By Alexander Mirabella
Chairman, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders
The national economy is gradually starting to improve, and now is the time for Union County to act swiftly in order to keep those gains and build a better future. The 2012 Chairman’s Initiatives, called “Putting People First,” does just that, by helping Union County residents and business owners connect with the resources they need to do their best.
One key factor is the development of a trained workforce that enables our local businesses to grow. Over the past few years we’ve made great progress in this area with the expansion of Union County College, Kean University, and the Vo-Tech high schools.
This year we will continue to expand our partnership with Kean University, which has just reached an agreement to establish a campus in Wenzhou, China. We expect this relationship to result in new business and career opportunities for Union County.
A new academy for digital media and computer aided design will be added to our Vo-Tech campus, called the Union County Tech School of Design. Vo-Tech has partnered with Kean University to help ensure that the program leads directly to college level career development.
Another area that has shown progress over the years is the work we’ve done with major employers like Wakefern, Whole Foods and Elizabethtown Gas. We’re going to build that out with the “Union County Means Business” initiative. The program is designed to connect businesses of all sizes with the resources offered by local and state agencies, such as loans, grants, and workforce training.
We are also going to keep working to make Union County a great destination for visitors and businesses. Last week I had the pleasure of announcing that in 2016 our own Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth will be the first public golf course in the 91-year history of the New Jersey State Golf Association to host the prestigious New Jersey State Open Golf Championship. We expect that the run-up to that event will generate a whole new level of interest in Union County.
In that vein, we are going to continue to ensure that Union County is in the vanguard of the global transition to clean, renewable energy and new energy-efficient technology. This is a growth sector and businesses are seeking out communities that are leading the way.
A good workforce is a healthy workforce, and Union County has a stellar tradition of promoting public health through recreation. This year in particular we are focusing on innovative new programs, sports and social activities for children and adults with disabilities.
We are also reaching out to Union County veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with a small token of appreciation consisting of a complimentary use of our fee-based recreation offerings such as golf or swimming, and we are going to use our free outdoor concert series as a platform for recognizing all Union County veterans.
The month of February began with a good jobs report from the federal government, pointing the way to an optimistic outlook. However, we will take nothing for granted and we are more determined than ever to chart a course for long term economic stability by focusing on the people who live, work and do business in Union County.