Citing an eagerness to address the challenges including planning for a new airport terminal and continuing to create job opportunities for county residents, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announced Thursday that he will seek a fourth term in November.
“I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to lead Mercer County through lean times and robust times,” Hughes said during his annual state of the county address at the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Hyatt in West Windsor. “It is my goal into 2015 and beyond to build on our success.”
Hughes, a Princeton resident who is serving the last year of his third four-year term as county executive, delivered his address to an audience of more than 500 business and government leaders. The Democrat the turnaround at Trenton-Mercer Airport as one of his top successes. Frontier Airlines has experienced rapid growth since it began offering low-fare commercial service just over two years ago. The county’s financial investment of about $7 million for terminal improvements and parking lots has been recouped through airport revenue, Hughes said, and future revenue will be invested into further improvements.
Hughes said this is the right time to move forward with the planning for a brand new passenger terminal to replace Mercer’s 48-year-old facility.
“I want to ensure that our airport is prepared to take advantage of future opportunities and the economic impact that could result,” he said. “The return on investment for our region will be huge.”
Hughes said Mercer’s unemployment rate continues to decline to 5.1 percent, according to the most recent figures, and remains well below the state average of 6.6 percent, but said jobs remain a “prime concern” throughout the county. He announced a new program aimed at providing job opportunities for disadvantaged youth. The program, Youth Career Connection, is designed to prepare young adults to enter the workforce, with training provided by the county’s One-Stop Career Center followed by paid internships with participating employers.
“We need to make sure that our teenagers and young adults are given the opportunity to begin their first steps toward a productive future,” he said. “Nothing better ensures this than a job.”
Hughes asked business leaders to partner with him by creating summer job opportunities. The county then will offer qualified candidates to fill those job openings.
“Your investment in our youth will put all of us on the path to a brighter economic future,” he said.
Hughes said spending on travel and tourism in Mercer County has grown significantly for the fourth year in a row. After six consecutive years of declining real estate values, the total value of property in Mercer County will rise this year, a further indicator of the “ebbing recession,” he said. He also touted his administration’s fiscal discipline, saying that county government has stayed within the lowered state budget cap, retained its bond rating at AA+ and made every pension payment.