Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes is flanked by Freeholder Anthony P. Carabelli and Mercer County Community College President Patricia C. Donohue at the County’s seventh annual Economic Summit on April 12 at The Conference Center at MCCC.Full size photo

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes is flanked by Freeholder Anthony P. Carabelli and Mercer County Community College President Patricia C. Donohue at the County’s seventh annual Economic Summit on April 12 at The Conference Center at MCCC.

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- Although still facing employment deficits, New Jersey and Mercer County are on an upward growth trajectory, according to economists and government leaders who spoke at the County’s seventh annual Economic Summit on April 12.

Approximately 200 people—including State, County and local elected officials, and members of the County’s business community—gathered at The Conference Center at Mercer County Community College for the summit, which focused on recent economic trends. The summit’s theme was “Building Momentum.”

“We’re optimistic that we’ll begin to see signs of an economic revival after this historic period of negative growth,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, who opened the summit. “But we know that will be a gradual process.”

In the meantime, he said, the County’s park system, active communities and renowned colleges and universities continue to make it a desirable place to live or build a business.

“Not only will businesses find Mercer County to be a great place to live, they will find a business-friendly county that will help produce services and products that grow our economy.”

James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and a nationally recognized academic expert on demographics, housing and regional economics, gave an overview of the “long-awaited economic recovery.” He had encouraging news for Mercer County, which he said has “outperformed the nation and the state” and is “on a positive growth trajectory.”

“Mercer County should feel proud of its positive growth performance,” he said.

On the national level, more than 4 million jobs have been recovered since employment losses “bottomed out” in February 2010, the economist said. While that gain represents only about half the number of jobs that had been lost, “it’s not a bad rate of employment growth.” An equivalent employment deficit exists in New Jersey, where the current job deficit is about 174,000, he said, but 75,000 jobs have been recovered in the past 26 months.  “Progress is being made,” he said, adding that 17,000 private-sector jobs were added during the first two months of this year.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who has led the Christie administration’s efforts to attract businesses to New Jersey and keep existing businesses from leaving, expressed a similar sentiment for both the state and Mercer County. As an example she cited Church and Dwight, a maker of household consumer and personal care products headquartered in Princeton, which threatened to leave New Jersey because it “couldn’t afford to stay,” but instead decided to expand it presence in Mercer County with the addition of a 500-employee facility in Ewing.

“We can do better, we’ll always be able to do better,” she said. “But at least we’re moving in the right direction.”

Guadagno’s remarks were followed by a roundtable discussion, “Partners in Prosperity,” moderated by Caren Franzini, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Panelists were representatives of local companies who talked about why the firms chose Mercer County as their home. Bob Doll, vice chairman, director and chief investment officer of Global Equities at BlackRock Advisors LLC, then gave an overview of the progress made by the global and national economies, and challenges that are now being faced.

Among the other notable officials at the event were: State Assemblymen Dan Benson and Wayne DeAngelo; Mercer County Freeholders Ann Cannon, Anthony Carabelli, John Cimino, Pasquale Colavita, Samuel Frisby, Andrew Koontz and Lucylle Walter; Mercer County Community College President Patricia Donohue; West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov and Trenton Councilman Zack Chester.

The summit was presented by County Executive Hughes, the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Mercer County Office of Economic Development & Sustainability, in partnership with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The title sponsor for the event was PSE&G and supporting sponsors were NAI Fennelly Associates and Verizon. James Hughes’ presentation was sponsored by Sun National Bank; the roundtable discussion was sponsored by Fox Rothschild LLP and Princeton HealthCare System; Doll’s presentation was sponsored by PNC Bank; and networking was sponsored by HVC Bank. Enterprise sponsors ETS, First Bank, Hutchinson Industries, Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, Quaker Bridge Mall, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton, Spiezle Architectural Group Inc. and VJ Scozzari & Sons Inc. Table sponsors were David Lerner Associates, Thomas Edison State College, John Schragger and Mercer Commercial Construction LLC, and New Jersey Manufacturers.