Three Things Mayor Ras Baraka Can Do This Year to Help the Newark Tech Scene
Photo: Anthony Frasier asks Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to support the Newark tech community. Photo Credit: Courtesy Anthony Frasier
Anthony Frasier asks Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to support the Newark tech community. | Courtesy Anthony Frasier

 [NJTechWeekly.com is on vacation. We have asked thought leaders from the New Jersey tech community to write about topics that are important to them. Anthony Frasier, our first contributor while we are away, is a Newark-based tech entrepreneur, founder of BrickCity Tech Meetup and cofounder of The Phat Startup.]

I’m excited that the city of Newark has a new mayor.

Ras Baraka has shown support for and met with BrickCity Tech Meetup to discuss the future of tech in Newark when no one else in the city government would.

A focus on tech and entrepreneurship is key to not bringing back the old Newark and moving the new Newark forward.

Newark has so much going for it that New Jersey entrepreneurs are just not aware of. We have a growing tech/meetup scene, with three new coworking spaces opening up in the downtown area in 2014 alone. We have a college student community of as many as 50,000, many of whom are looking for great internship opportunities.

Newark’s office space is more cost effective than New York’s. We are a transportation mecca: we have buses, trains and an international airport, and we are located just 15 minutes from New York.

Another great reason for tech companies and entrepreneurs to be based in Newark is the collaboration and partnership opportunities. Newark is home to Prudential, Audible.com, Panasonic and Phone.com, and they are looking to help grow the ecosystem.

So the biggest question to me is how Mayor Baraka can help grow this scene. Here are three ways he can start, which I call my three Ps:

Participation

Leading by example is the best way to send a message. We need the mayor to not only verbally support tech events in the city but participate in them. That will show residents that it’s also important for them to be involved and show job creators outside the city that their startups will get the attention they rely on if they come to Newark.

Policy

We need more entrepreneur- and small business-friendly policies in Newark. I’m not talking about tax breaks. We need to develop a forum that can happen quarterly, in which heads of startups and aspiring entrepreneurs can directly engage with the mayor about their concerns and needs.

Preparation

Change is coming to not just Newark but the world. Technology-focused jobs are taking over. We need to make sure our youth and adults are properly prepared. The best way to do that is to get the city to stress the importance of learning how to code. We have already had hackathons and classes sponsored by local corporations. We need to amplify this effort with support from the mayor. We must create afterschool programs focused solely on making sure our youth is getting the necessary tools it needs.

These are all things that can begin happening in Newark this year. My goal is to make sure that they do happen, and by this time next year we can develop a new set of goals to accomplish with our local government. If you would like to help be part of change in Newark, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter with your thoughts: @anthonyfrasier.

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