Business & Finance

Middlesex in 2018, How's the Economy Looking? Rutgers Experts Provide Insight

Rutgers Bloustein Dean Emeritus James Hughes Credits: Daniel J. Munoz

PISCATAWAY, NJ - A newly sworn in Democrat governor and an arguably hectic presidential administration.

And the cherry on top: Gov. Phil Murphy, in his inauguration speech, confirmed the existence of Central Jersey.

How does that bode for Middlesex County?

Sign Up for E-News

Ask James Hughes, a professor and dean emeritus at the Bloustein School at Rutgers University and an expert in planning and public policy.

He say​s​ it’s a mixed bag of results, according to his presentation at the Middlesex County 2018 Summit, on Jan. 23 at the Rutgers Visitor Center in Piscataway.

Six elements have rocked the county, Hughes said, and depending on how you spin it, work for or against Middlesex.

Hughes listed them out at the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast, which brought in business leaders from across the county.

The​re​ are changing demographics, a push towards digital information technology, a reduction in the suburban workforce, migration towards urban workplaces and the adoption of online e-commerce.

With Middlesex, the county has been spared from the population decline or stagnation that’s ​impacted the edges of the New York metro area, namely Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon and Monmouth counties.

Some areas, despite escaping the decline, haven’t fared much better. Take Somerset County, which in recent years has seen its population growth rate plateau, Hughes said.

Ultimately, that might be enough to scare away potential employers- which Middlesex County can prep itself to catch.

“Many firms in Somerset County, which have open engineering jobs, planning jobs, they can’t fill them,” Hughes said. “Millennials don’t want to live in Somerset County.”

Rather, the push has been towards urban-centered worksites and places of living. Hughes highlighted Prudential’s old office ​park in South Plainfield, just off Interstate 287.

The site, which opened in the 1970s amidst the so-called “white flight” and migration of jobs and money out of urban centers, has recently sat empty.

“This was once one of the centerpieces of Prudential's 20th century suburban growth strategy, but a post-suburban economic era is unfolding,” Hughes said.

Indeed, Prudential’s new office building in Newark has breathed revival into the​ downtown​ evident with the ongoing gentrification along Broad and Halsey streets

That trend has been a major plus for urbanized and densely populated counties, Hughes said. With skyrocketing rent pricing businesses and tenants out of New York City, and a millennial generation migrating towards urban environments, population centers like Newark and New Brunswick have stepped up to the plate, Hughes said.

New Brunswick certainly stands to gain from Amazon’s interest in Newark as the site of its HQ2, Hughes said, despite the Hub City being overlooked by the online retail giant​ as a possible location for its second mega-headquarters in the U.S.​

“It’s entirely possible that Amazon could have multiple buildings in multiple locations,” Hughes said. “They could have maybe their super headquarters in Hudson Yards​ (in New York)​, but they have other research facilities​ in other locations​.”

​The rail line running through Middlesex County is also a tremendous boost. ​The Northeast Corridor, according to Hughes, provides access to Yale ​University ​in New Haven, Columbia University in Manhattan, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“There’s no place else in the country like this,” Hughes said.

That skilled and educated workforce, or as Hughes described it, “advances in digital information technology,” marks something else going well for Middlesex County and the state as a whole.

But even without direct centers of employment in Middlesex County, the region still stands to benefit from the byproducts of being in such close proximity to Manhattan.

“Clearly one of the national growth locomotives is New York City, we capture the spillover from that, and we have on the one hand 425,000 ​N​ew ​J​erseyans ​who ​work in New York, ​but ​live here,” Hughes said.

​Moreover, Hughes added, many of these businesses, with their headquarters in New York City, still have offices across New Jersey which do back-end work.

New Brunswick, and the state as a whole, have been historically known to under-appreciate their arts and tourism sectors​, he said.​ 

Certainly, there have been reversals in those trends: construction is well underway for the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC), ​a ​22-story, $172 million project on Livingston Avenue

Once completed, NBPAC will be the home of the George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theatres, as well as the American Repertory Ballet and a detachment of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers​ University​.

To some extent, much of New Jersey’s tourism, that stemming from the Jersey Shore, was decimated in the wake of Superstorm Sandy​in October 2012 ​and took years to recover​.​

Yet other aspects of potential tourism, Hughes said, simply haven’t been appreciated.

“New Jersey’s done an abysmal job on a statewide basis in terms of promoting tourism,” Hughes said. “With the Revolutionary War, this is the crad​le ​of the American Revolution, and most ​N​ew Jerseyan's don’t even know that and know the assets we have here.”  

Editor Daniel J. Munoz,

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick's Ethan Reiss Saves the History of Who We Are

July 15, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - To some people, lists of names and pictures of locations just create a jumble of information and a confusing mass of facts.  To Ethan Reiss, a historian from East Brunswick who is working to keep facts alive, these bits and pieces come together to form a picture of who we are based on who we were in the past.

Reiss, the administrator of the popular "You Know ...

East Brunswick Council Candidates Respond to Mayor Cohen’s Comments in Recent TapInto Article

July 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ- Councilwoman Camille Clark and Council Candidates Curt Philipczak and Dhar Khona released the following statement in response to Mayor Cohen:

“While the TAP article and the Mayor focus on the semantics in differentiating between the phrases and terms “Redevelopment Zone” and “other” new construction, the end product is the same.  Simply ...

Learn How to “Ace The Interview” at the East Brunswick Public Library

EAST BRUNSWICK—Looking for a new job? East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) is here to help. The library offers a special program called “Acing the Interview” on Saturday, July 21 at 10:30 am, which is designed to help jobseekers.

“Acing the Interview” focuses on what many feel is the most stressful part of the job search process: the ...

Learn About Food Preservation at the East Brunswick Public Library

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library and the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission are presenting the special program “Food Preservation 101” at the library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) on Wednesday, August 1 at 7:00 pm.

“Food Preservation 101” covers the basics of food preservation. The program is led by Shailja Mathur and ...

East Brunswick Public Library Hosts "An Olde-Time Summer Band Concert"

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) is more than just books. On Sunday, July 15 at 2:00 pm, the library hosts a special concert featuring the Central Jersey Wind Ensemble.

Titled “An Old Time Summer Band Concert,” the concert is a sponsored by the Friends of the Library. The Central Jersey Wind Ensemble will perform a variety of ...

East Brunswick Public Library Hosts Special Health Day

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and East Brunswick Public Library are teaming up to host a special evening of health programs at the library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) on Wednesday, July 11.

Horizon will be providing blood pressure and blood sugar screenings in the library from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

The program “Brain Games – Keep ...

Lucia, Lucia by Adriani Trigiani

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2003)


If a summer romance novel is what you are craving to read as you sit by the pool or beach, Adriana Trigiani's Lucia, Lucia is a perfect choice. Set in 1950 New York City, the novel is about a young woman, Lucia Sartori, who is determined to have a career and be able to support herself, an unusual choice for a girl who was ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...