NJIT and City of Newark receive grant to pursue smart port concept


By Andrew McMains

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has announced that a regional coalition led by the City of Newark and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is among 60 projects selected as finalists for up to $100 million in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Each of the 60 finalists, chosen from a pool of 529 applicants, will receive a grant of $500,000 to further develop their proposed projects.

NJIT President Joel Bloom says, “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 Baraka, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressman 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.”

The projects selected as finalists for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge are designed to develop or scale industry sectors, train the workforce of today and tomorrow, and build resilient economies. The finalists now will compete in Phase 2 of the Challenge, which will award 20-30 regional coalitions with up to $100 million to implement projects that support an industry sector. The $500,000 planning grants will help finalists prepare their proposals for Phase 2 of the Challenge, which had a March 15, 2022 deadline for submission.

The project being led by the City of Newark and NJIT is 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, modeling, and artificial intelligence (AI) based 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. Members of the coalition include the City of Newark, NJIT, the City of Elizabeth, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Rutgers University, and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

“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,” notes Baraka. “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.” 

NJIT President Joel Bloom adds, “As the State of New Jersey’s public polytechnic university and a partner with the City of Newark, NJIT will bring broad and deep expertise in the technological and innovative aspects of this effort. The projects undertaken will be central to the operation of Port Newark and to growing its regional economic impact. New Jersey transportation and other regional port systems also will benefit through the establishment of a center for transportation innovation, commercialization, and tech transfer.”