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Trenton: A Proud Past, A Brighter Future.

Tom Sullivan

July 26, 2016
Tom Sullivan

You can’t be successful in marketing, or in business, without giving your team and your clients a reason to believe in the mission, the plan and the people who are going to execute that plan.  The same applies to most human endeavors like revitalizing a city.

Without the Christmas victory at the Battle of Trenton in 1776, referred to by historians as “the turning point of the Revolution,” there might not be a United States of America.  That battle would not have been won without the bold leadership of George Washington and the courage of his small army of patriots. The three-pronged plan of attack was executed under the harshest of winter storm conditions which claimed two of his soldiers on the march south after crossing the Delaware River.  Their total commitment to the cause of independence resulted in a major victory after successive retreats.  This transformed a Congress, paralyzed by disunity and doubt, into unified believers, willing to finance Washington’s grueling, but ultimately successful, fight for independence.

Fast forward 240 years.  Once again, Trenton is poised at a turning point, with many doubting that bold leadership can lead to transformation; but I am a believer.  In its July 18th coverage of the introduction of new leadership for the Greater Trenton Initiative, The Trenton Times ran a headline that said “Group Hoping to Revitalize Trenton, Names Founding CEO.” (Note: the underline for emphasis is mine.) I attended that event at the headquarters of NJ Manufacturer’s Insurance and there was a lot more than “fingers-crossed” hope present.  There was an excitement in the crowd of several hundred business and community leaders and plenty of reasons to believe in a transformed Trenton with a bright future.  Here are five of them:

  1. Business Leadership – George Sowa, a highly successful and admired commercial real estate developer with a track record of city revitalization was introduced as the CEO of The Greater Trenton Initiative. His passion as a Trenton native will fuel his success.
  1. Political Leadership – Mayor Eric Jackson expressed his support for George Sowa and the Greater Trenton Initiative. Mayor Jackson is a man who believes that leadership starts with listening and that success results from collaborating with smart and committed people – without worrying about who gets the credit. Mayor Jackson’s refreshing approach has drawn new energy and commitments from the business community which believes that investing in Trenton is more likely to result in success now, than at any time in the last fifty years.
  1. Expertise – The start-up of The Greater Trenton Initiative has been led by some of the nation’s best economic and community development professionals: Caren Franzini, former CEO of the NJ Economic Development Authority and Peter Kasabach, Executive Director of NJ Future. Caren, Peter and their colleagues have worked hard the last two years to prepare a strategic foundation for the future.
  1. Resources – Bernie Flynn, CEO of New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance has brought together other leading organizations who have financed the research and planning process to date and who together have committed $2 million to The Greater Trenton Initiative to provide the runway necessary to make steady progress.
  1. Momentum – There are many other pieces coming together. Tom Gilmore, the successful Director of Commerce for Asbury Park is now leading the Trenton Downtown Association. New real estate developments are getting underway. High School graduation rates are on the rise.  And the community is committing to making Trenton a safe place where youths can find jobs and families can make homes.

In realizing a victory some think impossible, George Sowa has another George to look up to for inspiration.

Pictured Above: Caren Franzini, Co-Chair of the Board of The Greater Trenton Initiative (GTI) introduces George Sowa as new CEO of GTI.  Mayor Eric Jackson (to the left) spoke enthusiastically about Trenton’s future and GTI’s role in advancing economic development and job creation.