MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ – Leveraging its partnerships with industry leaders in the state, Middlesex County’s fourth annual Business Summit, Leading Together for a Better Tomorrow, assembled experts from across a broad continuum serving New Jersey and the County to discuss COVID-19 response efforts and recovery resources, and challenges presented to businesses and residents adapting to a “new normal” in a global health pandemic. A link to a recording of the event with each speakers’ full remarks can be found here: https://bcove.video/2Ias6Zf.
The event, moderated by Tom Bergeron, editor and chief content officer of ROI NJ and hosted by Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders Director Ronald G. Rios and Deputy Director Kenneth Armwood, addressed the challenges facing County residents who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.
The panelists for this year’s event featured: Debbie Hart, president and CEO of BioNJ; Christiana Foglio, founder and CEO of Community Investment Strategies; William Rodgers, III, PhD, professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University; Luis De La Hoz, chairman of the board of directors for the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ and SVP director of community lending at Valley National Bank; and Jose Lozano, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey.
“Our annual Business Summit has become an invaluable resource for our business community and its workforce, putting a focus on the future of the economy in Middlesex County,” said Freeholder Director Rios. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the economy across the nation and at home here in Middlesex County, and thanks to the work of so many, including our speakers at the Business Summit, our businesses, residents, and municipalities can adapt to, and begin to recover from, this global health pandemic.”
Middlesex County, along with its partners, has been offering resources for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for small businesses that have halted or reduced operations and residents that are either on a reduced schedule or have faced retrenchment. These resources include offering Community Development Block Grants (CDBG-CV) and Small Business Relief Grants (SBRG) which utilize CARES Act Funding; occupational training for unemployed, underemployed, and dislocated workers; workplace readiness and literacy programs for youth; employer recruitments and County job fairs; and 5,500 free online skill development courses through the County’s SkillUp program.
“COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on our economy. Businesses were forced to close their doors or drastically reduce business, which resulted in unprecedented numbers of residents out of work. Middlesex County, in conjunction with helping our businesses get back to business, are helping our residents get back on their feet,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Armwood.
The 21st President of Rutgers University Jonathan Holloway, PhD, served as this year’s Keynote Speaker, addressing his unique transition into the role of university president during a crisis and discussing his views on leadership of the state university.
“Very few people imagined what we would be going through at this moment,” said President Holloway, who began his role as president in July 2020. “You can imagine my surprise and my selfish disappointment when I realized that things I had hoped I would be able to do when I started at Rutgers were not going to happen: that I would be walking into a very different environment and I had to get serious about the work of repair and rehabilitation of the university.”
Additionally, the event’s panelists spoke to a wide array of topics focused on their specific areas of expertise while also collectively providing a glimpse into the economy downturn, including the difficulties small businesses, the younger workforce, and landlords are facing, while also presenting an optimistic view on the future of the state and County’s economic and business developments and the work New Jersey healthcare companies are doing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
Hosted since 2017, this summit is part of a larger strategic planning initiative across the County which culminates in the creation of the Destination 2040 Comprehensive Master Plan. Destination 2040 will shape how the County will grow and change in the future through input from those who live, work, and learn here. The plan will help guide the municipalities within the County with programs and policies to help achieve goals to improve the quality of life for all residents.