We Make Big Plans – We Need to Execute those Plans
Economic Development is the biggest challenge faced by any mayor of Trenton. Our city, like so many industrial powerhouses, faltered with the loss of our manufacturing firms, with the flight to the suburbs by businesses and residents. Turning these trends around has been attempted over many decades by community leaders and elected officials.
Thoughtful, well-grounded, long-range plans, have been crafted and refined over many years. Some progress has been made and yet in many ways we have been frustrated both by economic cycles, and far more often by the lack of collaboration among local and regional institutions with which we must partner.
There is an inspiring Capital State Park plan for our waterfront, that allows for the much sought public access to the Delaware River. It calls for active and passive recreational opportunities, while recognizing the vulnerability of the Island neighborhood and the steadily increasing risk of flooding. The Trenton 250 Master Plan is expansive in its reach and vision. It directly addresses the need to plan long term for a much needed increase in our tax base and to diversify our economy, which is far too dependent on state government. The newest big plan is the Creek to Canal Creative District. Each of these plans resulted from extensive participation by residents and business owners. We have invested valuable time and tax dollars.
And yet, the plan for the riverfront was stalled as soon as Governor Christie took office and the Trenton 250 Plan was trashed by that Governor as he headed out the door.
As Mayor, I will use these vital tools to guide economic development efforts. I will press for the recognition that our plans must guide all of the players active in our city. That will include not just private developers, but the County and the State of New Jersey. Our own Parking Authority, Downtown Association, and Water Works, will be expected to develop strategic plans that align with and reinforce our City Plans.
Certainly plans can be changed, but changes should be made with broad consensus, and for compelling reasons. Most importantly, changes should be made to improve our prospects for a strengthened tax base or better quality development. Developers and investors must know that they can rely on our steady pursuit of these adopted plans.
I am prepared to lead the fight when necessary and on behalf of Trentonians. For those who tell us we can’t fight the State of New Jersey, we must recognize that Trentonians pay an extraordinary price for bad development by the State of New Jersey. We cannot be expected to pay for the honor of hosting State Government in our City. Rather we must fight on behalf of all New Jersey residents for a Capital City of which we can all be proud.
I want property owners to see City Hall as a partner in their progress. As a first focus, our downtown hotel and the former Mercer Medical Campus are potential economic engines for our city. The impact on the surrounding neighborhoods as they sit vacant and unused, creates a clear rationale for the Mayor to meet with these property owners, consistently and proactively to assist in expediting their plans. These owners should be communicating with neighborhood stakeholders to communicate their intentions and seek input. My administration will make that happen.
Diversifying our Economy
I believe that Trenton’s economic prospects are both under-stated and under-rated. To change that, and to grow our private business sector:
- We need a deliberate focus on retaining and expanding those businesses already in Trenton.
- We must attract and nurture small companies by creating a business environment that appeals to the start-up community, offering the networking, mentoring and other amenities they look for.
- We must also seek to attract mid-sized and large firms. In the first 100 days of my administration, I will begin a schedule of meetings with site selection firms, those professionals that advise corporations as they decide where to place their facilities and where they will expand. These meetings will provide opportunities both to tell our story, and to benefit from a clear-eyed view of where our best prospects lie.
Getting the Basics done and done well
Cities large and small, are feeling market momentum; they are being recognized as sustainable, livable, and as the preferred choice for people who want a more active lifestyle. Trenton has extraordinary assets in its parks, housing stock, transit, waterfront. The state of our streets and the attractiveness of our streetscapes, the efficiency of our inspectors, the quality of our water, the preparation of our workforce: all of these factors form the foundation on which we will build a better local economy. Quality services, delivered consistently, are the measures used by companies that can bring jobs. I will:
- Establish a 3-1-1 phone system to allow for 24-7 reporting of complaints and concerns that strives for rapid response and resolution, allowing residents to cut through red tape and help return properties to the tax rolls.
- Create a dedicated vocational school for Trenton, and increase options at Mercer County Community College, to help students and residents get the training necessary for crucial, front-line city jobs.
- Make sure that Trenton has the inspectors, meter attendants, public works employees — and the tools — necessary to start raising revenues, cleaning our streets, and filling in our potholes. Now.
As the assets and advantages of cities are being revalued, Trenton, building a reputation as a city that works hard and works smart, can attract businesses and new residents.
Collaboration within our Region
Trenton plays an integral role within the Mid-Jersey regional economy. Many Trentonians work outside of the City and many non-residents come to our city each day for employment. We provide water to several neighboring municipalities. We happily share arts and cultural resources that are the envy of many of our suburban neighbors. I will actively seek collaborations with Mercer County Mayors for problem solving and cross promotions. We must collaborate to compete, thereby lifting our entire region as a thriving, successful economic force.