Mercer County is seeing a surge of economic activity and is faring better than the state and nation from an employment standpoint, according to government and business leaders who spoke at the eighth annual Mercer County Economic Summit on Feb. 28.
The event, held at Mercer County Community College, was titled “The Road Ahead: Preparing Your Business for 2013 and Beyond.” It was presented Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Mercer County Office of Economic Development & Sustainability, in partnership with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Hughes outlined the rise in economic activity taking place across Mercer County, concluding that although “times are still tough … the road ahead looks promising.”
He touted the value and potential of Trenton-Mercer Airport and the surrounding region. He said Frontier Airlines’ arrival and rapid expansion to 10 destinations, as well as a long-term look at the airport region could result in Ewing’s creation of a mixed-use town center and a strategic relocation of SEPTA’s West Trenton Station, among other possibilities.
There is also new new private development, including Amazon’s decision to construct a mega warehouse in Robbinsville; Church and Dwight’s new expansion in Ewing, the new global headquarters for Sparta Systems in Hamilton; and continued improvements at Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence.
Other projects that have been recently completed or are in the works in Trenton, include a new criminal courthouse that opened last month; an expansion of Mercer County Community College’s James Kerney Campus; and Thomas Edison State College’s plan to convert a dilapidated former housing complex into a 27,000-square-foot nursing education building.
Hughes also announced a new initiative.
The Mercer County Sports & Entertainment Commission will enter into a new, partnership with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce through the Princeton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. The reorganized entity will work closely with County assets like the parks, Sun National Bank Center and ARM & HAMMER Park, and with local municipal economic development groups, local business organizations and County offices such as Economic Development and Transportation to boost “one of the most rapidly growing business sectors in Mercer County,” Hughes said.
Tourism expenditures in Mercer County were $1.08 billion in 2011, an all-time high. This record for Mercer County marks a 10 percent increase compared to 2010’s expenditures, according to the most recent figures available in the 2011 Economic Impact Study of Tourism in New Jersey, conducted by the State’s Division of Travel & Tourism.
“There is enormous potential to attract visitors to our beautiful and historic County, and to do so in ways that will create economic opportunity and jobs for the entire region,” Hughes said.
Bernie Flynn, president and CEO of New Jersey Manufacturers and chairman of Choose New Jersey said New Jersey’s business slogan of “Highly educated, perfectly located” also “fits Mercer County to a T” and makes it an ideal place to live and work.
“From a transportation and logistics standpoint, we are a hub,” Flynn said. “And there’s no better evidence of that than Amazon’s decision to locate right here.”
Herb Taylor, vice president and corporate secretary of Philadelphia Reserve Bank, said that during the recent recession unemployment in Mercer County capped at about 8 percent as opposed to 10 percent nationally.
Hughes said he is proud of the fact that Mercer County’s unemployment rate of 7.4 percent -- more than 2 percentage points lower than the state’s -- ranks 4th lowest in New Jersey.
Taylor’s remarks were followed by two featured discussions: “Major Sporting Events 2014,”with representatives from the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and Formula One Racing; and “Doing Business With Big Business,” with representatives from Princeton University, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka and Educational Testing Service.