I didn’t break the rules, I just never followed them," says Jennifer MacLeod as she describes her 30-year career as a consultant to big business. MacLeod became an entrepreneur with a home-based business and an activist in the national women’s movement at a time when most women were expected to have a "career" as a PTA president.

MacLeod made up her own rules as she went along and she shares some of them with at a meeting of the Mercer Chapter of NJAWBO (New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners) on Thursday, October 6, at 6 p.m. at the Harrison Conference Center at Merrill Lynch. Cost: $40. Call 609-924-7975 or E-mail to rsvpmercerdinner@yahoo.com.

MacLeod is this year’s winner of the state-wide NJAWBO Rose and Scroll Award, which honors a non-NJAWBO member who has been a role model and who has distinguished herself as a voice for women business owners. Although she retired from her consulting firm in 2000, she has continued her work in support of women. She is a co-founder and national coordinator of the ERA Campaign Network, a nationwide network of activists devoted to achieving the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

She hopes that her story will inspire other women business-owners to succeed without being held back by "conventional wisdom."

MacLeod formed her consulting business, Jennifer MacLeod Associates, in her Princeton Junction home in 1971 (609-799-0378). "Conventional wisdom at the time said I had to run out and rent space and hire a secretary, that I couldn’t run a business as a woman, and that certainly big business would never hire a female as a consultant. Those were absolutes in the 1970s," she says. But with her children just entering their teens, she turned their playroom into an office, and began "an exciting and interesting few decades" as an entrepreneur.

It is difficult for today’s women to understand exactly how outrageous her decision was at time. "We still had segregated want ads. There were ads for the good, higher paying jobs in the men’s column of the paper, and the rest of the jobs were in the women’s column," she recalls. Women’s salaries averaged just over half the amount being paid to men.

What made her decide to go out on her own? "Basically I was stuck where I was," she says. A graduate of Radcliffe, she had earned a master’s and a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University. She began her career "doing scientific research with rats and learning theory and gradually moved to social research."

The move took her to Opinion Research Corporation, where she was promoted from project director to research director to chief psychologist. "I was about 40 years old and being paid two-thirds of what the men were being paid and the only place to go in the company was vice president." When she talked to her superiors, she says she was told that she couldn’t be promoted "because our clients would never accept you as a woman."

At about the same time, the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers opened its Center for the American Woman and Politics and offered her a job. Unfortunately, she and the director didn’t "see eye to eye on things."When MacLeod suggested the center undertake a survey of women in politics, "he suggested we survey politicians’ wives. I started to laugh, and then I realized he was serious." MacLeod says she was forced to resign after six months at the Institute.

If just starting her business went against conventional wisdom, what other "unconventional" rules did she follow?

No cold calls. "I’m not good at them," says MacLeod. "I never did the cold calls or the marketing that people told me I was supposed to be doing." She never advertised, she says. "Advertising doesn’t work for consultants." There is, of course, always the "unconventional" person who breaks that rule. "I know one woman, a friend of mine, who advertises as a consultant. It works for her."

No business card exchanges. Yes, says MacLeod, she always did networking, "but I never went to those events where people just exchange business cards. It never worked for me."

Instead, she used speaking engagements and wrote articles as a way ofmeeting prospective clients. She wrote "about 60 or 70 articles" in professional journals throughout her career and found they were often a springboard for meeting clients.

"The articles didn’t bring someone directly to my door, but I found people would come to me and say, ‘I read this article a few years ago and I filed it.’"

Her articles also gave her an opening to get in touch with people she met at other meetings. "We would discuss a problem they were having and I’d tell them I’d written an article about it. I’d get a business card and send them a copy of the article. I wouldn’t add a sales pitch. It was amazingly effective."

Develop a wide variety of skills. "Look at the skills you have and capitalize on them," says MacLeod, She enjoys speaking and writing and used those skills to develop her business, but "if you are good at sales and closing, use it. I always hated that part."

Make sure your skills are varied, she adds, because "fashions change"in every type of business. Having a company name that wasn’t too descriptive also helped MacLeod succeed, she says. "Jennifer MacLeod Associates didn’t say exactly what I did."

Her repertoire included training programs, salary studies, employee studies, and work in women’s advancement. "To one client I was the survey research expert, for another client I did workshops on sexism." At one point, she says, she had six different projects with various departments at AT&T, all in different areas of her business.

"My business was different from year to year. In the 1970s I did a lot of work in women’s advancement. Then it died. You have to shift with the wind."

Understand current conditions. No matter what business you are in, says MacLeod, you need to keep up and understand "what is happening in the world, in the country, and in your industry." This is true for every business, not just consultants. "Look at the retail stores that die every year because they don’t keep up with the trends."

As a consultant, she emphasizes, it is particularly important. "You are being paid a consultant’s fee, so you must see more and understand more. Be ahead in your thinking. You need to have a broader vision and come out with ideas that the people who hire you are too close to the problem to solve."

Be aware of your priorities. "Love what you do, then you won’t count the hours you spend doing it," says MacLeod. But beyond that, she thinks many business owners don’t really understand what their true priorities are. "So many business owners just want their business to grow only for the sake of getting bigger. They get more and more employees and they become slaves to their staff and their financing. They don’t have time to do what they really love to do."

MacLeod mentions meeting with a fellow consultant whose business had grown until she had several employees. "She was working nights and weekends just to keep up. One day she told me what her gross income was. I did a few quick figures in my head on what her employees cost, and I (realized I) was taking home more than she was, just working inmy basement."

MacLeod’s advice: A business doesn’t need to get bigger just for thesake of growth alone, and certainly not because other people think itshould. "Set your priorities to suit yourself and your lifestyle."

Your Brand’s Value? Customers Know: Vicki Lynne Morgan

You are working on your personal brand every day, says Vicki Lynne Morgan. Every time you meet someone you have a new opportunity to brand yourself – for better or for worse. Morgan speaks on personal branding on Thursday, October 6, at 6 p.m. at Raritan Valley Community College in Long Branch at a program sponsored by the Small Business Development Center. Cost: $42. Call 908-218-8871.

Branding is "about making a statement, about getting noticed," says Morgan. "It’s about the way you want to be viewed by others." There are four areas to branding, she explains, how you look, how you act, how you treat other people, and the message you relate.

Morgan, of Califon, is the owner of Russmor Marketing Group, which she founded in 2001. She describes herself as a strategist. "I don’t tell my clients what to do," she says. "I help them to see it for themselves." A certified Guerrilla Marketing coach, she helps her clients with "marketing, selling, customer relationship programs, and trade show marketing."

Morgan began her career in sales in the 1970s as the first womenselling for Xerox. In 1976 she and a partner founded Animal Brands, the first woman-owned manufacturing representation agency in the pet supply industry.

"My next door neighbor’s father said dog food was the road to success, so my neighbor bought a truck load of dog food," she says. "We had 20 tons of dog food and I went out a sold it."

In addition to her work with Russmor and Animal Brands, she teaches marketing and sales at several area community colleges, including Raritan Valley, Warren County, Sussex County, and Morris County. She is also a counselor for the Small Business Development Center at Raritan Valley.

How you look. The way you look and how you dress makes a statement to other people, says Morgan. "I met one person who was a financial adviser who always went to meetings dressed sloppily, with no make-up and messy hair. She was making a lasting impression. It just wasn’t agood one," she says.

Your appearance "should get you noticed in the right way," says Morgan. "Think about the way you want to be viewed by others." Branding, she adds, is making sure that "you look the part, that you make a striking impression." Her trademark, she says, is a flower worn on her right shoulder. "If I’m wearing a name badge I always put it just below the flower. That way people remember me."

Dressing well doesn’t mean always wearing a business suit. "You should dress appropriately for the occasion," says Morgan. For a trade show, for example, "make sure that the people visiting the booth know who is with your company and who is a guest." Clothing with a company logo works well in that type of situation.

The way you act. "Actions speak louder than words," according to the old proverb. Morgan agrees. Your body language can say as much about you as what you say. Well-written business materials will help you project your personal brand, but if you don’t follow-up on what you and your materials have promised, your image will suffer.

"Your appearance and actions reflect on your company," says Morgan. "Make sure you and your staff always look and act in a professional manner." What impression does it give "if at a trade show you or your staff are using the telephone, playing games, or reading books?"

The way you treat other people. Of course you treat others well – as an individual. But how does your business treat them? When a customer comes to your place of business is he greeted cheerfully? "A person’s first impression is usually a lasting impression," says Morgan. "There’s a reason Wal-Mart has greeters saying, ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart,’ at the door."

If you or your employees act as if they are not interested in helping the customer, it will be branded in that customer’s mind. "Show the same level of concern for your customers that you want to be treated with," advises Morgan.

The message you relate. When you meet a person you are relaying manymessages to them, says Morgan. There is generally a spoken message,possibly a written message, but often the most important is the unspoken message. "How you speak to people, how you show that you respect people leaves a lasting impression," she says.

An example "from junior high years" illustrates her point. "When you were in junior high if someone had a reputation for being a troublemaker and ink was thrown on the walls, you immediately suspected the troublemaker." Whether deserved or not, if a company gets a bad reputation it is difficult to change people’s opinions. It is easier, by far, says Morgan, to develop a good reputation than to overcome a bad one.

A brand, sums up Morgan, is different from a trademark. "A trademark is a logo or a song. You own your trademark." Your brand, on the other hand, is "in the mind of the beholder. It is the public’s perception of you." It is an image or attitude about you in someone else’s mind. "You don’t own your brand," says Morgan. "The public does."

Health Watch

Autoimmune diseases can be as debilitating as any disease, and are often incredibly frustrating, because diagnosis is often difficult. On Thursday, October 6, at 7:30 p.m. the Friends Health Connection presents "A Cutting Edge Examination of the Mysterious World of Autoimmune Disease" at the Robert Wood Johnson Hamilton Center for Health and Wellness. Cost: $20. To register, call 800-483-7436.

The event addresses how lupus, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome,and other autoimmune disorders, and asks why these diseases are far more common in women than in men. It also looks at new discoveries on both causes and treatment of these ailments.

The Friends Health Connection, a New Brunswick-based non-profit that links patients suffering from the same disorder, points out that autoimmune diseases – including chronic fatigue syndrome, vasculitis, juvenile diabetes, alopecia, Graves’ disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis – are among the most devastating conditions afflicting women today and the most resistant to diagnosis and treatment. In all of them, the body’s immune system begins to attack healthy and normally functioning cells. And one of the biggest puzzles is why 80 percent of autoimmune disease sufferers are women.

Immunologist Dr. Robert Lahita, a professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical School, is the featured speaker. According to a release by the Friends Health Connection, Lahita, author of "Women and Autoimmune Disease," brings years of intensive research, patient care, and diagnostics to shed light on the mysteries of these conditions, with a particular focus on how they affect – and how he treats – women.

His talk will cover early warning signs, symptoms, diagnostic processes, and the most innovative treatments for all the most common – and many of the less well known – autoimmune diseases.

A question-and-answer session, as well as a book signing, will follow the talk.

Scientific Sherlocks: James Thomas O’Brien

‘What I really got tired of was spending yet another Thanksgiving in the morgue watching something other than a turkey getting carved up," says veteran crime scene investigator, James Thomas O’Brien. For the past 28 years, O’Brien has labored for real in a profession that television is now obsessed with portraying so glamorously. However far "CSI" and other shows may stray from the actual job (and O’Brien insist it’s a lot), they have instilled a keen interest in science in a whole new generation.

Smitten by the lure of the microscope and DNA swab, thousands of new college students flock to any course with "forensic" in the title. To help students hone their career requirements and explain the demands of the investigative scene, O’Brien instructs a one-session course "Crime Scene Investigation," on Tuesday, October 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Middlesex County College. Cost: $99. Call 732-906-2556. The course is designed to help sort out the many avenues into both enforcement and investigation.

In O’Brien’s case, it was the camera lens that brought him to focus on investigation. A native of Colonia, O’Brien joined the Woodbridge Sheriff’s Department soon after high school. Entering the department’s identification bureau, he would take fingerprints, process criminal records, and take those familiar ID photos (front and side view). Following his strong curiosity, O’Brien began to study bone and tooth identification. His photographic expertise eventually led to his running the crime lab’s dark room.

After three years, O’Brien joined the police academy and later graduated from the FBI’s Forensic Academy at Quantico. His next quarter century was devoted to crime scene investigation for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office. With camera in hand, O’Brien would leap up from a dinner date and say, "Excuse me, honey, I’ll be back in two days." Recently retired, he keeps his hand in investigation through his one-man consulting firm, J.T. O’Brien LLC, based in Colonia.

The team effort. "Every site has a body and a bunch of officials fussing around it, each one of whom is higher ranking than you," says O’Brien. "Your job is to reconstruct the crime and gather as much pertinent physical evidence as possible." Some of this is merely noted, such as grass stains indicating the body was moved.

Other pieces of evidence are sent back to laboratory technicians who perform routine tests to match fingerprints or blood types, and make knife blade and bullet identifications. For the most part these are chemists, biologists, and dental technicians who work part or full time for the county.

Meanwhile, the talk boys, as O’Brien terms the homicide detectives, are gathering eye witness testimony. They question bystanders and neighbors, talk with relatives, interrogate suspects, and try to sift out the liars. Together with a blend of testimony and physical evidence, cases are forged for the prosecutor’s office. In the balance of statements versus physical evidence, prosecutors naturally want both, but if they must choose, they side with the physical proof.

Typically, one crime scene investigator, plus one or perhaps twodetectives and one medical examiner, attend each homicide scene, along with a couple of uniformed officers if necessary.

Hollywood backlash. "I just can’t watch those forensic specialty shows," laughs O’Brien. "Within five minutes they are always performing some completely fictional test, taking over the whole investigation, and solving it all within an hour between love affairs."

This fantasizing of CSI capabilities is causing more than headshakes by the judiciary. Inundated with these fictional TV scenes, real juries are increasingly turning back not-guilty verdicts for want of evidence they believe must be present. "DNA is the big one," says O’Brien. "People don’t understand that very, very few murders, and even most rapes, do not leave any bodily fluids of the attacker behind for sampling." An estimated 80 percent of murders are committed by an individual who knew the victim. The attack comes suddenly, often as a surprise to both parties. A gun, lead pipe, or any common weapon will seldom carry DNA samples and fingerprints may be smudged.

How technical? This is not to say that physical evidence cannot be minute and esoteric. A while back, O’Brien brought a suspect to justice with evidence worthy of any television plot. Around the body, amid all the clutter of the sidewalk, he took photographs and noted one tiny crumpled piece of aluminum foil. Examining the foil back in his office, he noted its corrugated surface and round edge, and a touch of salt. It was exactly the kind of foil to seal freshness into a can of nuts.

The homicide crew had meanwhile discovered that the victim had had an argument with his business partner near the time of the murder. This enabled the prosecutor to obtain a subpoena, allowing O’Brien to search the suspect’s auto, and sure enough he found two other scraps of foil that, when photographed and blown up, linked the suspect to the body at the time of death.

In other cases a single hair or fiber cinches the conviction. Or a mechanical device may provide the key clue. On one occasion when the body was too mangled to determine time of death, O’Brien took the windup Timex to the manufacturer to find just how long post mortem thetelltale watch would still keep ticking.

"The one thing I insist on telling students, is that every crime sceneinvestigator works just as hard to exonerate as to convict," says

O’Brien. "We do not just work to close the file."

Art imitates life. Only one of O’Brien’s cases ever caught the eye of producers and made it into the small screen as a television episode. The murder victim had human bites on the chin and left breast. The crime seemed insolvable until, six months after the death, a state policewoman in Maine was attacked by a man who bit her chin and left breast.

It was too close to be coincidental, and the Middlesex Prosecutor’s Office interviewed the policewoman’s assailant, who was by then in custody, and found him to be the murderer. "If he had bitten her on the chin and left arm," laughs O’Brien, "they probably would never have glanced at it."

Help wanted. In a typical year the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office handles about 25 murders, plus innumerable deaths of suspicious or unknown causes. In years past the crime scene investigator was sent to all of these, even those that were clearly accidents. Now much of this basic investigation has been transferred to local police departments.

O’Brien is forever reminding students that there is no such thing as a forensic scientist. There are dentists, chemists, and biologists who perform tests. There are medical examiners, and even archaeologists, who examine bodies post mortem.

Homicide detective is an excellent career for those with a bent toward the study of psychology, as, of course, is forensic psychiatrist, a profession that specializes in determining the validity of insanity pleas. Another route to a job in crime investigation is skill in photography coupled with a keen eye for detail. It was this last combination that started O’Brien on his life’s work of determining just who dunnit.

Helping Non-Profits Flirt with Big Business: Ruthellen Rubin

‘Nonprofits often go to corporations with their tail between their legs, thinking they are burden," says Ruthellen Rubin, a Yardley, Pennsylvania-based philanthropy broker who helps match small and medium-sized nonprofits and corporations. But she emphasizes that the relationship works two ways, and that the nonprofits "need to understand that companies are just as interested as the nonprofits."

Before the 1960s, corporate philanthropy was construed as "meddling in social affairs," says Rubin, but when legal restrictions were lifted, corporate giving came into its own. Although early on corporations supported primarily arts and culture, the 1989 oil spill from the Exxon-Valdez raised corporate awareness of "supporting causes that had an effect on the work they did," she says, and Exxon began to put money into environmental causes.

While corporations want to be involved in good works of all kinds, the onus of persuading companies that a partnership will work for them lies with the nonprofit organization. Yet small and medium-sized nonprofits may not pursue these opportunities, either because they wrongly assume that corporations don’t want to hear from them or because they are so busy with client services that they don’t set aside the time to cultivate relationships with corporate philanthropy departments.

Rubin advises nonprofits on how to approach corporations in her half-day talk on "Building Corporate Support," Wednesday, October 12, at 9:30 a.m. Sponsored by the Support Center for Nonprofit Management, the talk will be at the Princeton Area Community Foundation, 15 Princess Road, Lawrenceville. Call 609-278-0482.

Rubin gears her advice to "the little guys who feel no one knows who they are." Although her talk will be specifically about corporate fundraising, she says the same set of rules applies to foundations and individual fundraising:

Approach the company with confidence. Understand that companies panies are looking for relationships as much as you are and that there are people at the corporations whose job it is to reach out to the community.

Find out a company’s philanthropy goals and locate the decision-maker. The first step is to use the web and the Google search function. "In an age of electronic information, it’s as easy as it’s ever been to research what a company’s goals might be and how they have interacted with the community in the past," says Rubin.

Communicate with the decision-maker. The best approach is to pick up the phone and call the person, says Rubin. "Typically these people are among the most approachable in a corporation."

Develop creative ways to find funding. Once a nonprofit understands what the corporation is looking for, it’s time to find a match between the company’s needs and those of the nonprofit.

She cites, for example, the efforts of Homefront – a midsize nonprofit providing programs and services for Mercer County’s homeless population, from food to health education to tutoring for kids to helping people find housing. She was HomeFront’s development director for several years before going out on her own as a consultant in April. She credits Connie Mercer, Homefront’s director, with teaching her the value of developing these relationships, and she cites several examples of "logical" partners with whom HomeFront has built connections.

They include Janssen Pharmaceutica, which is interested in HomeFront’s health-related causes; Educational Testing Service, which helps with its education and literacy programs; and Mathematica Policy Research, which, in addition to financial support, helps HomeFront set up programs to measure outcomes.

Thinking outside the box, HomeFront found a new giving opportunities for another of its corporate partners, Bristol-Myers Squibb. The corporation’s art gallery had invited HomeFront to an opening. When a creative person from HomeFront, alert to every opportunity to help its clients, asked what the gallery did with its old artwork, a giving opportunity materialized . "They had a closet full of old art," says Rubin, "and one day came to HomeFront’s family shelter, which serves 30 homeless women and kids, and covered the shelter with art work. They donated and hung it, and overnight it transformed the shelter

into a homey, beautiful environment."

Make a personal connection and communicate impact. Make sure funders know "the impact and value of their contribution," whether it is $100 or $1 million. "One of reasons that Katrina raises astronomical amounts of money," she says, "is because we can turn on the TV and see and feel where our $100 is going." Because the Red Cross has explained that this money will go directly to recipients and not to ongoing organizational support, "it makes it easy to write a check." Similarly with a potential corporate contribution, front and center needs to be the effort to make it human and meaningful.

Rubin explains that there are five different areas of corporate philanthropy:

Sponsorship. This covers corporate names on T-shirts or in journals and is the most popular and well-known form of corporate giving. On the corporate side, this money comes from marketing, not from funds earmarked for philanthropy, and is actually the fastest growing piece of the marketing budget.

Volunteerism. "Companies are interested in their employees being good corporate citizens," says Rubin, "and corporations give employees paid time off to do volunteer work." Although it takes time and effort to create opportunities for meaningful volunteerism for companies, she says the value is huge.

Cause marketing. These are promotions where a portion of the purchase price of an item is donated back to the organization, for example, 2 percent of the sale of cars at a dealership might go back to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Or, in grocery stores in Mercer County, coupons at the cash register allow customers with overflowing shopping bags to add a dollar to their bill, with the proceeds going to Mercer Street Friends, the largest food pantry in the county. The supermarkets are donating the space and administrative work. It’s a win/win. The businesses get extra sales and boost their images, the non-profit gets needed funds, and shoppers are presented with a way to feel good about helping.

Human resources. Companies that recruit at colleges will often donate equipment or underwrite scholarships in order to develop more of a corporate presence at the school. It behooves professionals from college development offices to cultivate these relationships with the corporate world.

Policy marketing. Companies like to support grassroots efforts that are related to their corporate mission, and it is often up to the nonprofit to specify the potential connection. "The key is to find a company with an interest in the mission of your organization and work to develop a mutually beneficial relationship," says Rubin.

She cites as an example Binney & Smith, which makes crayons and supports advocates of state funding for arts and education. All nonprofits should be looking for logical partnerships like these. "It’s not just about finding the biggest-name company or the deepest pockets," she says. "It’s about finding the correct match, which sometimes takes creativity."

Rubin received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Beaver College in 1972 and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. In the 1970s and 1980s she worked in commercial real estate marketing.

During her 10 years as a volunteer, she served on a number of nonprofit boards. She was president of the board at Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley, during a time when the board was involved in all aspects of fundraising. "That’s where I got my education," she says.

Her next career stop was as a nonprofit development professional at Homefront, where she was able to bring the perspective of a volunteer to the professional side. "At Homefront," she says, "I got into the nitty-gritty of what is it like to be a development professional with a limited budget and resources in an environment where all efforts were going to serving clients." There she worked in an office within a stone’s throw of people in the waiting room who didn’t have a place to sleep that night. She says that it took a lot of discipline to put aside the time to develop corporate relationships, but she knew that it was important to do so.

Despite years of hands-on experience, Rubin says she benefited from the certificate in fundraising – and recommends it to others. "My instincts were there and right on," she says, "but it taught me the latest tools available for fundraisers, the vocabulary, and gave me access to cutting-edge technology."

Rubin, whose website is www.developnp.com, is now working with the Support Center for Nonprofit Management on a Wednesday, November 16, all-day conference on "Partnerships That Change Society," and hopes to draw both nonprofit and corporate representatives. Information on the conference is at www.supportctr.org.

Rubin loves working in the Mercer County community. "I’m impressed by the way everyone has found a niche, and new nonprofits are formed only because there is a real need," she says. Another thing that distinguishes this community, in her view, is that there are many generous, giving people, foundations, and corporations. But it’s the link between nonprofits and corporations that may be missing. She concludes that "sometimes both sides are challenged to make a match."

How to Grow the Route 130 Corridor: Brian Hughes

Good planning is the key to the future of development in Mercer County, says Brian Hughes, Mercer County Executive. Nowhere is this more necessary than along the Route 130 corridor, one of the next "hot spots" for growth and development in the county.

The corridor is still largely rural, but the opening, a few years a goof the Hamilton Marketplace, a major retail development on Route 130just south of I-195 was seen as a signal that the area is ready for more growth. Hughes discusses "Creating a Vision for the Route 130 Corridor…a Collaborative Approach," at the Mercer Regional Chambe rof Commerce on Wednesday, October 12, at 8 a.m. at the New Jersey State Police Technology Complex, 1200 Negron Road, Hamilton. Call 609-393-4143 to make reservations, or visit the chamber website at www.mercerchamber.org. Cost: $35.

With growth comes both opportunities and challenges. While there is still "plenty of space" along the corridor for all types of development, "foresight and planning" are needed to steer that development and keep the unique individuality of each of the towns in the area, says Hughes. Those differences will allow for a mix of development along the corridor, and will still leave room for the rural aspects of the communities. East Windsor, for example, "is proud that it has the most preserved farms in the county," he says.

To achieve the right kind of growth, each of the communities along the corridor should have input into what they want for their own areas, says Hughes. "Each of the individual towns must work together with the state and the county to open the route to economic development without creating problems."

Hughes wants to see the corridor develop "a healthy mix of economic growth such as offices, retail, and mixed use developments." The transit village in Hamilton, which is located close to Route 130 also plays a part in the corridor’s growth. As companies in the area grow, or as new corporations consider a move to the area, the proximity and ease of travel to both Philadelphia and New York City are very important, says Hughes. In addition, the "tri-modal" transportation opportunities in the area, which include trains, trucking, and shipping through the port at Newark, makes Mercer County particularly attractive to industry.

Mercer County’s foreign trade zone is another factor in its growth, says Hughes. Originally 72 acres at Trenton-Mercer airport, it now includes parts of East Windsor. Last year the United States Department of Commerce approved the expansion of the zone to 1,600 acres, including new areas in Washington Township and Hamilton, as well as expansion in Ewing and Trenton, says Hughes.

"The East Windsor designation as a foreign trade zone has definitely played into the demands on Route 130," he says. Mercedes Benz’ decision to put a plant in Washington Township was influenced by the fact that it was a foreign trade zone, he adds.

There are a number of issues to consider and deal with as development expands along the route. "We need to think about access" to Route 130 from feeder roads and side streets," says Hughes. What has happened along the Route 1 corridor is both a warning and example. "We spent millions to put in lights along Route 1," he points out. "Now we are spending millions to take those same lights out," he says.

Bus service along Route 130 is another key to both economic development and the traffic issues that development brings. "It is important to be able to bring the people from where they live to where the jobs are," says Hughes. The service began in November of 2001 with an average of 118 riders per month and has grown to 1,300 riders per month.

Congestion problems along Route 1 show just how important advanced planning is on a major road. "Both Route 1 and Route 130 are the two major north/south arteries in area," he says. "People must be willing to put the work in now" to make sure that the development of the area enhances life in the county. "We are getting more traffic every year and it gets more difficult to get from point A to B," he says. "We have great universities, open spaces, shopping, but it means nothing if people can’t get to them."

Facebook Comments