BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Business Report Plus: Amazon HQ2 team visits Newark

BY Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent |
  • Amazon HQ2 selection team visits Newark
  • Newark opens first residential high rise built in decades
  • State Senate passes earned sick leave legislation
  • Gross operating profits for Atlantic City’s seven casinos jumped 22.5 percent
  • Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $80 million in punitive damages
  • Horizon ordered to reveal report used to create its OMNIA insurance plans
  • Facebook stocks climb, despite CEO testifying before Congress

It was show and tell time for Newark this week as the Amazon HQ2 selection team descended on the city. Amazon officials met with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker to talk about the city’s bid, but elected officials aren’t saying much about the meeting.

“We will make no comment on the views and reactions of the Amazon team in order to respect the integrity of their selection process,” said Aisha Glover, president & CEO of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation.

Amazon has been visiting the 20 finalists it selected for a possible new headquarters, and aims to make a final selection later this year. It has been mum about the process, but the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is prioritizing urban centers in its search. We don’t yet know if the $7 billion local and state tax incentives Newark is offering will be enough to win the bid.

Also worth noting this week in Newark was the grand opening of 1 Rector Street, which is the first residential high rise built in the city in decades. As Michael Hill reported, Newark native Shaquille O’Neal added some star power to the event.

Money talk dominated the action in Trenton this week, as hearings were held on Murphy’s proposed $37.4 billion budget. The Legislature also had a busy week, and passed a bill that will impact businesses. The state Senate approved legislation that would provide earned sick leave to private sector workers, who would be allowed to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Murphy is expected to sign it into law, over the objections of some business groups who worry about the cost impact on small businesses in the state.

Business is looking up in Atlantic City, where casinos reported higher profits in 2017. Gross operating profits for the city’s seven casinos jumped 22.5 percent, with the Borgata reporting the highest profit at $292 million. Harrah’s was the only casino to report a decline. The Casino Control Commission says the numbers show the underlying health of the city’s casino industry.

Two New Jersey companies lost separate court battles this week. New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $80 million in punitive damages to a man who claimed he developed mesothelioma due to his exposure to asbestos in talc-based products. That followed the Middlesex County jury’s earlier decision to award $37 million in compensatory damages. The decision marks the first trial loss for J&J over allegations that products such as Johnson’s baby powder contain asbestos. The company has denied those allegations, saying its powders do not contain asbestos or cause cancer. The company is fighting separate cases that allege baby powder use is liked to ovarian cancer.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey was ordered to reveal details of the consultant’s report that it used to help create its OMNIA insurance plans. A Bergen County Superior Court judge ruled the report must be turned over next week to NJ Advance Media, which sued to gain access to the information. That consultant’s report is key evidence in the lawsuit filed by three hospitals that did not receive the
insurers’ top ratings. Those hospital ratings are used to determine reimbursement rates. Horizon, an underwriter of NJTV News, said it disagrees with the court’s ruling and plans to appeal.

On Wall Street, it was another roller coaster week for stocks. But shares of Facebook bucked the trend and climbed higher, even as the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled before Congress over privacy issues. David Cruz followed the proceedings.

And finally, we all know that New Jersey has great local businesses, and we were lucky to highlight one of them this week. Who knew the Garden State is home to the oldest weekly professional rodeo? Thankfully, Brenda Flanagan enlighted us about that this week. Yee haw!