Other Centers

Corrections or additions?

This article by Michele Alperin was prepared for the January 8, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Mercer’s New Centerpiece for Corporate Training

Red brick set against white panels, crowned with


silver triangles, the Conference Center at Mercer blends with its

surroundings at Mercer County Community College, yet signals its


of educational outreach into the business community. Reflecting the

center’s role as nexus between college and community, its outside

design is "as close to the campus as possible," says center

architect James Faridy, "but somewhat different — like the

diamond on the ring, so that people will know `there’s the corporate


The idea for the new center was a natural outgrowth of the college’s

success in workforce training, says Robert R. Rose, president of MCCC,

referring to the programs offered by the college’s Division of


and Community Programs.

Rose Nini has been dean of this division for 18 years. She has built

an impressive enterprise for corporate education and training that

receives no government subsidies. Yet this program was severely


by lack of space, and prospective corporate participants were daunted

by having to trek from far-flung parking lots.

"We were growing by leaps and bounds," says Nini. "At

the same time, college enrollments were growing, and it became


to find space on campus for training. We have always had to make do

with what the academic division was not going to use for a particular

semester. We couldn’t plan ahead."

"Now we are planning these wonderful one and two-day


says Nini. "Now we can leverage the reputation we have built.

We are not just going into the conferencing business — this is

another whole layer of services provided to the business community

on top of our courses and customized training." Carpenters are

still putting on finishing touches, but the first conference is set

for Monday, January 13.

The technology here is so advanced that the center can webcast


in real time. Everything is here, from the talent pool of MCCC’s


to the workstations for computer training. And the center has its

own dedicated parking lot.

To scientifically verify the need for a new center, the college


a study by Response Analysis. As expected, it showed businesses


to retool the work force and invest in their own employees as well

as individuals looking to enhance their skills.

Although the center was initially conceived as a home where Nini’s

division could expand programs, the concept later shifted slightly

to its current configuration as a training center for both MCCC and

the business community.

Financing for the center was secured through a pool of government

money available to community colleges in New Jersey, says Eric


MCCC’s vice president of administration and finance. Under the program

the county sells bonds, and the state then pays half the cost back

to the county.

Eventually the college also expects the conference center to be a

financial resource. Companies are being offered naming rights in


for donations to the MCCC Foundation, which solicits support both

for scholarship programs and technology upgrades at the center.


National Bank has already stepped forward to set its name to the


center’s atrium.

Design details grew out of intensive discussions between

Nini, Nunzio Cernero, the division’s assistant dean, and the team

from Faridy Veisz Fraytak, the firm on Lower Ferry Road that focuses

on educational institutions.

Users would require computer labs, training areas, conference rooms,

plug-ins for laptops, video and teleconferencing capabilities,


access, networking spaces, and areas to use cell phones. Division

staff and the IT department would need office and planning space.

Instructors needed spaces to prepare their materials.

The building that resulted from the cooperative effort is uniquely

flexible. The 219-seat tiered auditorium is fully wired for laptops

and Internet access and is acoustically designed to be a theater


There are eight training and breakout rooms, which vary in capacity

from 14 to 126 people. The five computer labs accommodate from 14

to 22 people; four use stand-alone PCs, and the fifth uses laptops

so that it can double as a regular meeting room. All rooms are


soundproof. The 3,000-foot bricked atrium can be used for social


as well as for conference registration. More than two-and-a-half


high, it has large windows and a slate floor. Dee Rosebrock,


center manager, hopes to display sculptures on the atrium floor and

to showcase Mercer County artists.

"We are capable of running a large conference of 200 people with

breakouts or a number of small-group activities," says Rosebrock.

"We could have 10 small groups simultaneously or some


The key is flexibility, she explains. A huge space is unnecessary,

because most professional training tends to be done in smaller


The facility, which will be available seven days a week from 7 a.m.

until late in the evening, will also have a full business service

center off the atrium for office support and transportation


Other design details reflect the careful planning process:


correct furniture; a small kitchen for center staff as well as a


catering kitchen; ceiling projectors in almost every room; smart


two chair lifts, one in the auditorium to take disabled instructors

to the stage and another at the front of the building; a green room

for instructors behind the auditorium stage, where they can change

and stow their paraphernalia; and patios outside the auditorium and

the multipurpose/dining room for outdoor seating in warm weather.

The up-to-date technology, integral to the center’s design, will


video conferencing, teleconferencing, and webcasting, and the center’s

wiring infrastructure has a gigabyte capability. Internet connectivity

extends throughout the facility, and the center has its own servers,

enabling companies to download their own software and use it for


Because the current technology is 100 times faster than previous


Rose expects the system to meet the community’s needs for an extended

period of time.

The Conference Center will have its own dedicated technician to handle

the day-to-day audiovisual and technical needs of clients but will

also have access to staff within the college to address more



"Our onsite technicians and engineers can also do the legwork

to set up sites we project to," says Rosebrock. If a remote site

goes down during a conference, her staff will be able to troubleshoot

and walk people at the other end through the process.

Citing half a dozen potential clients with very sophisticated


needs, Rosebrock says, "They must be comfortable using our IT

people and know that we can do what we promise."

Rosebrock describes several potential uses of the new center’s



Webcasting: A client with offices in several countries

can bring in 125 sales people for a five-day training program that

is transmitted simultaneously to its offices world wide. "We will

record and feed the training program through the Web," explains

Rosebrock, "and people at their desks can watch the training


as it occurs on our West Windsor campus," selecting only those

parts pertinent to their work. The result is savings for the company,

"They don’t have to fly people in, house them, and have them away

from the office for couple of days."

Videoconferencing. A local area network line can create

an environment where people from a limited number of sites can all


Teleconferencing. Transmitted through a satellite feed,

teleconferencing can be useful for quickly communicating information

like a corporate policy change to large groups.

Tape and CD production. The center will be able to create

professional audio tapes, video tapes, and CDs, including taping,

editing, and production. Besides being able to send the tape to people

who could not attend the conference, Rosebrock says, "It gives

you a history — what happened, what did we decide, where are we


A graduate of Kean University with a master’s degree

in industrial relations and collective bargaining from Rutgers,


ran a training institute for the state and then was in charge of


conference sites. For nine years she directed a conference center

for Solaris Health Systems, then moved to be assistant manager of

the Chauncey Conference Center.

Customers are becoming more sophisticated about their needs, she says.

"When customers call, they are not expecting you to be an order

taker. They are asking for input into their meeting, how it should

be designed, the impact of different setups."

Sensitivity to the needs of the conference attendees may require extra

expenditures in the short term, "but it’s worth it — it’s

an investment." She is always thinking five years into the future:

"We have to build a customer base that knows we give what we


that we meet needs."

Consequently, she and her staff prepare carefully for each booking.

For example, they do Internet research on a company and its


to find ways to "surprise and delight them." In a previous

job, when she booked Best Foods (owners of Entenmann’s baked goods

as well as a number of sauces), her chefs served Entenmann’s desserts

used their sauces in lunch recipes.

If more than one organization requests the facility at the same time,

Rosebrock has to ensure that the organizations will complement each

other. "You wouldn’t book a big social event and a meeting at

the same time," she explains, "because the result would be

noise competition, with a band on one side and people needing to


on the other." Sales meetings can also be loud, which might


scheduling another group alongside.

Once the customers arrive, says Rosebrock, "every staff member

becomes an ambassador for the center as well as its eyes and


If they notice customers walking around with sweaters, then the


needs adjusting. If the customers are in a big room and people are

asking questions, someone would discreetly proffer a hand-held mike

to make it easier to hear. "You have to be proactive," she

explains. "The key is being involved without intruding."

Because the quality of the food service can make or break a


Rosebrock’s staff will give it special attention. "Coffee that

is cold or bitter can negate what was happening in the meeting


Her staff interacts with clients, noticing whether people are sending

back nearly full plates or are not even tasting certain entrees. Or,

if they notice that attendees particularly favor some food item, such

as a popcorn snack, they might serve it again later in the week. With

an outside caterer, the Corner Cafe from Cranbury, the center will

offer full food and beverage service, including bar service, for meals

and receptions.

The center already has 200 bookings for 2003, including corporations,

colleges and universities, and professional organizations, and


expects the center’s bookings to reach the 60 percent average


to break even. Although most business will probably be within a


radius, inquiries have come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and as far

away as Washington State.

The final pillar that makes the new center unique is the potential

for synergy between the center and its institutional backdrop, MCCC.

An organization renting a room at the conference center will be able

to draw upon the college’s expertise in corporate training. "The

college has over 25 years of experience in custom designing training

programs to meet an organization’s needs," says Rosebrock. If,

for example, the client wants a session on communications, college

staff will custom-design a training program and provide a


In addition, the college’s own extensive full-color television studio

and public radio station will extend the technological reach of the

center. The center will be able to keep buying the very latest


because it has a place to send the used ones — the college’s more

than 50 computer labs.

Other creative ways to use the college community are under


— theater students doing murder mysteries; fitness center staff

leading stretch breaks; physical therapist assistant students


chair massages. At a hard-hat walkthrough in December, students from

the Hospitality Management Club, who are in the college’s Hotel,


and Institution Management program, helped welcome guests.

Nini is thinking outside the box: "We have ideas

that we haven’t even shared yet about programming and nifty weekend

packages." One possibility is a new approach to team building

— using the college’s culinary kitchen as a place that coworkers

can prepare a meal together under the auspices of the college chef.

"We have a wonderful fitness center, and we hope at one time to

do weekend executive training sessions and build in time at the


center and pool."

The new center will also enable Nini’s division to pursue different

educational formats. "Because we have the auditorium," she

says, "we are developing a whole dimension of new programming

— one and two-day conferences." Already on the calendar are

conferences on charter schools; small business in the age of the


Fish — the popular new way to improve morale and boost results;

project management — a tool for organizational success; and a

two-day conference on entertainment technology.

This conference follows up on a newly signed agreement between Mercer

County and Manex Entertainment Inc., the high-tech special effects

and animation movie company that expects to move to Trenton. The


has a strong computer graphics department that uses the same hardware

and software as the entertainment industry, and it hopes to provide

staff and training for Manex.

Because companies are moving to day meetings so that they do not have

to pay for hotel rooms, says Rosebrock, the center is developing a

day meeting package. For a set price it will offer space, meeting

planning, support, flip charts and other supplies, food and beverages,

and audiovisual equipment. "The Day Meeting Package tells a


that it will cost X amount per person, with no hidden charges,"

explains Rosebrock. "It is less confusing for people, because

they know what they are getting up front." She adds that such

an arrangement is usually more cost-effective than a la carte and

allows companies easily to budget meeting costs ahead of time.


with more circumscribed needs, she adds, like a meeting room and


only, would do better a la carte.

The center has not yet published a rate list. "We want to compete

on level of service and giving people an extraordinary experience.

We will be cost competitive, but that is not how we are going to


ourselves," says Nini, citing the conference centers at ETS and

Merrill Lynch as her competition. Currently the center offers


rates and by this summer will offer a day meeting and a half-day



President Rose believes the conference center will attract new people

to the campus, and their positive experiences with the facility and

the quality of service will bring them back to the campus to take

advantage of other programs.

The center will certainly help the college to have an even greater

economic impact on the surrounding community, helping to create a

well-educated work force that can compete nationally and


"I am committed to doing everything we can to facilitate our


with business and industry," Rose says.

Although the economic downturn has somewhat reduced the demand for

training in the short term, Rose is not worried about future use of

the center: "As the economy turns around, we expect to be doing

more, which will require more use of the facility." He also notes

that many large corporations consider professional development


as part of their lifeline: "They continue to do it, regardless

of the economy."

Nini is determined to provide these businesses with programs relevant

to what’s going on in the county and the region. Says Nini; "I

feel confident that our new home will make it all possible."

MCCC Corporate Conference Center, West Windsor

Campus, Box B, Trenton 08690. Rose C. Nini, dean, corporate &


programs. 609-689-0908; fax, 609-890-6338.

MCCC can handle 200 people in a tiered amphitheater or up to

10 small groups in rooms with ergonomically correct seating. Rooms

are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. until late in the evening

with no staff overtime charge. It offers satellite teleconferencing,

webcasting, videoconferencing, ceiling projectors, smart boards, six

equipped computer labs, laptop ports and Internet connection for each

participant, dedicated servers for client use, and a full business

service center.

Until July 1 Mercer is making introductory deals for both rooms and

rooms-with-meals. Its prices will be somewhere between the NJHA


Center (about $35 per day per person including two meals) and


Yard Marriott and Conference Center (under $70 per day).

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Other Centers

For Conferences

All the conference center directors seem to agree that

there is plenty of business to go around. The real problem, when you

schedule a conference, is finding an open date. But to prevent


apples and oranges, consider the potential for extra charges: overtime

for evening hours, tax and gratuity, Internet connections, and AV

staff hours or equipment. If an LCD projector is not included, that

could cost from $200 to $550. On-site equipment, such as computers,

will be cheaper and easier than off-site rental. Also, classroom


with desks requires a larger room than theater seating. Ergonomic

chairs are usually available in conference centers and not in hotels.

Unless otherwise stated, day rates are per person for a group of 100

people and include breakfast, lunch, two breaks (or


breaks, which are more luxurious), and basic AV materials (easels,

overhead projectors etc). Internet connections, wireless mikes and

LCD projects cost extra. Overnight rates for a group of 25 include

dinner and lodging.

Doral Forrestal, 100 College Road East, Princeton

08540. David Givens, general manager. 609-452-7800; fax, 609-520-0728.

Home page: www.forrestal.com

With ergonomic chairs, capacity for 300 people classroom style.

Day meetings can cost $100 to $120 per person. Overnight, $365 per

person, depending on time of year, arrival and departure times, and

"future potential." High speed Internet access, webcasting,

videoconferencing, and teleconferencing. Business center with computer

stations, computer rental available.

Doral has a full-service spa with indoor pool and whirlpool, 25 wooded

acres with a rope trail for teambuilding workshops by Cradlerock,

and courts for tennis, volleyball, and basketball.

"We won the Pinnacle award — voted on by conference center

users throughout the country — 10 times in 18 years, so we must

be doing something right," says Alan Garabedian, director of sales

and marketing.

ETS Chauncey Conference Center, Rosedale Road,

Box 6652, Princeton 08541-6652. Mary Janelle, managing director.


fax, 609-683-4958. Home page: www.chaunceymeetings.com

A for-profit executive conference center with complete packages

including continuous refreshment breaks and gratuities. Maximum of

200 guests for 100 guest rooms and 21 meeting rooms. Largest room

seats 150 classroom style. Laurie House can accommodate up to 15


for high-level meetings. The center is managed by the


Marenzana Group, and two-thirds of the business comes from outside

organizations who use it for training, education, nonprofit, R&D,

scientific, or strategic planning.

Videoconferencing, webcasting, T-1 access for presenters.


can be broadcast on an internal server to meeting rooms. Computer

rental from inventory, $150 to $250 per workstation, satellite


available for teleconferencing.

Cost: $125 for a day meeting. Overnight packages from

$295 to $325, gratuities included.

Forsgate Country Club, 375 Forsgate Drive, Monroe

Township 08831. Dominique Audron, general manager; Lina Llona,


director. 732-521-0070; fax, 732-521-0687. Home page:


Forsgate’s conference and banquet facilities are open to the

public, though the restaurants and golf courses are only for members

now. But those who attend the conferences can enjoy Forsgate’s cuisine

and its famous links. Seven meeting rooms can accommodate from 5 to

600 people, and there is a boardroom for high-level meetings. DSL

Internet access is provided, and all AV equipment is available.

A day meeting special, through March, costs $35 per person (including

continuous refreshment breaks, and DSL Internet access, tax, and


The regular price is $65. With golf included, the price is $175 to

$250 per person, with a five foursome minimum.

Marriott Conference Hotel at Lafayette Yard, 1

West Lafayette Street, Trenton 08608. John Yakes, sales director.

609-421-4000; fax, 609-421-4002. Home page: www.marriott.com

The new full service hotel can easily accommodate 400 people

in a ballroom, three large conference rooms and four small breakout

rooms, and an executive boardroom. "Plus we have the meeting rooms

that seat 500 and 220 people at the adjacent War Memorial," says

John Yakes, sales director. All the Marriott’s conference rooms have

built-in sound systems, speakers tucked into the ceiling, drop down

screens, sound-proof wall surfaces, ergonomic chairs, and wide



Day rates are $69 per person including service charge, but not


tax. The overnight package is $210 plus parking and tax.

Merrill Lynch Conference Center, 900 Scudders Mill

Road, Plainsboro 08536. Meaghan A. Cannon, director of operations.

609-282-1000; fax, 609-282-2126. Chris Quinlan.

Built in 1986 for Merrill Lynch training, this conference and

training center is run by Harrison Conference Services (800-422-6338).

The 35 conference rooms hold from 10 to 100 people with ergonomic

chairs, up to 415 people in an auditorium with amphitheater seating,

and there are 310 sleeping rooms.

Webcasting and a television studio for telecasting is available.

Day rates are $125 per person (discountable to $109) and include the

services of a conference planner. weekends. The negotiable overnight

rate is $359. Amenities include fitness center, pool, and Harry’s


Monroe Commons, 239 Prospect Plains Road, Box 398,

Cranbury 08512. Eileen Griswold, managing director, Bowen Group.


fax, 609-860-0096.

Private meeting or training room in upscale building for up

to 27 people, open to corporations and nonprofits. Catering kitchen

and TV with VCR and DVD available. From $10 to $25 per person per

day, plus tax, no gratuities. Available weekdays and evenings,


to Exit 8A.

New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center,

760 Alexander Road, Box 1, Princeton 08543-0001. Steve Krebs,


Jodi James, sales and marketing coordinator. 609-275-4140. Home

page: www.conferencecenternj.com.

For-profit meeting rooms for from five to 230 people, or 150

people in the Garden Room for reception, or dinner and dancing. NJHA

members pay only for AV equipment and food, and some groups hold


conferences. Other users are nonprofits, for-profits, bar mitzvah

celebrations, and even weddings — but alcohol cannot be served.

In-house technician available for videoconferencing, audio recording,

and teleconferencing; the touch panel ceiling-mounted projection


costs $385. Laptop rental, $100.

Rates posted on website. Day rate for 100 people is $30 to $35.


about $210, including $30 per overtime hour per staff person after

5 p.m. and lodging at AmeriSuites. "We price at 10 percent below

the competition, with no extra charges for gratuities," says Jodi

James, sales director.

James welcomes MCCC’s new center and looks forward to having a place

where she can refer her overflow. "We get lots of calls and we’re

very busy," says James. "But we have a lot of business from

the state, and I think some of that will go to Mercer."

New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association,

12 Center Drive, Jamesburg 08831-1564. Denise Hecht, conference center

executive director. 609-860-1200; fax, 609-860-2999. Home page:


This five-year-old daytime conference center has room for 120

people, classroom style, plus conference rooms for 15 and 22 people.

It is used by the state department of education, plus 30 to 40 outside


Equipment includes 20 new Dell laptop Pentium IIIs available at $50

per computer per day, a smart board, and a T-1 line. Videotaping can

be sent by video E-mail. "We work with the department of education

and when the political situation changes it is nice to see it as well

as hear it," says Denise Hecht, conference center director.

Room rent is $750 per day for largest room, $250 to $500 for


rooms. Breakfast $3 to $6. Trainers from $500. Full catering for lunch

and dinner (from $12.50) is provided from Sir Ives or the Cranbury

Inn. Overnight at the Holiday Inn or Courtyard Marriott, 1 1/2 miles


Ramada Inn and National Conference Center, 399

Monmouth Street, East Windsor 08520. Carey Tajfel, general manager.

Gloria Manning, conference center sales. 609-448-7000; fax,


This 200-room hotel has just-renovated facilities for a conference

of up to 750 people. The tiered amphitheater can seat up to 40 people,

and the auditorium has room for 250, theater-style, and 168 people,

classroom style. A dozen breakout rooms have non-glare lighting, large

work surfaces, and acoustic control. The ballroom can hold from 80

to 500 people. The ballroom and adjoining garden can hold up to 300


University Inn and Conference Center at Rutgers,

178 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick 08901-8535. Cheryl Garson, conference

& event coordinator. 732-932-9144, extension 2148; fax, 732-932-6952.

Home page: univinn.rutgers.edu

Of the five available conference rooms, the largest can hold up to

100 people. Day rates are as low as $23 per person, with no tax or

gratuities. All AV equipment is extra, and high-speed Internet access

is available. Half the clients are from Rutgers, but other users


government, church groups, and fraternities. The center also has a

public hotel with 36 rooms with private baths costing $94 for single

occupancy including breakfast.

Vincentian Renewal Center, 75 Mapleton Road, Box

757, Plainsboro 08536. Father Joe Morris, director; Maggie Bessett,

office manager. 609-520-9626; fax, 609-520-0593.



This conference center welcomes nonprofit and religious groups, some

state groups and even some for-profit groups if the topic is


or philosophical. Rooms rent for $10 per person per day plus $8 for

lunch. Overnight is $45, or $70 with three meals, or $120 for two

weekend nights with five meals. The AV equipment is minimal, but there

are two chapels, a basketball/tennis/racquet ball court, an indoor

gym, and 44 tree-shaded acres.

Hotel Meeting Space

Holiday Inn Princeton, 100 Independence Way,


08540. Farrukh Mirza, general manager. 609-520-1200; fax,


Day rates are $59 with tax. An overnight package might be $170.

Hyatt Regency Princeton, 102 Carnegie Center,


08540-6293. Jordana Neumann, director of catering and convention


609-987-1810; fax, 609-987-0399. Www.hyatt.com

The grand ballroom can hold 500 seated classroom style. Day rates

start at $60.

Nassau Inn, 10 Palmer Square, Princeton 08542-3712.

Lori Rabon, general manager; Mariela Rocco, director of sales.


fax, 609-921-9385. Www.nassauinn.com.

Fifteen meeting rooms can serve from 5 to 220 people. The day

rate is $42 plus tax, gratuities, any AV supplies, and parking.

Palmer Inn Best Western, 3499 Route 1 South,


08540. Jayme Knast, banquet manager. 609-452-2500; fax, 609-452-1371.


With a capacity of 90 people classroom style, the main room

costs $500. Day rates work out to about $35 plus AV, tax, and tip.

Overnight conference rates could be about $160.

Radisson Hotel Princeton, 4355 Route 1 South at

Ridge Road, Princeton 08540. Louis Jamison, general manager.


fax, 609-452-2494. Home page: www.radisson.com

Daytime conferences for up to 300 people can be held in a


plus nine break-out rooms, plus gathering space by the pool. The day

meeting package is about $70, including gratuity.

Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village, 201 Village

Boulevard, Princeton 08540. John Crouch, general manager.


fax, 609-452-1223. Home page: www.westin.com,

The hotel’s capacity for meetings is 550 for classroom seating.

Day rates start at about $60. For 20 people overnight, rates might

start at $250, with three meals.

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