BY CHIP HALLOCK, CEO NRBP
Newark Regional Business Partnership (NRBP) is a broad-based membership organization representing businesses, large and small, with a presence or business interest in Newark. Its 400 members represent a wide range of industries and serve a diverse range of communities.
Many of NRBP’s best attributes have been on display despite the myriad challenges faced by Greater Newark during 2020. Long recognized for connecting, informing, and advocating for its members while supporting Newark’s revitalization, NRBP has been impressed by the resilience of the region’s stakeholders and is pleased to provide valuable support and information.
In the early stages of the pandemic, many employers—confounded by information—struggled to find the best news and resources about coronavirus-related matters. NRBP maintained an online COVID-19 resource guide and provided connections to resources and fellow members who assisted with urgent needs such as PPE. The Partnership also confirmed with reliable government contacts which essential businesses were allowed to operate and under what circumstances. Never was “networking” more critical.
The need for connections to people and information continued as government assistance, and guidance became available for businesses. In response, NRBP members provided pro bono legal and accounting insight to small and non-profit firms on matters such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Members also pivoted their businesses to meet the demand for different products. NRBP increased its communications to ensure members were aware of the resources available to them. 30 The Positive Community Fall 2020
Online programming replaced NRBP’s well-regarded in-person events. Webinars addressed the challenges of remote work and considerations for employee and customer safety as some businesses began to return to the workplace. Members and stakeholders stayed connected and sought introductions through continuous NRBP staff outreach and creative virtual networking experiences. Virtual programming was made available to all, without regard to membership.
As a member of several state and national coalitions, NRBP remained an advocate with government officials for emergency financial support to retain employees, safe and reasonable business operation guidelines, and funding for the transportation sector, including the essential operation of mass transit.
It became apparent that communities of color were disproportionately impacted by both the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus, with Blacks and Latinos dying at 3.2 times the rate of whites (age-adjusted rate per APM Research Labs 10.15.20).
Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka used the power of his position to enact appropriate health and safety measures, demand economic assistance from all levels of government, and partner with private sector businesses and agencies to help Newark families through the crisis.
Simultaneously, across the U.S., there were more killings of Blacks at the hands of law enforcement—tragedies that resulted in widespread civil unrest and calls for change. In Newark, Mayor Baraka’s leadership, combined with a proud and dedicated citizenry, ensured peaceful protests while redirecting a significant part of the City’s public safety budget to anti-violence measures.
These factors reaffirmed the importance of NRBP’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative, now in its third year. Through a range of programming, NRBP members have become more aware of systemic racism, implicit biases, and policies and laws that have created and widened the opportunity gap for underrepresented groups. The Partnership has continued this work through a compelling mini-series of webcasts.
These programs are openly addressing significant issues – transforming education, ensuring access to quality healthcare, reimagining law enforcement, and mending community-police relations. The sessions spread awareness of actions taken by Newark’s stakeholders to encourage more hiring of Newark residents, increase procurement from local businesses, and expand opportunities to live in improving neighborhoods. NRBP encourages all members to learn from others the various ways they can positively impact the Newark community and adopt those practices at their scale.
That’s what NRBP had in mind five years ago when it brought the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program to Newark. The six-month-long afterschool program involves about 20 Newark middle and high school students who are taught business basics and how to prepare a business plan around their idea with mentors’ help.
The students present to an investors panel that provides money for them to actually start their businesses. This year’s graduating class of enterprises includes children’s bilingual books, e-marketing consulting, organic hair products, and athletic apparel. YEA! is designed to excite students about business ownership, create value in their community, and build generational wealth.
NRBP has never been more proud to engage with and recognize the collective impact of its wide range of members and Newark stakeholders. The Newark community is, indeed, moving forward.