Audible Committed to Investing in Newark at Every Level
by Josh Anderson
NEWARK, NJ – One of the most notable firms in Newark is Amazon’s e-book pioneer Audible, who lease space out of One Washington Park, which they share with Rutgers Business School. This pairing has provided the setting for just one of Audible’s many initiatives to invest in and contribute to the community of Newark. CapRate recently connected with Brian Duddy, Vice President, Global Real Estate Infrastructure at Audible, to learn more about the how and why of these initiatives.
“One Washington Park is a combination of a corporate entity like Audible, which is as its essence an innovation company…and the student base that we have, not just around Washington Park, but all around the area,” says Duddy. “Our vision, multiple years ago, was to start fostering an environment to make Newark tech-ready. We have the underlying infrastructure to support it.”
Since then, Audible has welcomed Rutgers entrepreneurship students to visit the firm and also provided mentorship to resident portfolio companies involved in the Newark Venture Partners Program. “The idea was to bring people together by marrying our technologists with new companies – seed-stake companies – to bring them further along,” continues Duddy. “But at the same time to look at the eco-system that we’ve been building at Rutgers, bringing interns and mentors to work with start-up companies that we’re fostering at this time.”
However, Audible has invested in much more than Rutgers students. For example, Ruddy proudly describes their commitment to the attracting talent to not only work in Newark, but live and play there as well. “It’s been going on since we first moved to Newark,” explains Ruddy. “Our planning to move to Newark started in 2006 and we moved in 2007. We moved in with a vision of an open office environment that was more collaborative and created spaces for people to get together – including fun spaces. The things people are talking about today, we were talking about 10 years ago.”
Duddy says that Audible quickly realized that they needed to do more than just provide a creative work environment. “Millennials and other young professionals are increasingly looking to an urban center as opposed to a suburb,” he says. “And they’re looking not only to work closer to where they live, they also want to be in a place that has the amenities that everyone’s talking about – cool places to hangout like bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, theatres, things we’re starting to see pop up all over the place.”
Audible has grown from a 125-employee workforce back in 2007 to 1000+ today. According to Duddy, not only do they encourage employees to live in Newark (for example, through a rental incentive program in which Audible paid one year of rent for 12 employees), they offer a $250 monthly subsidy to employees who move to Newark, as well as provide a debit card to dine in Newark restaurants.
“We started that in Q2,” Duddy remembers. “That program has doubled in size. A number of employees are opting into the program and we’ve doubled the size of restaurants that our employees dine at. So the Work Live Play model is about just that – being in a place where you work, that you live, where you can build your network of friends and colleagues.”