PANYNJ Trains NJ Small Business Owners for AirTrain Newark Projects

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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Miller and Cotto, left and second from left, alongside other program organizers and instructors.
Courtesy of PANYNJ

NEWARK – At the Rutgers-Newark campus, the AirTrain Newark Business Training & Capacity Building Initiative will come together for an 8-week curriculum to train small business owners.

Port Authority New York and New Jersey reports the agency is looking to smaller firms for its projects. The AirTrain Newark Business Training & Capacity Building Initiative will come together this week at Rutgers-Newark campus. This is free for “15 small business owners throughout Essex, Hudson, and Union counties in New Jersey every six months.”

The 8-week curriculum will introduce these small business owners to “the staffing, safety, and legal expertise they’ll need to compete for contracts and to ultimately help build Newark Liberty International Airport’s next-generation people mover, known as AirTrain Newark.” 

The courses offered are in conjunction with the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, the Rutgers Newark Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, and Integrity Compliance Consulting. Over eight weeks at Rutgers Business School in Newark, participants will learn from a variety of subjects including:

  • Marketing
  • Project management
  • Job costs
  • Labor agreements
  • Work scheduling
  • Change orders
  • Contract law
  • Bookkeeping and more

A student from fall 2023, Brianna Vasconez said “I feel like those three [project managing, estimating and contract law] are your make-or-break, where if you know what you’re doing and you’re confident in what you’re doing, which is exactly what this cohort is trying to teach us, then you have everything that you need under your belt.”

Additionally, Maritza Guillaume-Emile, a small business owner from Newark, said “What’s most important for me is the networking opportunity with business owners that are my peers. . . Even if we have different areas of expertise, there is the potential for collaboration.”

A program manager in the Port Authority’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Anthony Miller said “We’re not just training, we’re capacity building. That’s different. . . Not only are we giving you subject matter that’s critical to helping your business grow, but we’re also bringing you people that can help support you building your business.”

For the AirTrain Newark project, the agency says it requires its primary contractors to commit to “good-faith” efforts. This includes 10% to women-owned businesses and 3% to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. These goals are not state-mandated or federally required, but they were “approved by the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners and apply to contracts awarded for Port Authority projects.”

With post-pandemic and economic challenges, PANYNJ made the decision to invest in growing the “pool of readily qualified electricians, plumbers, and general contractors” as opposed to “tempering” its own goals.

Port Authority senior external relations representative Reinaldo Cotto works on the AirTrain Newark replacement project. Cotto said the decision “is all about creating equity for the communities directly around us. . . We want these business owners to work on their business, not just in their business.”

Program manager Miller added that the AirTrain project was an example of where this education process is most crucial, saying the “program was specifically tailored to the scopes of work that we have available on the AirTrain . . . An AirTrain isn’t a standard seven-story building with a foundation and brick and mortar. It’s a highly sophisticated electrical train system with a lot of moving parts.”

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