In past years, the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrated the holidays with its monthly luncheon. The program consisted of a choral group, usually from Westminster Choir College, with some festive music. It never got a mention in U.S. 1’s Life in the Fast Lane column.

This year the chamber is going all-out with an awards gala that, not incidentally, can be expected to raise some big bucks. At the sold-out festivities on Wednesday, December 3, at Jasna Polana, three people will receive awards: Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton University, will be honored as innovator of the year; David Holmes, CEO of Eden Family of Services, as leader of the year; and Peter Dawson, president of Leigh Photo and Imaging, as entrepreneur of the year.

On top of that, the gala has generated some controversy. William N. Taylor of Taylor Photo at 743 Alexander Road raises an objection to the awards for Holmes and Dawson because they are also members of the chamber board. (See the letter to the editor, page 2).

The chamber responds that none of the three award recipients nominated themselves, nor did they vote on themselves. Dawson’s award was voted on by an outside organization and Holmes was not present when the board voted.

In fact, the Entrepreneur of the Year award has been given every year and is modeled after other national programs, says Kristin Appleget, chamber president. As always, nominations were solicited from the members. The nominees filled out lengthy firms, and the selections were made by independent judges — faculty members at Rider University who run the Entrepreneur Institute.

This year is the first time that a "Leader of the Year" award has been given, and the awardee, David Holmes, represents a not-for-profit that is an international leader in providing services for children and adults with autism. "Anyone who knows the work of Eden Institute knows that David Holmes is an international leader," says Appleget. Holmes was also the chairman of the chamber in 2002, a tumultuous year in which the post of executive director was vacant for six months. "Most people know the time and effort he spent in his term as chair to keep this organization going," says Appleget. "This is a recognition, not just of his leadership at the chamber, but of his critical health and education role in the community."

Tilghman’s honor carries no controversy. "She defines innovation," says Appleget, "as the university reaches out in the community, from creating a bus system that may grow into the transportation system we so desperately need, to building a genomics center and a Frank Gehry-designed library."

The December 3 gala is sold out, but the chamber helps host holiday cheer at an "office party" on Wednesday, December 10, at the Culture Club from 5:30 to 8 p.m. If your company is not throwing a party this year, here is a no-muss, no-fuss alternative. Call 609-520-1776 for reservations. Cost: $40.

Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, 216 Rockingham Row, Princeton 08540. Kristin Appelget, president and CEO. 609-520-1776; fax, 609-520-9107. Home page: www.princetonchamber.org

Bringing Snapshots Into the 21st Century

With DVD ownership growing by nearly 60 percent over the last three years, DVD players are a hot item on Santa’s list.

But what do families do with all their old videotapes? To say nothing of even dustier technology, such as 8 millimeter film and fading slides and photos. You can’t sacrifice that footage of grandpa in a diaper just because you no longer own a film projector, nor do you want to have to store your old VCR and bring it out on special occasions to look at old wedding tapes.

Two new companies aim to make this transition easy. Jim and Tracy Leahy have opened a business to do VHS transfer to DVD and DVD production for both the consumer and commercial markets. Li Wang is focusing more on the consumer entertainment market, particularly photo albums. Both are at-home businesses now but expect to grow.

Wang graduated from Nankai University in 1988 and has an MBA from Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island. She worked for Beckman Instruments and Clark & Associates in New Jersey before opening her own firm. She and her husband, Jian Chen, a research scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb, have two children.

"Our focus is on DVD services to better preserve, manage, and showcase your treasured video and photographs," says Wang. Her basic service involves tape or film transfer onto a DVD disc. She also creates DVD photo albums by digitizing the photos, children’s art, newspaper clippings, diplomas, military papers, and logos, also with special effects.

Additional services might be recording from multiple sources, adding interactive menus with titles and scene index pages, and customizing the DVD jewel case with family photos. Wang can also transfer slides to DVDs and do custom video editing, (transferring the best parts of multiple video tapes to the DVD) with special effects, family photos, and/or favorite music and text.

The Leahys have also set themselves up with professional quality equipment — VCR, PC, digital cam corder, color printer, and sound mixer — and expect to turn what is now a part-time business into a full-time profit center very soon.

"For the consumer market we could work with a wedding video to enhance it by adding photos, montages, and music. For the commercial market, we see tremendous applications in any business, everything from point of sale presentations to museum restoration projects," says Tracy Leahy. "For almost every business we look at, we find a DVD application."

Jim Leahy was a physical education major at Glassboro State, Class of 1972, who was an IT consultant at JP Morgan Chase. Tracy Leahy grew up in Princeton, the daughter of a psychologist and a food service consultant. She has her BA in economics from Rutgers, Class 1984, and an MBA in finance from New York University’s Stern School. She has been a publishing consultant and a consultant on food service to such cultural centers as the Mann Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center and is continuing the consulting part time.

"The DVD market is just exploding," says Leahy. "That signifies tremendous potential. On a personal level, we wanted to start something new and challenging, requiring creativity, in a really hot market."

Cherry Valley Studio, 121 York Drive, Princeton 08540. Li Wang, owner. 609-688-9520. Home page: www.cherryvalleystudio.com

Designs on DVD, 224 Cleveland Lane, Princeton 08540. Jim and Tracy Leahy, owners. 732-438-8500; fax, 732-274-1846. Home page: www.designsondvd.com

Paytrust Closes Up

Paytrust Inc./Metavante, 4900 West Brown Deer Road, Milwaukee WI 53223. Ed McLaughlin, vice president for e-finance strategy and business development. 609-720-1818; fax, 609-720-1819. E-mail: info@paytrust.com Home page: www.paytrust.com

When Paytrust moved to 2572 Brunswick Pike it had 50 employees rattling around in 50,000 square feet, a space big enough for 400 people. Paytrust, which had 300 employees nationwide at that time, is an Internet service that enables consumers to receive, review, approve, and pay all bills electronically. Like many dotcoms, it had big plans for expansion.

But in July, 2002 it was sold to Milwaukee-based Metavante, and the consolidation began. "When we acquired Paytrust we stated we planned to consolidate consumer service provider operations under one platform, and we are following that strategy," says Chip Swearngan, spokesperson for Metavante, which is wholly owned by Marshall and Ilsley Corporation (NYSE: MI).

Now fewer than a dozen people work in the building that used to house the operations, development, and quality network departments, and by the first quarter of 2004 they will be gone. Meanwhile 20,000 square feet has been subleased back to the landlord (Jon Parker, formerly in the printing business), and 30,000 square feet are ready for a sub-tenant.

Glenn Hazard, who was brought on board as chairman and CEO, no longer works there. Ed McLaughlin, co-founder of Paytrust, still lives in the Princeton area and is vice president for E-finance strategy and business development. Flint Lane, the other co-founder, has started a new company, Billtrust, on Everett Drive.

"We announced in February, 2003, that we did intend to close that facility by midyear, and we followed through with that," says Swearngan. Employees were eligible to receive company-paid severance, he notes. Some have moved to Milwaukee to work at Metavante’s headquarters, but none went from Princeton to work at the call center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Just before Metavante purchased the assets of Paytrust, it had bought a similar firm, CyberBills. Its latest version of a consumer service provider platform, CSPVersion 6, combines the best technologies of Cyberbills and Paytrust.

"With this new platform we think we have the best user experience in the industry," says McLaughlin in a telephone interview. "The consumer interface will download six times faster, and there will be a payment engine and better reporting capabilities."

McLaughlin declined to comment on the expectations he had had five years ago when the company was new, whether he had planned to sell it or go public: "One of the great things about starting a company is you don’t really know where it will end up."

Besam Automated Entrances Systems Inc., 84 Twin Rivers Drive, Hightstown 08520. 609-443-5800; fax, 609-443-9162.

In August Besam posted a notice that it would be laying off 93 people on Twin Rivers Drive. Unofficial sources confirm that the layoffs took place but the company did not return calls asking for confirmation. This is the United States factory for a Swedish-based automatic door manufacturer.

Start-Ups

Marcus Hinz Management Company, 2312 Mercerville Road, Suite 206, Hamilton 08619. Marcus J. Hinz MBA, financial services executive. 609-631-9102; fax, 609-631-9979. Www.metlife.com

After 16 years with MetLife, most recently as branch manager in Lawrenceville, Marcus Hinz opened a financial planning office along with his former MetLife cohort, Robert Stolte. The Hinz & Stolte Financial Group has Metlife Financial Services as its carrier.

A native of Frankfurt, Germany, where his father was a civil engineer, Hinz has an accounting degree from Georgian Court College, Class of 1987, and an MBA from Monmouth University.

Expansions

The Yardville National Bancorp has purchased the facility of First Savings Bank at 1225 Brunswick Avenue in Lawrenceville and will open the branch under its new name on Monday, December 8 at 9 a.m. By acquiring its 21st branch the bank is expected to add approximately $40 million to its deposit base of over $1.4 billion. First Savings customers who had banked at 1225 Brunswick Avenue will now have Yardville National Bank accounts. First Savings Bank is a subsidiary of First Sentinel Bancorp. The price of Yardville’s acquisition was not disclosed.

The 1225 Brunswick Avenue branch will close on Friday, December 5, at 3 p.m. to make the change.

Yardville National Bancorp (YANB), 4556 South Broad Street, Box 8487, Trenton 08650-8487. Patrick M. Ryan, CEO. 609-581-2809; fax, 609-584-5984.

Management Moves

Ford Farewell Mills and Gatsch, Architects LLC, 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 301, Princeton 08540-6235. James A. Gatsch, managing partner. 609-452-1777; fax, 609-452-7192. Home page: www.ffmg.com

Jeremiah (Jerry) Ford, co-founder of the architectural practice that has grown to become Ford Farewell Mills and Gatsch, is leaving the firm after 30 years, not to retire, but to open his own small firm, Ford 3 Architects at 32 Nassau Street. "One of my major thrusts is to do Princeton work — residential jobs and smaller scale jobs — and the job I am taking with me is the headquarters for Delaware & Raritan Greenway on Rosedale Road," says Ford.

New in Town

Comprehensive Neuroscience Inc., 2 Tree Farm Road, Suite A-110, Pennington 08534. Richard Surles, senior vice president. 609-737-6565.

Richard Surles has opened an office of Comprehensive Neuroscience, a division of a 300-person White Plains-based company that works in the areas of behavioral pharmacy management systems, physician education, and research.

Deaths

Jerome W. Clinton , 66, on November 7. He had been a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University.

Linda J. Eresia , 62, on November 23. She was a retirement benefits manager at Ceridian at 1 Independence Way.

Suzanne Freeman Marder , 64, on November 26. At Educational Testing Service she helped develop the first national computerized test for licensing registered nurses, and then had worked with her husband in his Heavenly Ham franchise at Mercer Mall.

Anne L. DeCicco , 53, on November 26. She was president of the Travel Goods Association at 5 Vaughn Drive and had been corporate vice president for the New Jersey Hospital Association on Alexander Road.

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