Hopewell Valley is known for its parklands, its rolling hills, and its tranquil farms. While it may not be Manhattan, it’s still a good place to do business. The mayors of the three communities that make up Hopewell Valley will get a chance to talk to (and hear from) the business community directly at a Mid- Jersey Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, June 19, at 11:30 a.m. at Hopewell Valley Vineyards. The mayors will evaluate economic progress in their towns and forecast what lies ahead for business. Hopewell Township mayor Vanessa Sandom, Hopewell Borough mayor Paul Anzano, and Pennington Borough mayor Anthony Persichilli will all speak. Tickets are $40 for members, $50 for nonmembers. For more information, visit www.midjerseychamber.org, call 609-689-9960, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandom knows a bit about business. She is the daughter of an American Express executive and spent her childhood traveling through Europe. She lived overseas until she returned to America to get her bachelor’s degree at the University of Connecticut. She then earned a master of public and private management from Yale, graduating in 1981 and embarking on a career in the corporate world — mostly in finance and marketing — that saw her work for GE and Johnson & Johnson. She quit in 1989 to raise her two sons, although during that time she also co-founded and ran a research and publishing company called Knowledge Source Inc.
She left Knowledge Source in 2000 to become active in politics. She was drawn to local politics because of her opposition to a sewer expansion project in the late 1990s. She has served on the township committee since 2001 and the committee has elected her mayor on seven different occasions.
U.S. 1 interviewed Sandom about the ins and outs of business in Hopewell Valley.
What are some of the reasons why someone would want to locate their business in Hopewell Valley?
Hopewell Valley’s cost of doing business, from a leased space perspective, is more competitive than some of its neighboring towns like the greater Princeton.
We have one of the highest income per capita averages in the Mercer County area.
The valley’s largest employers include Capital Health, BMS, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, Zydus Pharmaceuticals, and of course Bank of America. We have a large number of businesses that provide all manner of services to our local companies as well as neighboring Princeton University, ETS, and the Route 1 corridor businesses.
Our diverse and talented employee base can provide almost any service a company could need.
This is a great community to not only locate a business but also to raise a family. We are fortunate to offer an extraordinary quality of life for employees with massive amounts of preserved land accessible to the public for recreation. Hopewell Valley’s 60 square miles extend from the Sourland Mountains all the way to the Delaware River. We have exemplary public schools and private schools in the area. There is easy access to Mercer Airport. Take Route 95 from the valley and you are in Philadelphia in 40 minutes and in New York City in 60 minutes. All these amenities and many more support a healthy business and entrepreneurial community in which to both work and start a business in a one of a kind community.
What trends have you seen in the business community over the past few years?
Our smaller businesses provide products and services to our larger companies and the community at large. Over the last few years, there has been a strong effort to support our local business community and keep our dollars in the valley. This is coming from the residents to a degree but even more so from the business community supporting each other in a more meaningful way.
Our local farms and businesses continue to grow as more and more people want to eat local and shop local and purchase local services and products. This trend will surely continue and grow. We are also seeing many local entrepreneurial companies choosing to both work and live in the valley. People are investing in their local towns so as to reduce commutes and travel time and their carbon footprint as well.
Our residents love to work and live in Hopewell Valley. It has become a quality of life issue to work closer to where you live and raise your family. This has been a big draw for our area and we see a lot of movement in that direction. There is also a renewed interest in promoting artisans and artists valley- wide. The latest and largest example of this is the founding of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council.
What is Hopewell Township doing to attract business and keep existing businesses healthy? Is there any particular industry you are hoping to attract?
Hopewell Township has long been interested in attracting and supporting small and large businesses in the health care industry. A few years ago, we were very active in promoting the benefits of the valley to Capital Health as it considered relocating to a suburban community. In addition to Capital Health, many of our local businesses provide services to the large pharmaceutical companies in the area.
We’d also like to attract more cutting edge green technology businesses such as World Water & Solar Technologies (a supplier of solar-powered water for drinking and irrigation to developing countries) and Ocean Power and Technologies (a leading renewable energy company specializing in cost-effective, advanced, and environmentally sound wave power technology), as well as high-end niche businesses such as Interstate Motorsport, a provider of luxury cars.
That said, part of what makes a sustainable community is a viable business community where our residents can shop local. We are working hard to automate and streamline our licensing and permitting processes to make it easier to start up and maintain a business in the township.
What challenges have you faced trying to bring new businesses in?
Sometimes lending is a holdup. At other times, we see limitations on available space.
Still a big challenge is the high cost of living for business owners and employees in the form of taxes, which makes our proximity to Pennsylvania one of our biggest challenges.