December 13, 2021


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Newark, NJ-December 13, 2021-Mayor Ras J. Baraka today announced that the Smart Port Regional Coalition, led by the City of Newark and NJIT, along with coalition members including the City of Elizabeth, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Department of Transportation was named by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The coalition will advance to Phase Two and compete for up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to further develop its plan to make the Newark Seaport a “smart port.”

The challenge is assisting communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades.

“We are humbled for gaining this award and are grateful for the support from our incredible federal and state partners as we work together to fulfill President Biden’s promise to rebuild the backbone of our country. The Build Back Better framework is the most transformational investment into our communities in generations,” said Mayor Baraka. “Port Newark is a major hub for regional, national, and international economic activity and it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs that range from high tech to service to the trades to labor and more. The projects that will be undertaken by this coalition will be catalysts for job creation and sustainable, long-term economic growth while also making a substantial and positive environmental impact.”

“We are grateful that our proposal to partner with the City of Newark, at the invite of the mayor, to lead this important initiative has been selected as a finalist, and we are extremely appreciative of the support that has been provided by Newark Mayor Ras A. Baraka, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Congressmen Albio Sires and Donald Payne Jr. It was at Congressman Payne’s initiative that NJIT began working with the Port months prior to the announcement of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant opportunity. I want to thank each of them as well as our coalition partners and the many faculty and staff members from NJIT who worked incredibly hard to develop a proposal that will dramatically benefit our region,” said NJIT President Joel S. Bloom.

The City of Newark is part of a regional coalition of stakeholders from government, business, nonprofits, and academia. As a finalist, the coalition was awarded $500,000 to develop the project dubbed the Greater Newark Smart Port Regional Growth Cluster and is both a supply chain accelerator and job multiplier that will spur short- and long-term economic development throughout the region. Its focus is on transforming the Port of New York and New Jersey facilities in Newark and Elizabeth by developing and implementing critical smart and resilient infrastructure through advanced engineering, innovative technologies for freight handling, transportation, tracking and delivery, and by supporting more efficient smart port operations to increase port capacity and security. The proposed projects will create new jobs and business opportunities in a region with socioeconomically underprivileged communities while making a sustainable impact on the regional and state economy.

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge aims to supercharge local economies and increase American competitiveness around the globe,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The outpouring of interest in this program shows the demand for the Build Back Better agenda and the desire to not only create good-paying jobs, but also strengthen our country’s economic resiliency for years down the road.”

“Congratulations to the City of Newark and Mayor Baraka for Newark’s selection as a finalist for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The Greater Newark cluster will bring together top government and academic resources in order to improve logistics and supply chain operations in our ports and cargo facilities. I know that with the Mayor’s leadership, Newark will be in great contention to achieve the top prize,” said Gov. Murphy.

“This federal grant is essential to Newark and its coalition members as we work to create new jobs, improve our infrastructure, and rebuild an economy that works for everyone. Newark and surrounding communities were hit hard by the pandemic and the proposed project to improve Port Newark and Elizabeth will generate the high-paying jobs and business development the region needs to Build Back Better. The Ports are vital to our state, regional, and national economies, which is why I have continuously fought to ensure they have the resources to remain competitive and support our communities. I congratulate Newark for being selected as a finalist in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and I know they will continue working to bring this project to fruition,” said Sen. Menendez.

“For the City of Newark, the Build Back Better Regional Challenge has helped forge partnerships between federal, state, and local officials and higher learning institutions to help grow the regional economy following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Booker. “As part of the challenge, the City has proposed an ambitious project that will enhance the Port of New York and New Jersey’s facilities, implement environmentally-friendly initiatives at the Port, and support workforce training programs for the local community. I am glad to see the proposal advance and be further considered by the Department of Commerce.”

“I am glad to see that this important Smart Port Regional Growth project, led by the City of Newark and NJIT, has been selected as a finalist for additional funding,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “This project will revitalize the port facilities in Newark and Elizabeth while extending the transportation systems in the surrounding areas. Our local and national economy is dependent on these important port facilities and this exciting project will help lead the next generation of New Jersey growth and infrastructure.”

“I was proud to help the Newark coalition become one of the finalists for this incredible grant,” said Rep. Payne, Jr. “The $500,000 will help develop the project for a more modern Port Newark. But now, we need to push to see if we can help the project win part of the $100 million grant and make it a reality.”

Phase One of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge invited coalitions to apply for funding to implement a collection of three to eight distinct but related projects in their region. Projects need to be in coordination with industry and community partners, and aligned around a holistic vision to build and scale a strategic industry sector.

EDA received 529 applications from regions in all 50 states and five territories, and the 60 finalists represent regions that formed extraordinary coalitions, demonstrated regional needs, and presented bold proposals to grow their target industry clusters. Ranging from rural communities and coastal towns to major metros, the finalists make up a diverse cross-section of the United States.

In Phase Two, finalists will compete for significant implementation assistance. EDA will award 20-30 coalitions each up to $100 million. These awards will assist communities in executing ambitious plans to supercharge their regional economies across a variety of strategic growth sectors. The deadline for Phase Two applications is March 15, 2022.

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About the American Rescue Plan Programs

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.

American Rescue Plan funding enables EDA to provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, EDA investments made under the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit previously underserved communities impacted by COVID-19. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. For more information about EDA, visit


For more information on the City of Newark, please visit our website at

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