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Op-Ed: Facilitating Trenton’s Revitalization Through Collaboration

In 2013, a group of engaged Trenton area stakeholders came together with one common goal: to help promote the economic revitalization of our State’s capital city. Serving as the energetic core of that organizing group was the late, highly-respected champion of New Jersey business and economic growth, Caren Franzini.  Caren, along with other key stakeholders, provided the leadership, vision and drive to create an organization in late 2015 named Greater Trenton. The mission of Greater Trenton is to facilitate the development and revitalization of downtown Trenton by serving as an expert resource to businesses, developers, and community partners.   Operating as an independent, privately funded, non-partisan organization, Greater Trenton collaborates with all levels of government as well as businesses and non-profit entities to promote the city’s assets and opportunities with a keen focus on the downtown core.

The focus on collaboration was also evident in the creation of Greater Trenton’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan.  This plan which provides direction and shape for the organization was created with the input of more than 30 city and regional key stakeholders.   The opportunities and goals within the Strategic Plan balance lofty aspirations with practical steps that are necessary for progress.  Included among these specific goals and steps are marketing, business concierge services and project support and coordination.

Collaboration and transparency will continue to be key factors for Greater Trenton as it unveils its Strategic Plan within the next several weeks in a series of meetings open to the public and in the future as other key developments and initiatives occur.

Building a Sustainable Organization

The Greater Trenton Board of Directors is comprised of key business and civic leaders representing 12 blue ribbon companies, foundations and institutions located throughout the region with each making a multi-year commitment to support the mission of Greater Trenton. Why? Because these are organizations that currently provide critical support to Trenton’s philanthropic, educational and social service communities. Moreover, they understand that a vibrant, thriving Trenton – where people want to live, work and play – is essential to the success of our region – and to their own ability to attract and retain talent. The Greater Trenton Board of Directors recognizes that this type of success requires sustained effort.

Since its inception, Greater Trenton has been hard at work building the foundational roots for progress to occur. This work has been centered on developing a sustainable organization that extends beyond the short term by entering partnerships that will make a positive contribution to Trenton’s economic vitality for years to come.   For example, Greater Trenton was recently selected by Mayor Jackson and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) as the sole designated Housing Sponsor and Borrower for Trenton’s $11.5 million Urban Blight Reduction Pilot Program. In addition, Greater Trenton is the sole private signatory and participant included in a NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU is an agreement to identify and detail development sites of consequence in Trenton’s downtown district.  These partnerships support residential, commercial and mixed-use development opportunities and, when viewed through the broader lens of nearly $700 million worth of new initiatives undertaken by the State in collaboration with the City’s administration, it suggests meaningful progress is at hand.

Showcasing Trenton’s Assets

In addition to the development of the 2017-2020 strategic plan, Greater Trenton CEO, George Sowa has been actively promoting Trenton’s assets and development opportunities through more than 75 meetings and city tours with developers, real estate brokers, bankers and CEO’s.  The city tours identify more than 20 sites demonstrating how Trenton is positioned to meet a variety of needs serving as a walkable, transit -orientated urban area, poised to attract new residents and create jobs while continuing to maintain affordability and opportunities for existing residents and businesses.

The historic pivot in the American Revolution occurred on the streets of Trenton 240 years ago. We believe another historic pivot is beginning right now!

Bernard Flynn, Co-Chair, Greater Trenton; President and CEO, NJM Insurance

Anthony “Skip” Cimino, Co-Chair, Greater Trenton; Partner, Kaufman Zita Group; Princeton Area Community Foundation

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