County Executive Brian M. Hughes delivers his annual State of the County address Jan. 20 at The Stone Terrace by John Henry

County Executive Brian M. Hughes delivers his annual State of the County address Jan. 20 at The Stone Terrace by John Henry's in Hamilton

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Hughes: New initiatives coming to foster growth in 2011

TRENTON, N.J.—Mercer County will not raise taxes in 2011 and will make greater efforts to assist businesses in working with the government in order to create jobs and stimulate the regional economy, 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 400 business and government leaders Jan. 20 during a luncheon sponsored by the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce and NJM Insurance Group.

He said the County would have no trouble meeting the 2 percent limit on annual tax increases at the local government level imposed by Gov. Chris Christie, and would present a budget with no tax increase later this year. Hughes added the County’s surplus has been built back to a robust $20 million.

“It took strong leadership and tough decision-making, but we have laid the foundation to make Mercer County even stronger over the next few years,” Hughes said during the speech, which he delivered at The Stone Terrace by John Henry’s in Hamilton Township.

Hughes thanked local business owners and private sector workers for remaining in Mercer County during the recession, saying that it took courage and leadership on their part to do so. After holding a series of Business Roundtable meetings with local business owners in 2010, Hughes announced today he is dedicating a County position to assist businesses in “cutting through the red tape.” The new Business Advocate position will help the private sector navigate government at the local and state level and hopefully keep businesses from leaving the County for other regions or other states, Hughes said.

The County Executive also announced a number of other new initiatives for 2011 to spur the local economy.

Hughes said a new public passenger airline, Streamline LLC, has indicated it intends to bring flights back to Trenton-Mercer Airport beginning in spring 2011. In addition, the County is embarking on an Airport Strategic Development Study to identify the best uses for the airport and its surrounding properties.

In a move to help municipalities, school districts, and County facilities save money, Hughes also announced a partnership with the Mercer County Improvement Authority to guarantee funding for these entities to install solar panels.

“While reducing our carbon footprint through use of clean, renewable energy, this exciting project will create jobs for installers – 30 jobs for every kilowatt of power – and save taxpayer dollars by reducing our costs for energy,” Hughes said.

The County will also endeavor to help individuals exiting jail to put their lives back together through a new Re-Entry Program. Before their release from County jail, inmates will be assessed on education, health, job readiness, housing and legal services needs, and upon release from prison, the County will assist ex-offenders by ensuring access to services, housing acquisition, educational opportunities, job training and job placement through the Mercer County One-Stop Career Center.

Hughes’ speech was attended by many elected officials, including Mercer County freeholders Ann Cannon, Anthony Carabelli, Pasquale Colavita, John Cimino and Andrew Koontz; Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello; Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler; Mercer County Surrogate Diane Gerofsky; N.J. Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo; N.J. Assemblyman Daniel Benson; West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh; Pennington Borough Mayor Anthony Persichilli; East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov; Robbinsville Mayor David Fried; and Mercer County First Assistant Prosecutor Janetta Marbrey. Hughes was introduced by NJM Insurance Group President and CEO Bernie Flynn, and the event was hosted by Sherise Ritter, chairwoman of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce.