HILLSBOROUGH: Somerset County drafts an economic blueprint

We’re staying ahead of curve, says freeholder

To the editor:
   On Jan. 4, when I was selected by my colleagues to serve as Freeholder Director, I noted that 2013 was going to be a challenging year as we continue to address issues of open space preservation, infrastructure investment, the needs of our underserved population, transportation challenges and operational efficiency.
   I noted that the state’s two premier economists, Jim Hughes and Joe Seneca, had recently issued a report stating that, “It may now be necessary to reinvent, transform, restructure and reimagine our suburban office ecosystems to adjust to the new employment and business dynamics that are emerging.”
   It is important to understand that “suburban office” is a major source of local and county tax revenue, providing employment that generates economic activity while requiring limited use of essential public services, particularly the cost of education. Without this cost-efficient revenue stream, the residential real estate market will bear a continuing greater burden.
   Somerset County is now taking historically significant steps toward assuring that these issues are pro-actively addressed by creating an environment for job creation and private sector economic investment.
   On May 17, the freeholders, the Somerset County Business Partnership and many other individuals and agencies introduced “Investment Somerset, A Collaborative Blueprint for Economic Growth” that identifies and prioritizes economic development issues that will further job creation and private-sector investment. This report, constructed within the framework of state economic development and land use policies, puts Somerset County in a priority position to attract state and federal economic development resources.
   Over the next months, representatives of the public and private sectors will be gathering to further define the economic strategies that will propel our county forward. These conversations will lead to implementation of an economic agenda by addressing the economic challenges and opportunities, inherent strengths, and the national trends and demographic changes that will impact the county. The first examination of our community’s strengths occurred on Friday, June 7, when the Business Partnership hosted a very successful “Showcasing Somerset County’s Economic Competitiveness,” attended by nearly 250 business and political leaders.
   Our challenge as government and business leaders is to do all that is necessary to keep our future bright. The “new normal” of business requires us to lead. We must maximize our advantages of our talented and educated workforce and our ideal location.
   I am convinced that Somerset County is the best run and most proactive county in the state. But that’s today. Without a continuing effort by the public and private sectors things will certainly change, and not necessarily for the better. We must, and will, work diligently to assure that tomorrow lives up to expectations.
Peter S. Palmer
Freeholder Director 