mayor Mark] Smith administration has Bayonne well positioned to take advantage of the increasing desire of people to live in a rich urban environment with a sound public transportation infrastructure.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.