Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes (standing) greets Gary and Eileen Amico, longtime owners of DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Hudson Street in TrentonFull size photo

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes (standing) greets Gary and Eileen Amico, longtime owners of DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Hudson Street in Trenton

CONTACT: Julie Willmot
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Hughes: Positive economic news cause for optimism

TRENTON, N.J. - Signs of economic growth throughout Mercer County provide a positive outlook for 2012 and beyond, County Executive Brian M. Hughes said today in his annual State of the County address.

Hughes delivered his address to an audience of more than 500 business and government leaders Jan. 19 during a luncheon sponsored by the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce.

He said the county received some positive economic news in 2011, including: the arrival of Kenco Logistics Services, which moved into approximately 500,000 square feet of warehouse space in Robbinsville and is employing more than 100 people, with plans for 300 employees by the end of 2012; the renovation of the Colonial Lanes site in Lawrence into the Colonial Entertainment Center; and the expansion of the Hamilton Plaza Shopping Center, which late last year completed construction of a World Class ShopRite along Route 33 and is in the process of adding several restaurants and retail establishments.

“These are just a sampling of the new investments in our county over the past year,” Hughes said during the speech, which he delivered at The Stone Terrace by John Henry’s in Hamilton. “Working together with you, we have succeeded in improving the business environment in our county and attracting new investment.”

Hughes, who was re-elected for a third term in November, also highlighted positive developments in the public sector, including: the new county courthouse, which he said has provided construction work to 300 men and women and is on schedule and on budget for a mid-2012 opening; a planned 9-megawatt solar field at Mercer County Community that will create 270 construction jobs and supply 70 percent of the college’s power, resulting in a savings of close to $1 million a year; and an expansion of the college’s downtown campus that “will breathe new life into the City of Trenton and will prepare people for today’s job market.”

Noting that passenger air service returned to Trenton-Mercer Airport last year with Streamline airlines, Hughes said the comprehensive Airport Strategic Development Study that he announced last year will soon be presented. The study, which he noted was paid for by passenger fees, not county tax dollars, will identify the best uses for the airport, including expansion, use of outlying property and possible terminal redevelopment.

“Through use of federal grant dollars, we’ve wisely invested in our airport, and today boast an upgraded facility that will appeal to carriers eyeing Trenton-Mercer as well as to our corporate aviation partners,” he said.

Hughes said another wise investment is the Countywide Communications Interoperability plan, which will enable emergency services to communicate with one another on the same radio channels. More than $1 million of federal Homeland Security money will go toward the project, he said.

“In any large-scale disaster or event, we absolutely must be able to communicate, and interoperability will allow us to do that,” he said.

Hughes said the county’s Office of Economic Sustainability has worked to encourage job growth throughout 2011, and highlighted two of its most successful programs, the Mercer County Loan Fund and the On the Job Training grant program.

He noted that since the Loan Fund’s inception in 2000, 639 jobs were created or retained in Mercer County and 76 percent of those businesses were either women- or minority-owned.

The county’s On the Job Training program offers a six-month, 50 percent reimbursement of a new employee’s wages. To illustrate the program’s success, Hughes introduced Amanda Puppo, CEO of MarketReach Inc., a marketing call center in Lawrence, who through OJT was able to take a chance on a new employee who now is on the firm’s permanent payroll.

Hughes said other concrete signs of growth were found in the recent grand opening Capital Health System’s new hospital in Hopewell Township and the expanded Pediatrics Emergency Services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton; the announcement by Church and Dwight that the consumer packaged goods company will expand its presence in Mercer County with the addition of a 500-employee facility in Ewing; and news of a new Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Lawrence that will create 250 to 300 temporary and full-time jobs.

The County Executive named about a dozen of the restaurants that opened in Mercer during the past year, many being small businesses, which he called “the backbone of our local economy.”

On that note, he bade a fond farewell to “one of Mercer County’s most beloved businesses,” DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Hudson Street in Trenton, and saluted the restaurant’s owners, Eileen and Gary Amico, who were in the audience. The Amicos are retiring after running the 75-year-old business for the past 40 years.

Hughes’ speech was attended by many elected officials, including Mercer County Freeholders Ann Cannon, Anthony Carabelli, John Cimino, Pasquale “Pat” Colavita Jr. and Samuel Frisby Sr., Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler, Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr., state Assemblymen Daniel Benson and Wayne DeAngelo, state Sen. Linda Greenstein, Lawrence Mayor Jim Kownacki, East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov, Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo,
Hopewell Township Committeeman Allen Cannon, Trenton Councilman Zachary Chester, Trenton Councilwoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt.