To the Editor:

Small-business owners are the backbone of Mercer County’s economy. In fact, Mercer County is home to more than 15,000 small-business firms, according to the County Office of Economic Development. Last summer, the Board of Chosen Freeholders passed Ordinance No. 2018-5 establishing a “Set-Aside Program” for qualified Mercer County minority-, women-, veteran-owned businesses or small businesses.  The ordinance makes it easier for qualified businesses to contract with the county. In recognition of National Small Business Week (May 5-11), I want to ensure that businesses that may be eligible to participate take full advantage of Mercer County’s Set-Aside Program.

The Set-Aside Program reserves 10 percent of the dollar value of all the county’s goods, which total more than $70 million in professional services and construction contracts each year. The program allocates 30% for qualified minority-owned businesses; 30% for qualified women-owned businesses; 30% for qualified veteran-owned businesses; and 10% for small businesses, with an estimated $7 million worth of contracts made available to eligible businesses as part of the program.

Legal restrictions do apply for government competitive contracts, and vendors who are interested must hold a valid Business Registration Certificate from the Department of Treasury, Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services, and be registered with the Selective Assistance Vendor Information database prior to conducting business in the State of New Jersey and prior to the award of contract from the County of Mercer.

Other set-aside programs have proved to be successful in New Jersey, such as those of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, and Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties. Opening doors for businesses in Mercer County that may not have the capacity to bid for large contracts, but that do have the qualifications, expertise andmeans to provide County departments and agencies with much-needed goods, services and construction, presents a tremendous new opportunity for those business owners.

Any business that wishes to learn more about Mercer County Set-Aside Program, or needs help registering, should contact James Chambers Jr., the Coordinator of Business Outreach for Mercer County at 609-989-6212 or jchambers@mercercounty.org, or visit the Mercer County website “Purchasing” section for assistance.

Brian M. Hughes

Mercer County Executive

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