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Economy

A Tale of Two Cities, and Two Companies

What Amazon could do for the city where it’s already made its mark.
Prudential's headquarters in downtown Newark, NJ
Prudential's headquarters in downtown Newark, NJMike Derer/AP

When I was a young boy growing up in and around Newark, New Jersey, there was one company that stayed when nearly all the others left. Prudential, founded in Newark in 1875 as the Widows and Orphans Friendly Society, remained committed to Newark through all its storied economic and political travails.

It stayed there when my family and many others moved out to the suburbs in the early 1960s. It remained even after the city exploded into riots a few years later. It was there when the factory where my father worked, Victory Optical in Newark’s Ironbound Section, was shuttered, a victim of deindustrialization. It stayed when Newark’s political leaders were indicted and jailed on corruption charges. And it was there still when I went to work as a summer intern for the Newark office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the early 1980s, which was housed in the Gateway Towers adjacent to Prudential’s old headquarters building.