Up at the Airport?

New in Town

Crosstown Moves

Rhone to Rhodia

Expansions

Leaving Town

Deaths

Corrections or additions?

Hill’s Rebirth: Once Again, Trenton Makes

This article by Peter J. Mladineo was published in U.S. 1

Newspaper on February 4, 1998. All rights reserved.

I think I’ve found the secret to economic development,"

says Jim Harveson. "Give away buildings."

He’s only half joking. The director of economic development for the

City of Trenton, Harveson is spearheading perhaps the most vital

project

in the Trenton’s revitalization campaign. He has convinced eight

companies

to move into a vacant industrial complex that had become a symbol

of Trenton’s manufacturing prowess gone south.

Two years after one of Trenton’s major employers, Hill Refrigeration,

left its long-time headquarters, the city has taken control of its

vast 800,000-square-foot plant at 360 Pennington Avenue and enticed

eight companies, including Hill’s direct competitor, International

Fixture Industries of Canada, to occupy Hill’s vacant buildings. It’s

an ingenious plan: the city is giving them the space for free on

condition

that the companies pay for the fit-outs, modifications, and —

most important from the city’s perspective — taxes.

This plan is also helping Trenton realize that it still has plenty

of appeal to certain business sectors. "One thing we found

out,"

explains Alan Mallach, Trenton’s director of housing and development,

"is that there are a large number of strong small and medium-sized

companies out there that do manufacturing, distribution,

remanufacturing,

this sort of thing. They’re not high-profile, not very sophisticated,

but they’re a very important part of the northeastern economy and

Trenton has some good assets that make a lot of sense to these

companies."

In Hill Refrigeration’s departure, Trenton lost a community fixture,

hundreds of jobs, and as many memories. Everybody in Trenton seemed

to have a connection to it. Trenton’s mayor Doug Palmer worked there

as a management trainee. So did Ernie Williams, Trenton’s chief of

police.

Hill’s announcement was especially bad news for Trenton. The city’s

other large manufacturers, Carter Wallace and American Standard, had

announced their departures, but Hill’s decision both surprised and

alienated Trenton. In 1989 Hill had spent $5 million to upgrade the

facility — this certainly was not an indication that within seven

years the company would be calling in the moving trucks. "You

have a company that walked away from a highly skilled, highly

competent

workforce in order to go down to Virginia and, presumably, cut their

costs in building a modern facility," says Mallach.

But Mallach and other city officials maintain that Hill’s primary

objective was not the modern facility at all but rather to trade in

a unionized workforce in Trenton for a non-union, lower-paid workforce

in Virginia. "Hill could have built a modern facility in the

Trenton

area," says Mallach.

"There are so many stories of bitterness people had about the

Hill closing," says Harveson.

Angelo Belardo, IFI’s vice president of operations, worked for Hill

for 40 years: "There were 1,000 families that got screwed up"

because of Hill’s decision to close, he says. "We all came here

to stay here."

But now, as if Trenton is the recipient of some kind of

post-industrial

urban karma, Belardo and as many as 200 other ex-Hill employees will

get to go back to work in their old factory within the next year.

They now have jobs with one of Hill’s direct competitors, IFI.

IFI will sublet 120,000 square feet from Trenton Corrugated Products.

The two will share the centerpiece of the Hill site, a

150,000-square-foot,

"undemolishable" World-War-II-era building that housed a great

deal of Hill’s operation. "I like the irony of it a whole

lot,"

says Mallach.

Based in Montreal, IFI will be using the Trenton site to open the

headquarters of its American subsidiary, IFI Refrigeration. IFI chose

Trenton, the firm’s officials say, solely because of the availability

of Hill’s workforce, which became closely intertwined with IFI after

the plant closed. For instance, Joseph E. Berenato, who worked for

Hill in the ’60s, reports directly to Pierre DeCastris, chairman of

the Canadian parent company.

"We’ve all stayed close and my production manager spent 40 years

in that plant, and between him, myself, and Joe Berenato, we knew

the people who could do the job," says Tom Moffatt, another

ex-Hill

employee. "That’s really the reason we came back to Trenton."

Shortly before Hill closed, Moffatt started a company

called Ameritech, which made commercial refrigeration systems. Its

client was IFI, which hired Ameritech, which employed 40 ex-Hill

employees, when it expanded its operation into the United States.

IFI ended up buying Ameritech in what Moffatt calls "a merger

turned into an acquisition." IFI, Moffatt explains, initially

manufactured only refrigerator cases. As the company expanded

overseas,

it would subcontract out the service of making the systems side of

the refrigerators. But to be competitive with HillPhoenix (Hill’s

new name) in the U.S. market, it would need to be able to handle all

aspects of commercial refrigeration under the same roof. "Hill

produces cases and systems, we need to produce cases and systems to

be competitive," says Moffatt, now IFI Refrigeration’s vice

president

in charge of engineering and sales.

But IFI’s triumphant entry into the Trenton scene is only a fraction

of this story. The transformation of 360 Pennington Avenue wouldn’t

have happened if it weren’t for the initiative of the City of Trenton

after Hill moved out in the fall of 1995. Penpros, the Chicago-based

real estate firm that owned the property, unsuccessfully marketed

it through conventional real estate channels as a single package.

With no bites and faced with the prospects of paying taxes on an empty

building, Penpros came to the city with a proposition in late 1996.

"Their proposition was simple," explains Mallach. "We

would like to give you the property, we would even throw in a

not-insignificant

amount of money to demolish it, on condition that the city is willing

to take title before end of March, 1997."

For the city there was no other viable alternative. Either the city

agreed to take title on the complex, or risk having Penpros give up

marketing it and stop paying taxes, and then have the property fall

prey to urban decay. "By the time the city would take it through

tax foreclosure, the property would be, in all likelihood, a

wreck,"

says Mallach. "From our standpoint it made sense to go out and

take it."

Enter Anthony Pecoraro, president of Trenton Corrugated Products,

a cardboard box manufacturer. The company had been experiencing

growing

pains in cramped quarters on Southard Street. Harveson recalls that

Pecoraro had been reluctantly considering moving the company out of

Trenton about the time the city took title on the Hill complex. "I

said to him, `We just had those buildings given to us, why don’t you

see if you could rent some space from us?’ And the rest is

history."

The pieces of the Hill Refrigeration puzzle started coming together

quickly. Over the next few months, 360 Pennington Road would go from

a post-industrial ghost town to a bustling urban revitalization

project

replete with the rumble of trucks and the crash and clatter of

unusable

buildings being demolished. In all, the city used $350,000 from

Penpros

to wreck 40 percent of the buildings there.

Even Hill Refrigeration’s outmoded paint line found a suitor. The

Hill system, which utilized wet paint, was left intact at the

property.

But since then a more environmentally friendly dry powder system had

become the industry standard. "I started out thinking we had a

real valuable thing and found out it would cost money to get rid

of,"

says Harveson. To the rescue came Certified Metal Finishes, based

in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which is investing between $350,000 to

$500,000

in 54,000 square feet there. It is also taking the paint line and

converting it into a dry powder system. "We’ve been ad-libbing

this from the beginning," says Harveson.

Here’s who else is moving in: Trenton Corrugated Products is investing

$240,000 in 143,000 square feet. Its customer, Genpac decided to take

80,000 square feet for its packaging supply and cardboard box

distribution.

Starting with scarcely more than a frame of a building, Genpac,

currently

based in Deptford, will spend between $500,000 and $1 million to

construct

a warehouse and offices.

CJ Parts Distributors, a Hamilton-based wholesale supplier of auto

parts to state and local government agencies, will take 78,000 square

feet for a fitout cost of about $500,000. GMH Associates, located

on Perry Street in Trenton, rebuilds and repairs water and wastewater

treatment plants, and is taking 12,000 square feet for a $150,000

investment. Janzer Architectural, a high-end mailbox manufacturer,

is taking a total of 27,300 square feet in four buildings for

$200,000.

Also S&S Industrial Equipment & Supply, an industrial equipment

wholesaler,

is taking 30,000 square feet in three buildings at a cost of $100,000.

The deal the city offered to prospective move-ins would sound pretty

attractive to just about any business. As Harveson explains, the

companies

get the space for free — environmental permits included —

but they have to pay for everything else, including taxes. Also, the

companies are contractually bound to stay in the complex and sustain

a steady-sized workforce, or the building is forfeited to the city.

At $0.38 per square foot, the city is expecting to pull in $300,000

a year from the venture, says Harveson. The ratables are considerably

higher elsewhere. If the same complex were in West Windsor, where

commercial ratables are between $1 and $1.50 per square foot, the

building could, potentially, earn $700,000 a year, says Gerald

Fennelly

of Fennelly Associates.

But there is something to be said for keeping industry in the city.

Uncle Sam seems to think so too. The United States Economic

Development

Authority gave the City of Trenton preliminary approvals for a $1

million grant. "They love the idea that we have this urban

industrial

park," says Harveson.

The Hill site is not the first property on Pennington Avenue in

Trenton

to receive help from the government. Just next door, London Harness

& Cable Corp., the Philadelphia-based electrical wiring manufacturer,

received a $500,000 low interest state EDA loan as well as several

other state incentives, to help fix up the Royal Engineering building

at 330 Pennington Avenue, which had come vacant when Royal Engineering

went bankrupt in 1995.

This trend is a dramatic break from the previous decade,

Harveson adds. "People are now willing to move into older

buildings,

where in the ’80s I don’t think I saw one piece of industrial property

change hands," he says. "This is the first time we’ve seen

a rise in the number of manufacturing jobs."

And there’s nowhere else for the Greater Trenton area’s host of

"light

manufacturing" firms to go. "To a large extent we were not

a part of the real estate boom in the late ’80s," says Harveson.

"Now we’re at a point where we’re really seeing a shortage of

industrial buildings. People are going to have to start building new

factories in order to meet the demand, because there’s really nothing

left in the city that’s usable for modern industry."

A major asset for older buildings is that they usually have their

environmental permits in place. The Hill property, Harveson reports,

was sold "from one conglomerate to another" during the

prohibitive

ECRA (Environment Cleanup Responsibility Act) era that was replaced

in the ’90s by the more lenient Industrial Site Reclamation Act

(ISRA).

"Whenever a company would divest a property it had to pass through

that test, so there was a considerable amount of money spent during

the ’80s on environmental cleanup," says Harveson.

All of the businesses moving into the Hill site are family-owned,

and, for the time being at least, are cooperating as if they were

all part of one big extended family. As Harveson explains, the

companies

have formed an association to do common area maintenance and provide

security. "I knew at any point it was going to start getting

vandalized,"

he says.

While Harveson may affect calm as he transforms the site into a

working

facility, the job of point man for a project like this takes its toll.

A good-humored 43-year-old with degrees from Grove City University

in western Pennsylvania and Ball State University, Harveson grew up

in Philadelphia and went into banking when he got out of college.

Harveson, who lives in Trenton with his wife and two children, has

been working for the city since 1984, and has been the director of

economic development since 1987.

Recently Harveson, who jokingly calls himself the "Economic

Development

Tsar," has had to alternate his visits to the Hill site with

visits

to the periodontist. "The stress of this job is causing me to

crush my teeth," he says.

"This is such a great example of how I always underestimate the

complexity of a project. I had no idea of the complexity of this

project,

down to the sewers." The extreme difficulty, he explains, is the

task of having to take one self-contained complex and break it down

into eight self-sufficient units. "You can’t run extension cords

from one to the other," he says.

Although it’s far less glamorous than Trenton’s other revitalization

projects, like the Roebling Complex or KatManDu or the new arena,

this project seems to carry double the importance. "To me this

is the stuff that’s going to give people jobs," he says. "If

you don’t have manufacturing jobs in a city, you’re in big

trouble."

— Peter J. Mladineo

Top Of Page
Up at the Airport?

If anything is going to fly in Trenton, surely it would

be an airline that had cheap flights. Or so everyone thought.

Trenton/Mercer

Airport’s only airline with scheduled passenger service, Eastwind,

has dropped its flagship Boston route due to fare wars.

Undaunted, Tom Patterson presses on with his $10 million airport

business,

Executive JetPort. He has FAA approvals for the site and anticipates

opening on March 10.

The 46-year-old Ewing native aims to rival Ronson Aviation, the

airport’s

principal tenant for more than 20 years, in providing fuel and

service:

turboprop aircraft maintenance, charters, avionics repair, and

aircraft

sales. As a full service Fixed Base Operator (an FBO) Patterson also

wants to offer maintenance for jet planes and commercial passenger

planes and 24-hour customs services (now available in New Jersey only

at Newark and Teterboro).

"We feel we will enhance the foreign trade zone — which should

bring corporate America here," says Patterson. "Our conference

center and our improvements will draw attention and will send the

message that the airport is developing."

Patterson’s plan, as outlined in U.S. 1 last September 10, seems right

on schedule. A graduate of Delaware Valley College in Doylestown,

Class of 1974, he is renovating the 80,000 square foot hangars

previously

occupied by the Naval Air Warfare Center and building a two-story,

atrium-style 20,000 foot corporate headquarters and conference center

on the 27.5 acre property.

Leonard Scozzari of Scozzari Builders on Lawrenceville Road is in

charge of the design-build project, and Ronald E. Vaughn of the Vaughn

Organization on Trenton’s Lafayette Street is the architect. Robert

D’Auria, the controller, is in charge of hiring nearly 100 people

by the end of this year. This month he is interviewing air frame and

power plant mechanics — some from the former Naval Warfare center.

Until the firm is certified for private aircraft maintenance it can

do maintenance by using an individual service person’s license.

Patterson sold his Trenton-based business, Casino Events Marketing,

and sunk that profit into Executive Jetport. His 51 percent ownership

also represents lots of sweat equity; he hopes to be in the black

by the middle of the second year and pay for some of the start-up

costs with revenues. But that budget is based on a 30 percent increase

in overall airport operations and calls for him to gross $10 to $12

million in the first year, increasing to $27 million by third year.

Eastwind insists it is buying a third plane with two more jets due

to arrive by June. That would be good news for Patterson and Executive

Jetport. To reach his goal he needs Eastwind to hunker down and

weather

the winter.

Executive JetPort of New Jersey, 1440 Parkway

Avenue,

Box 7794, West Trenton 08628. 609-883-2146; fax, 609-883-5627. E-mail:

ejpnj1@msn.com.

Top Of Page
New in Town

AIG Aviation, 104 Carnegie Center, Suite 214,

Princeton

08540. Les Wenzel, vice president, branch manager. 609-520-9800; fax,

609-520-9115.

This insurance company is strictly for aviation insurance, for every

type of aviation business, from small planes to parts manufacturers

and airport owners. AIG Aviation was founded in the late 1940s in

Atlanta, Georgia, and opened in New Jersey in 1971. It moved to the

Carnegie Center from Edison in November. As one of four branch offices

it does no sales, only claims and underwriting, and aside from the

larger firms it has a niche competitor, USAIG.

Among the 12 employees here, several have a love for aviation, and

two have current pilots’ licenses, says Janice L. Coombs, office

manager,

who has been with the firm for 24 years. Several of the firms that

operate from Princeton Airport have insurance coverage from AIG.

Integrated Photonic Systems Inc., 36 South Broad

Street, Trenton Business & Technology Center, Box 717, Clarksburg

08510. Larry West, president. 609-259-1654; fax, 609-259-9299. Home

page: http://www.intphsys.com.

The last time we wrote about Larry West, he was a non-resident client

of the Rutgers Technology Help Desk and Incubator (U.S. 1, July 30,

1997). Now he has taken up residence in another incubator, the Trenton

Business and Technology Center. Formerly based in Clarksburg, his

firm makes integrated optical logic devices.

A graduate of California Tech, Class of 1977, with a PhD from

Stanford,

West had worked on weapons systems at the Lawrence Livermore

Laboratories

and at Bell Labs at Holmdel. In 1994 he left and took with him his

system to aid laboratory scientists align their delicate equipment.

Top Of Page
Crosstown Moves

Kren Business Machines, 44 Bresnahan Road,

Robbinsville

08691. Albert Kren, owner. 609-426-1022; fax, 609-426-0050.

Albert Kren started a typewriter repair business in 1960 and though

the machines have changed — he now services everything from fax

machines to copiers and printers — he’s still going strong. But

he did close his storefront on Alexander Road. "The building was

up for sale," he says, "and I have more room to do what I’m

doing at home." Phone and fax are new.

Top Of Page
Rhone to Rhodia

Rhodia Inc., Prospect Plains Road, CN 7500,

Cranbury

08512-7500. David Eckert, president and CEO of North American

chemicals.

609-860-4000; fax, 609-860-0074.

Twenty-five former Rhone Poulenc workers are moving this week from

103 College Road to Cranbury. They have a new name on the door —

Rhodia Inc. — and as of January 1, a new president and CEO. David

D. Eckert succeeded Peter J. Neff.

Of the 850 people in New Jersey, 650 are at the Prospect Plains

headquarters

— 30 percent research workers and the rest administrators. The

headquarters used to be at 219 Black Horse Lane and that enclave now

has 200 employees.

Rhodia plans an initial public offering in April and, after the split,

Rhone Poulenc has begun to concentrate on its original focus, the

life sciences, leaving Rhodia with the fibers & polymers and chemicals

divisions.

Rhodia was the original name of the firm, which established operations

in the United States in 1948. It now has five divisions: specialty

chemicals for industrial markets (silicones, coatings, construction

materials); consumer specialty chemicals (food ingredients,

phosphates,

detergents, surfactants such as personal care items and soap);

organic,

pharmaceutical, and agrichemical intermediates (such as aspirin and

fine organic chemicals but not pesticides and herbicides); ecoservices

(sulfuric acid regeneration); and rare earths (magnets, cadmium for

nickel cadmium batteries, and polyester film that can be used to

package

candy).

Also belonging to Rhodia are a chemical plant at 298 Jersey Avenue

in New Brunswick that makes organic intermediates — flavors and

fragrances, cumarin, and custom manufacturing (732-418-5617; fax,

732-247-1734).

Top Of Page
Expansions

HexaWare Technologies Inc., 5 Independence Way,

Second Floor, Princeton 08540. Avi Lele, COO. 609-951-9195; fax,

609-951-9638.

Home page: http://www.hexaware.com.

HexaWare vacated 4,000 square feet at 13 Roszel Road and expanded

to 10,000 square feet at 5 Independence Way. It has offices in

England,

Dubai, Bahrain, Singapore, and Malaysia. Its headquarters is in

Mumbai,

India (formerly Bombay). Clients include Blue Cross, Princeton

University,

ADP, and Bankers Trust.

The COO, Avi Lele, is in charge of North American operations. The

employee count is up to 80 in Princeton, 1,500 worldwide. Barbara

Young, a company spokesperson, attributes the firm’s growth to its

Year 2000 services. "We are very active in the Y2K market and

we’ve opened a lot of new offices this year," she says. "We’re

about a $9 million company and we expect to be a $20 million by the

end of ’98."

Princeton Multimedia Technologies Corp., 145

Witherspoon

Street, Princeton 08540. Rick Weiss, president. 609-497-4600; fax,

609-497-0660.

Rick Weiss predicted last year that if his business were awarded an

SBIR Phase II contract, he would expand from his home into an office

location. Sure enough, he won the grant and now he has moved. Phone

and fax are the same. Weiss, who went to Carnegie Mellon (Class of

1980) and has a masters from Princeton University, is devising

nutritional

analysis software systems for metabolic research studies (U.S. 1,

November 19, 1997).

Top Of Page
Leaving Town

Haan Team Corp., 3490 Route 1, Princeton.

215-830-9258;

fax, 215-830-1158.

Jonathan Yi sold his exporting firm based at 3490 Route 1 and is now

working for Samsung Corporation in Fort Lee. Haan Team’s new president

is Chris Seu, who moved the firm to Pennsylvania. The mailing address

is PO Box 155, Horsham, PA 19044.

Werneke Ink, 625 Montrose Avenue, South Plainfield

07080. Terry Westerhaug, operations manager. 908-769-8850; fax,

908-769-7225.

The sales office for the environmentally safe printing inks

manufacturer

moved from 204 North Centre Drive, North Brunswick. The firm makes

water-based and UV inks for the printing industry. Phone and fax are

new.

Top Of Page
Deaths

Ezra L. Bixby, 69, on January 26. He chaired the Stony

Brook Regional Sewer Authority from 1972 to 1997.


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