County Executive Brian M. Hughes has acted on numerous issues since taking office and has focused on addressing the issues that are key in making Mercer County a great place to do business, raise a family and to visit. He has done it by creating opportunities to build on the region’s skilled workforce and by creating jobs through smart economic development. Quality of life is important in Mercer County, and Executive Hughes makes it a priority by delivering award-winning parks, recreation and libraries; by strengthening our airport and infrastructure; and by celebrating this county's colorful diversity. With the belief that a community prospers only when everyone has opportunity, the Hughes Administration has proudly aided people in their time of need, including our older adults, children and economically disadvantaged.
INITIATIVES AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Mercer at Play. In July 2016, Hughes announced a second round of matching grants for the highly successful “Mercer at Play” program. Mercer at Play offers municipal governments an innovative way to promote active recreation in their communities. Through this program, the county subsidizes a variety of new recreational resources in the county’s 12 municipalities to help people improve their health while enjoying themselves outdoors. Projects funded under the program have been diverse and innovative, ranging from bocce courts in Robbinsville to a skate park in Princeton to a four-town project to redevelop 51 acres of the former Twin Pines Airport in Lawrence into athletic fields. Ewing, Hamilton and Lawrence were awarded Mercer at Play grants in 2017 under the second round of funding.
Homelessness Reduction. Hughes announced during his 2018 State of the County address that every chronically homeless person the county and its partners identified in 2016 had a place to call home by 2017. In November 2016, the National Alliance to End Homelessness honored Hughes as a Champion of Change at its annual awards ceremony, "When a Child Has a Home," which spotlighted Mercer County's successes in ending child and family homelessness, and recognized Mercer as a model for other communities that are looking for proven ways to help some of our most vulnerable neighbors achieve better lives. Hughes credits Mercer's success to its partners: the City of Trenton, Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, Mercer County Board of Social Services and Catholic Charities. The Housing First and Rapid Rehousing programs have helped reduce family and long-term homelessness by about 70 percent since 2007.
Open space. The Hughes administration has been involved in preserving more than 5,000 acres of open space and farmland since 2004. Twenty percent of the County’s land area is now preserved.
Trenton-Mercer Airport. Trenton-Mercer Airport continues to serve residents of Mercer County and beyond as a center of transportation and economic growth. The success of Frontier Airlines since 2012 and the arrival of a second low-fare carrier, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, at TTN in November 2016, are emblematic of the airport’s unrelenting prominence as a regional powerhouse. An all-encompassing update of the airport master plan is under way, with completion expected in 2018. In the meantime, commercial flights continue to be very popular, with passenger traffic in November 2017 up 36 percent over the previous year.
Property Information Portal. A Mercer County initiative to create a Property Information Portal -– a Web application that gives citizens and government staff one place to find and view property records kept by different county departments -– was announced in March 2016 at the annual Mercer County Economic & Technology Summit held at Rider University. The portal has a map search for records that are tightly tied to tax parcels, but also a text search function for documents that cannot be located on a map.
Economic Summit. Approximately 125 people registered for 12th annual Economic Summit in February 2017 that was presented in partnership with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The annual summit spotlights business opportunities in all 12 Mercer municipalities and provides a forum for discussion on building public-private partnerships. The 2017 event, held at The Boathouse at Mercer Lake, included the first presentation of the Mercer County Economic Impact Awards recognizing outstanding businesses in the county. The inaugural winners were Hutchinson Industries and Princeton Air.
Job creation. Small-business loans and One-Stop Career Center are putting people back to work or re-training workers with new skills. Over the next 10 years, Mercer County is projected to add about 16,000 jobs, or about 17 percent of all new jobs statewide. A total of 14 of the top 21 occupations in the county are reported as growing or stable. Mercer County ranked in the top five in New Jersey for highest weekly wages based on figures from the fourth quarter of 2016.
Veterans Services. Since 2004, Mercer County has received for veteran services more than $15 million from the federal government and has served nearly 1,600 clients. This money goes directly back to veterans who have filed claims with the Veterans Administration. The county sponsors an annual donation drive for holiday meals that has averaged more than $11,000 per year, equaling more than 1,000 meals for veterans and their families. Mercer County was honored at the November 2016 Veterans Day ceremony with a special presentation from the State of New Jersey Order of the Purple Heart as a veteran-friendly county -- the first county in New Jersey to receive the honor.
The Mercer County Library System. The top-shelf library system earned another prestigious five-star rating from the monthly publication Library Journal in 2017. It was the ninth five-star rating for the Mercer County Library System, which ranked among the nation’s best libraries for the 10th consecutive year. MCLS was the only public library in New Jersey to receive a five-star designation within its budget category, where it placed seventh out of 30 libraries nationwide. The criteria for ranking the libraries were measures that indicate public service – per capita circulation, visits, program attendance and public Internet use. In 2015, the MCLS joined the Library Ideas network to provide library patrons with free access to more than 8 million songs and streaming movies and television content. MCLS also partnered with Ebsco to bring digital magazines to card holders through Flipster. These new digital services will help library patrons stay connected to the library from home or anywhere else.
Small Business Development Center. Mercer County partners with the Small Business Development Center at The College of New Jersey to provide year-round business counseling programs in both English and Spanish. In 2016, the SBDC English program organized 29 events that were attended by 503 business owners/managers; counseled 602 individuals; assisted in adding 147 businesses to the Mercer County bid list; helped create 31 start-up businesses; and helped with more than $3.3 million in capital infusion. For the Latino program, the county has contracted with the SBDC over the last five years to assist in the growth and economic development of the Latino small business community. In 2016, the SBDC’s Latino Business Center held 20 workshops with 196 attendees; counseled 124 individuals; and conducted 20 walking tours that visited and introduced small business services to more than 100 businesses at their locations. In addition, the SBDC counseled more than 80 high-growth clients (over $10 million in revenue and/or over 10 employees). In the spring of 2016, Mercer County published a Spanish-language version of its popular “how to” guidebook for local businesses.
Mercer County Buy Local. The county has worked to support and promote “Buy Local” campaigns throughout the region. The county advertised on behalf of local independent businesses and created several web pages to offer information on the importance of shopping local.
Mercer County Loan Fund. Administered by the Regional Business Assistance Center in Hamilton (NJ), the Loan Fund provides up to $250,000 to start or expand a business. Since the Loan Fund’s inception in 2000, 886 Mercer County jobs have been created or retained and 71 percent of those businesses were either women- or minority-owned.
Tourism. Studies have shown that tourism has been an economic asset for this region and has the potential to be an even greater economic driver. Tourism expenditures in Mercer County and the region have continued to trend upward. In January 2018, the Freeholder Board approved a two-year, $30,000 contract with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce that focuses on leveraging and promoting Mercer County's tourism assets in an effort to realize its full economic potential. PRCC previously had this contract from 2015-2017. This tourism campaign, done in conjunction with the Mercer County Office of Economic Development, has included signage, billboards, promotional spots at Princeton University athletic events and a new website, www.visitmercercounty.com.
Mosquito Control. The Mosquito Control Unit performed 1,500 inspections in 2017, applying larvicide treatments countywide on 372 acres of land. Adulticide treatments covered approximately 2,600 acres of land and 26 applications were conducted throughout the county. The Mosquito Control Unit completed 65 water management projects throughout the county in 2017, including deconstructing beaver dams, unclogging ditches and detention basins, and up-righting blown-down tree stumps where water accumulates in the void left by the root ball. The unit collected more than 400 tires from abandoned piles, residents needing assistance and routine inspections.
Shelter supply trailers. In 2016 and 2017, the Freeholder Board approved resolutions authorizing agreements to allow Ewing, Hamilton, Princeton, Robbinsville and Trenton to receive shelter supply trailers that the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management purchased using a total of $89,000 from Mercer County's 2015 Homeland Security grant. The trailers, each of which contains 180 cots and blankets, will boost local municipalities' ability to provide shelter for their residents during large-scale emergencies. These municipalities were selected to receive the trailers based on recommendations by the Mass Care Committee, which was established following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 to help the county and its communities be better prepared for future emergencies.
Interoperability Project. In 2015, additional Homeland Security grant funds were used to upgrade and enhance the new countywide interoperable radio system that was completed in August 2014. The interoperable system allows allow emergency services (police, fire, EMS, sheriff, local hospital emergency operations and all colleges) to communicate with one another on the same radio channels. The radio system is a regional communications “backbone” for first responders in Mercer County. The new system will save tax dollars and could save lives. Initially, more than $1 million of federal Homeland Security grant funds went toward this project. The final cost for the trunked radio system came in at $5,891,857, which was $185,742 under budget.
MERCER COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory. In October 2017, Mercer County Community College cut the ribbon on a $1.2 million Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory on the West Windsor Campus that will integrate cutting-edge technology with hands-on experience in a growing field. This was the first major construction project on the West Windsor Campus since the West Windsor Welcome Center was built in 2009. Funding was made possible through the Building Our Future Bond Act, which was approved by voters in 2012. Completion of the lab is anticipated in fall 2017.
Trenton Hall Annex. In April 2017, MCCC officially opened the Trenton Hall Annex, a modern, three-story building focusing on high-tech career opportunities at the college's James Kerney Campus in downtown Trenton. The Trenton Hall Annex feature state-of-the-art technology, with classrooms to provide instruction for the new Security Systems Technology and Cyber Security programs, as well as space for existing programs for the Certified Nurse Assistant, Phlebotomy and EKG Technician prep. The building is connected to the recently renovated Trenton Hall, which opened in 2012.
Route 130 Connection. In August 2016, the Route 130 Connection bus line was expanded to provide access to MCCC’s West Windsor Campus from the East Windsor/Hightstown area. The collaborative effort by the college, Mercer County and the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (TMA) aims to increase opportunities for students to participate in higher education.
Service to student veterans. In December 2016, MCCC was named the No. 1 military-friendly school among all two -year colleges in the nation by Victory Media, a provider of informational resource material to U.S. active duty military personnel, veterans and spouses. During the college's 2016 Sept. 11 Remembrance Ceremony, the New Jersey Military Order of the Purple Heart presented MCCC with a proclamation in recognition of being named a Purple Heart Community College -- the first two-year college in New Jersey to receive the designation.
Mercer County Fire Academy. The Fire Academy, which is directed by MCCC at Dempster Fire Service Training School in Lawrence, held a dedication ceremony in June 2017 to celebrate recent upgrades to the residential burn building and drill tower, and the installation of a 40-foot hazmat tanker prop and eight additional propane-fueled props that allow firefighters to train on fire suppression strategy and tactics. .
MERCER COUNTY IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY
Wire Rope redevelopment project (Block 3). In October 2017, HHG cut a ribbon to officially open Roebling Lofts, which is Phase 1 of the mixed-use development encompassing the entire 6.8-acre Roebling Center site, bound by Route 129, Hamilton Avenue, Clark Street and Elmer Street. Roebling Lofts is a four-story building that offers 138 one- and two-bedroom lofts, ranging from 759 square feet to 1,553 square feet. The Roebling Center development will consist of six buildings with 190 lofts, 200,000-plus square feet of creative class office space, and four restaurants.
NJ Realtors project. NJ Realtors in September 2016 cut the ribbon on its new headquarters directly across from the Cure Insurance Arena at the corner of South Broad Street and Hamilton Avenue. The NJR headquarters had been in Edison for the past 30 years, but the association relocated its 18 full-time staffers to the state capital so they can more effectively influence regulation and legislation related to their industry. NJR purchased the county-owned plot and built a 20,000-square-foot building to house its headquarters and a retail space.
HONORS AND AWARDS
MCCC Presidential Award. In April 2017, Mercer County Community College presented Hughes and his father, the late Gov. Richard Hughes, with a Presidential Award in honor of MCCC's 50th anniversary. The award reflects Hughes' strong support for the college and the 50-year legacy of his father in creating the community college system.
Champion of Change Award. In November 2016, the National Alliance to End Homelessness honored Hughes at its annual awards ceremony, “When a Child Has a Home,” which spotlighted Mercer County's successes in ending child and family homelessness and recognized Mercer as a model for other communities that are looking for proven ways to help some of our most vulnerable neighbors achieve better lives. Hughes credits Mercer's success to its partners, the City of Trenton, Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, Mercer County Board of Social Services and Catholic Charities.
County Executives of America. In June 2016, Hughes was elected to a two-year term as President of the County Executives of America (CEA), a national, non-partisan organization representing chief elected county officials across the United States. His term began July 1, 2016. The Washington, D.C.-based CEA consists of more than 700 county or city-county governments across the nation and is tasked with representing the county executive form of government before the U.S. Congress, the White House and the departments of the Federal Government. CEA also works with private sector business leaders to create economic opportunities for its members’ local communities.
Government Champion. In May 2016, Hughes, along with Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, was honored as a Government Champion by the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness for his commitment to ending veteran homelessness. Responding to First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, Mercer County had become the first county in New Jersey to find shelter for every veteran on the street.
Trailblazer Award. In October 2015, Hughes received the third annual Trailblazer Award from the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation for his long-standing commitment to the development and viability of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.
Dress for Success. In October 2015, Dress for Success Mercer County honored Hughes for his steadfast support of the organization, which provides workforce counseling, professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to help disadvantaged women thrive in work and in life. Other 2015 honorees were Dress for Success board member William Harla; Lorraine Holcombe, VP and CFO, Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce; and Ernst & Young, LLP.
Lord High Admiral Award. Hughes received the Lord High Admiral Award from the Delaware & Raritan Greenway in June 2015 for his leadership in creating the Tulpehaking Nature Center at Abbott Marshlands in Hamilton, which opened in October 2014. The event took place at the Watson Woods picnic area and was part of the eight-day Delaware River Sojourn. The title of Lord High Admiral has been awarded by the Sojourn since 1997 to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to protect the health of the Delaware River and its environs.
Distinguished Community College Spirit Award. Hughes received the Distinguished Community College Spirit Award from the New Jersey Council of County Colleges in June 2015 for embodying the community college spirit: perseverance, dedication and excellence, and for his statewide advocacy efforts in support of New Jersey’s community colleges.
NJAC Conference Workshop. In May 2015, Hughes led a professional development workshop on ending homelessness during the final day of the New Jersey Association of Counties’ (NJAC) 65th annual conference in Atlantic City. Hughes was part of a four-person panel discussing the topic “Ending Homelessness While Saving Money: Models from Mercer, Bergen and Atlantic Counties.” He spoke about Mercer County’s recent success in reducing family homelessness, for which the county has received national recognition.
Rebovich Leadership Award. Hughes received the Rebovich Leadership Award at a March 2015 gala hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur and Michele Siekerka, president of the NJ Business and Industry Association also received awards. Proceeds from the gala support scholarships for students in unpaid political internships and civic programming at Rider.
Grand Marshal. Hughes embraced his own proud Irish heritage by serving as Grand Marshal in the Jersey City One Block Parade on St. Patrick’s Day 2015. The parade honors a Jersey City police detective who was killed in the line of duty.
Engineering Project of the Year. In February 2016, the Engineering Division was honored by the Professional Engineers Society of Mercer County with its Project of the Year Award for the Bear Tavern Road and Jacobs Creek Road bridge replacements, which were completed simultaneously in September 2014, restoring mobility and continuity to the area. Also, the dual project received an Honor Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies at the organization’s annual Engineering Excellence Awards Banquet in March 2015 in Monroe, and a National Recognition Award at ACEC’s 2015 Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in April 2015 in Washington, D.C.