Executive Hughes Expands Opportunity To Do Business with Mercer
Effort builds on several initiatives aimed at putting people to work
TRENTON -- Small-business owners are the backbone of Mercer County’s economy, bringing growth and innovation to the region and providing employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms throughout the United States. In Mercer County, there are more than 25,000 small-business firms, according to the Mercer County Office of Economic Development. To provide small businesses with more opportunities to successfully participate in the County’s procurement processes, County Executive Brian M. Hughes has submitted an ordinance establishing a Qualified Minority-, Women-, Veteran-owned Business or Small Business Set-Aside Program, which reserves 10 percent of the dollar value of all the County’s goods, professional services and construction contracts to be utilized for qualified businesses. Of that 10 percent, 30 percent is allocated for qualified minority businesses; 30 percent for qualified women-owned businesses; 30 percent for qualified veteran-owned businesses; and 10 percent for small businesses.
The ordinance, adopted July 12 by the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, is effective immediately.
Mr. Hughes announced that the new Set-Aside Ordinance would make it easier for qualified businesses to contract with the County, as it would provide access to $70 million in procurement. An estimated $7 million worth of contracts would be available as part of the new program to eligible businesses.
“This ordinance will open doors for businesses that may not have the capacity to bid for large contracts, but which have the qualifications, expertise and means to provide County departments and agencies with much-needed goods, services and construction,” Mr. Hughes said. “At its core, this effort builds on several initiatives aimed at putting people to work. It’s about jobs.”
Hughes credited John E. Harmon Sr., President and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, for drawing the County’s attention to the issue.
Said Mr. Harmon, "This is a significant step on behalf of County government to bring Mercer County on a similar pathway of inclusion, as demonstrated by Essex and Hudson counties. I applaud County Executive Hughes for his leadership on this important economic initiative and I look forward to working with the County Administration to expand on this initial step in the future."
The ordinance is another in a series of efforts by the Hughes Administration to close opportunity gaps that hinder some from realizing the same attainment as others because they are less connected, limiting their ability to build on their successes. Recently, the Hughes Administration advanced an agreement that gives trades workers opportunities to broaden their professional experiences while they are between major assignments.
Mercer County and the Mercer County Buildings & Constructions Trades Council in April entered into an agreement -- Direct Hire -- that would allow the County to tap qualified men and women of the local union trades for specific projects or construction work on a temporary basis. Under that agreement, Mercer County reaches out to the Trades Council to provide from its ranks the workers for a particular project, such as painters, plumbers or carpenters. Mercer County then temporarily hires the recommended workers to work in concert with the County’s full- and part-time staff.
The program is beneficial for both the County and the trades, explained Mr. Hughes.
“In total Mercer County tends to almost 100 buildings or structures with a relatively small maintenance staff. It makes perfect sense to offer temporary assignments to Mercer County men and women in our local unions in order to supplement our existing workforce, while avoiding a permanent and unnecessary burden on taxpayers,” he said, adding, “I thank Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo, president of the Mercer/Burlington Building Trades Council, and Freeholder Anthony Verrelli, president of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Local 254, for promoting this creative concept that puts people to work, and I thank our Freeholder Board for its continued support of all of our efforts to advance jobs and opportunity.”
Another way Mercer County is stretching opportunities for people entering the workforce is through the new Domain Tech Academy at Mercer County Community College, (DTAAM). Through the Academy, students earn while they learn and get real-life technology experience under the guidance of tech professionals.
These initiatives, along with new- and small-business loans, guidance and advocacy through the Mercer County Office of Economic Development, are credited with consistently lifting Mercer County to one of the highest employment rates in the state.
Added Mr. Hughes, “By leveling the playing field, these long-persistent gaps are diminished, and as a result our economy further strengthens.”
The new Set-Aside Ordinance calls for the Mercer County Purchasing Department to assist small businesses for participation in the program. The Purchasing Department will walk small businesses through the certification and procurement processes and offer information to them about what is required for taking advantage of the Mercer County Set-Aside and other programs
In order to be eligible to qualify for the Mercer County Set-Aside Program, businesses must hold a valid certificate with the Business Registration Certificate (BRC) from the Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services, and be registered with the Selective Assistance Vendor Information database prior to conducting business in the State of New Jersey and prior to the award of a contract. There is no cost to do this and it can be done on the web or through the U.S. Postal Service. Contact the Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services for more information at www.nj.gov/treasury/revenue or (609) 292-9292.
Businesses interested in Mercer County bid opportunities referred to in this new ordinance should register as an NJ State Certified MBE, WBE or VOB. Registration applications and guidelines can be accessed through the State of New Jersey Business Portal website: www.nj.gov/njbusiness/contracting. Businesses can also register with Mercer County to automatically be informed of and apply for opportunities with the County. Register here: https://secure.jotform.com/form/2760607202.
“The County will continue to procure the services and products of our small-business community,” Mr. Hughes said. “Through this ordinance and with the support of our freeholders, we will set goals to better assess our progress in providing opportunities to qualified minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in our region.”
For more help or information, contact the following sources:
- New Jersey State Business Action Center, (866) 534-7789, www.nj.gov/njbusiness/contracting/
- Mercer County Deputy Administrator and Finance Office of Purchasing, 609-989-6710
- Mercer County Office of Economic Development, (609) 989-6555