Corrections or additions?
These articles by Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
October 13, 1999. All rights reserved.
Housing in the Wealth Belt
Trenton didn’t make it to Money magazine’s "Best
Places to Live In America" this year, but if you’re looking for
some good news about New Jersey, here it is: Central New Jersey may
not win any popularity contests, but when it comes to real wealth
per square foot, it’s hard to beat it.
Mercer and neighboring counties constitute what researchers at Rutgers’
Bloustein School of Public Policy are calling "The Emerging Wealth
Belt," an area that includes Mercer, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth,
Morris, and Somerset counties. Here personal income has risen roughly
$35,000 in the past 20 years, with Somerset ranking the wealthiest
county in per capita personal income. Per capita equalized valuation
(the market value of real estate property) has gone from $5,791 to
$75,369 in the past three decades, so that central New Jersey has
finally nosed ahead of Bergen and Essex in real property wealth per
Unlike New Jersey’s northern metropolitan-edge counties, which have
run out of space to develop, however, central Jersey’s growth spurt
isn’t over, says James W. Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School
and editor of the "The Emerging Wealth Belt: New Jersey’s New
Millennium Geography" (Rutgers University Press, 800-466-9323).
"The market is not saturated yet," says Hughes. "It all
depends on the state of the economy, but if it continues at the brisk
pace of the 1990s we’re going to see a long run in front of us in
terms of large-scale housing."
So far the state’s economy has been tireless. This year alone, 116
businesses migrated to central New Jersey, according to a press release
from the office of the Governor. Over the past 20 years, employment
in the area has doubled, reaching a total of 1.3 million jobs, according
to the Rutgers report. "We were well aware of these broad shifts
taking place," says Hughes, "but the wealth belt is really
the greatest economic pattern dominating the state."
Evidence of that pattern can is the new sub-suburban housing developments,
where "McMansions," Hughes’ term for large, single-family
homes, dominate the formerly rural landscape. While the big, expensive
houses continue to be in high demand, within the next 10 years, another
demographic shift — the maturing of the babyboomers — could
bring about big changes in the residential real estate market. The
maturing babyboomers are likely to scale down, says Hughes, and migrate
back to villages and towns, where everything is close at hand. "Once
they are freed of time constraints they’re going to want to be near
cultural facilities," he says. "It’s really places like downtown
Princeton that would bode well in the future."
But the McMansions that the boomers leave aren’t likely to fill with
cobwebs — it’s the Levittowns that are in real danger. "Overbuilding
may be possible at some point," says Hughes, "but as in any
type of market, it will be the obsolete, older, less desirable product
that bears of the brunt of change," including early split-level,
post-World War II tract housing. "In many cases that housing does
not have the amenities that today’s buyers want."
In fact, housing development may remain strong if the boomers seek
to continue their affluent lifestyles on a smaller scale. "I think
what empty-nesters will look for is all the same qualities — double
height spaces, high ceilings, big bathrooms, and a specialized computer
room — just packaged in a lower-maintenance format," he says.
"I think it will be a square foot adjustment, not any loss of
All that makes for good challenges in both development and preservation
over the next 10 years, says Hughes, who graduated from Rutgers with
a BS in planning and engineering, Class of 1965, and was one of the
first members of the school’s PhD program in Urban Planning. "New
Jersey is a laboratory for looking at economic development and planning
issues in the nation," he says. "We’re at the forefront of
the new information age, and open space preservation and planning
law in New Jersey have always been on the cutting edge."
There’s no guarantee that, long after you’re gone, your
big backyard won’t be sold to housing developers, or that big 150-year-old
maple where your children first learned how to swing and climb won’t
be cleared for a new bypass.
Open space is a precious commodity in central New Jersey — Representative
Rush Holt recently noted the state has a "denser population than
India." While the state is doing as much as it can to protect
some of it, private property is difficult to preserve. So whether
it’s egocentricity or eco-sensitivity that motivates you, you can
do your part as a homeowner to influence how your land will look a
hundred years from now.
The D&R Greenway (609-924-4646) is an organization that can help you
protect your estate, regardless of whether it is handed over to the
government or remains in the family. Property owners can chose from
the following different arrangements, each with different tax and
and D&R Greenway monitors and defends restriction on subdivision and
development with all future property owners. This usually includes
provisions for agricultural and recreational use of the land, and
substantially reduces the value of the property for inheritance tax
purposes, enabling the land to remain in the family.
property (with obvious cash and tax benefits) to the Greenway. It
then becomes permanent open space and will be transferred to a public
agency, which designates it as park land.
transferred to D&R Greenway and the owner reserves the use of the
property for his or her lifetime. There are tax benefits to this,
since the property is then removed from the value of the estate.
to D&R Greenway at the time of his or her death, the property is permanently
protected and exempt from inheritance tax.
complete their appraisal of the land. It’s always less than market
value, but then again, you can’t take it with you.
Chemical engineers need to shed their lab coats and
seek jobs that cross into other fields, says Betty Feehan, a
career counselor at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in
New York. "A lot of people feel that if they started in the petroleum
industry they have to retire in the petroleum industry," says
Feehan, who has been in consulting for 25 years. "My mission is
to enable people to see other options."
Among these options: Abounding opportunities for scientists in consulting,
the burgeoning biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and yes,
even in the field of computer software development. "It’s an unusual
market out there in that the ones doing well are those who are moving
about, looking at alternatives — who see the opportunities for
parlaying strength and experiences," says Feehan.
On Wednesday, October 20, Feehan teaches scientists and engineers
how to market themselves in today’s economy at a workshop at Princeton
University’s Engineering Quadrangle. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. Cost:
$20. Call 973-244-0600.
Feehan received a BS in math from Mount Saint Vincent, Class of 1963,
and a masters from Manhattan College before becoming a teacher, college
administrator, and human resources rep on Wall Street. Prior to joining
the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, she worked as a consultant
with Deloitte and Touche. "I’ve had a sort of checkered career,
the common ingredient being working with people for their own prosperity,"
Although not a chemist herself, Feehan says she understands the machinations
of the scientist’s mind; she knows where their strengths lie, and
what tendencies may cause their careers to stagnate. "They’re
very bright people because they’ve mastered a curriculum that includes
an array of sciences so they look at problems more holistically,"
she says. "The question is can someone who knows how to look at
a process holistically see all the possibilities for herself or himself?"
One such possibility: working in supervisory or managerial roles.
"An individual who has been working in an organization often has
to sell his or her ideas, and that skill in cajoling people into doing
something is very marketable these days," says Feehan. "Consulting
companies and software companies need that. Someone who is a good
manager or good team leader may be accustomed to leading people in
a specific industry, and that’s a transferable skill."
It’s important to take inventory of these kinds of skills, says Feehan.
To that end:
tool, or employing a career coach. "We all have financial planners,
and fitness managers, there are many people that are actually hiring
a coach," says Feehan.
"I think more people have failures at work because of their inability
to work in a particular context rather than an application of skill,"
says Feehan. "I work with a lot of people who have just left a
job because of reorganization or downsizing, and in any downsizing.
I often ask are you glad to be out of there and often times people
say yes, it was just a bad fit. Individuals have to look around and
see what they really like about an environment."
"Chemists look at things from a very intellectual point of view,
and sometimes in job searching you have to have some emotion,"
she says. "They need to think about what kind of person they are,
what kind of people like to work with, not just what they do."
In short, a successful career begins with good job chemistry.
A technical wizard doesn’t necessary make a good IT
person, nor is a good sales rep always an extrovert. Even with today’s
labor shortage, employers need to look beyond strictly technical skills
and look at a worker’s attitude, says Candace Kucy, a hiring
consultant. "Skills are easy to teach," she says. "Most
of the time I’m brought in is because of attitude or behavior problems.
Some companies just want to find a warm body to put in a seat, but
if the person doesn’t work out, there’s a cost to that person, there’s
certainly a cost to the company."
Kucy’s motto: there is no such thing as a good or bad employee, just
a good or bad fit. On Thursday, October 14, she discusses "The
New Art of Hiring Smart" at HQ Metropark Conference Room in Iselin
at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Call 908-276-2914.
Kucy, who runs her own consulting business in Cranford, Renaissance
Strategies Inc., holds a BS in marketing from Rutgers, Class of 1975,
and started out as a sales rep for Legs Pantyhose during the 1970s.
Bully managers or disgruntled employees show up in just about every
company, says Kucy, either because that behavior was encouraged in
the past, or they were hired solely on their technical achievements.
"The traditional model was that you want drivers, people who bulldoze
over all the obstacles," says Kucy. "Businesses tended to
reward the people who went out and made all those things happen. Most
managers tend to still look at a person’s technical skills because
that’s something that’s easy to quantify."
Since businesses have to be more responsive to customers and to a
changing economy, says Kucy, different skills are required. "Today,
it calls for more teamwork between technical, non-technical, financing,
and manufacturing," she says. "A lot of companies give lip
service that teamwork is important, but when it comes down to it,
they push results. So the people who push hardest and scream loudest
are usually rewarded."
Cloning is another hiring error. "An entrepreneur thinks, well,
that’s what my style so if I hire even more of me then we should be
able to grow faster," says Kucy. "The problem is when you
get too many people of one kind you lose balance. I tell small business
owners to look for someone who is not necessary the opposite, but
who really brings different skills to the table, so that there will
be a whole different class of customers drawn to a different kind
Yes, sales people should be outgoing, but there are other considerations:
"If they’re selling a product that requires a lot of hand-holding
and backup, hiring someone with just that isn’t going to do it."
Businesses are also discovering that technical skills are not paramount
in computer programmers or networkers, says Kucy. "The product
development process requires a lot of teamwork between the marketing
people and the customers," says Kucy. "They found the team
work skills were much more important than they had thought."
Corrections or additions?
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