Ann Strauss-Wieder: New Jersey Industrial Sector Benefiting from “Perfect Trifecta” of Economic Activity
by Josh Anderson
JERSEY CITY, NJ — New Jersey’s industrial sector isn’t like any other state. There are lots of booming markets out there. But New Jersey is currently benefiting from a “perfect trifecta” of economic activity, and in fact is red-hot right now. So says Anne Strauss-Wieder, Director for Freight Planning at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, who was a featured speaker at CapRE’s Sixth Annual Northeast Industrial Real Estate & E-Commerce Distribution Summit, last month. There, she provided insight into the how, what, and why of this exciting era of industry in the Garden State.
“Recently, I was honored to be on one of the escort vessels that brought the Teddy Roosevelt on her maiden voyage into the port of New York and New Jersey, under the newly raised Bayonne Bridge,” Strauss-Wieder shared. “That vessel holds 14,400 twenty-foot containers. The last time I was out greeting a container ship of a large size was the Regina Maersk – I think it was 1996. It held 6,400 containers. The port of New York and new jersey is now qualified to hold vessels holding 18,000 containers. So the future is here. And it’s very fitting because New Jersey really is a supply chain state.”
Next, Strauss-Wieder provided some context for just how big of an impact the industry has on the Garden State. “Logistics and distribution is the largest employer here. Over 450,000 people work in this industry,” she revealed. “We have well over a billion square feet of industrial property. I don’t have to tell that to anyone here in this room. In the northern and central parts of New Jersey, as of Q4 2017 we had 815 million square feet and 13 million under construction. I’ve been following the distribution and warehouse industry since 1992, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
It’s not just about the port and the warehouses though. “We also have a very robust road and rail network. In fact New Jersey had the first railroad to be placed in the U.S. And in 1956, New Jersey had the first container vessel ever. Both containerization and railways were born here in New Jersey,” she continued.
“I’ve been involved in looking at the economic value of the port for just over 30 years. And I’ve seen it evolve over time. And it’s really beginning to change to reflect everything we’ve heard about today,” Strauss-Wieder revealed. “Back when I did my last analysis in 2014, I saw the beginning of a perfect trifecta forming. First of all, the economy was improving. We are at the heart of the largest, most affluent consumer population in the U.S. — and by the way New Jersey has been the most densely populated state in the country for over 40 years – plus, we were buying a lot more stuff online. We had a perfect trifecta.”
Strauss-Wieder then told how, as of 2016, the Port supports over 400,00 jobs in the area. “It built over 60,000 jobs in two years. And that’s primarily because of e-commerce, and because of our competitive strength in distribution,” she explained. “Now, New Jersey, in terms of economic impact, there are about 345,000 jobs associated with the port and a lot of that is in the warehouse and distribution industry.”
According to Strauss-Wieder, being the largest port on the East Coast is wonderful for New Jersey. “Not only are we here with the largest, most affluent consumer population, but we have that transportation infrastructure in place,” she beamed, before transitioning to the flipside of this situation. “It’s also a challenge for us, because that railroad industry that started out here first? Well now we have legacy infrastructure. We’re trying to adapt for 21st-century needs.”
Another challenge is the wealth of industrial real estate left over from decades past. “We’re trying to figure out what to do with all of this warehouse space, [in light of] changing land use, and getting it all to mesh with the different uses today in a fairly densely developed market,” she cautioned.
However, these challenges haven’t been insurmountable. Since 1998, New Jersey has added over 100 Million square feet of property. “Since the Great Recession of 2008, over 20 million square feet were added. In 2017, there were 34 building alone. That’s an amazing number. Again, the signing lease price is about $50 or more than the asking price. and that’s because we’ve seen a fundamental shift in something called the Last Mile.”
Anne Strauss-Wieder is the Director of Freight Planning for the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. She has over 35 years of experience in supply chains and freight movement, economic analyses, and policy and project development. Strauss-Wieder has been or is in leadership roles in several professional organizations including the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the Transportation Research Board and NAIOP. She is also a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness. Stay tuned to future CapRE Insider Reports for more about the Last Mile and how it fits into the New Jersey industrial arena.