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A SITE SELECTION INVESTMENT PROFILE
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY
From Site Selection magazine, July 2024
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INNOVATION DESTINATION

A yearning to discover and connect is at the heart of Middlesex Countiy's success.

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY
by ADAM BRUNS
A

t the doorstep of New York City, Middlesex County, New Jersey, cultivates its own doorways to discovery. Look around the county’s 25 municipalities and you’ll find places where growing companies and their employees cultivate innovation as a way of life.

Sandy S. Castor, Department Head of Economic Development for Middlesex County, says the area’s innovation mindset is baked in and now is being enhanced by intentional actions around the county’s unique and growing blend of talent, quality-of-life amenities, cultural diversity, workforce development and research assets. “The work that we’re doing in Middlesex County continues to resonate,” she says. That applies to established multinationals and early-stage companies alike.

“We understand the importance and cherish the value that entrepreneurs bring to the ecosystem that we’re creating,” says Castor. The message to those young firms? “We are the key ingredient in accelerating your success.”

One of those startups is growing fast after making headlines in 2020 with the first COVID-19 test utilizing saliva.

“We are thrilled to call New Jersey’s life science innovation corridor our home and are excited about the opportunities to expand in such a nurturing and skilled environment,” says John DelliSanti, CEO of Sampled.

Formerly known as Infinity Biologix, the company spun out of Rutgers University in 2020. Now it’s making an expansion investment in a 140,000-sq.-ft. facility in Piscataway that will be home of the largest biorepositories of its kind in the world. The new complex will allow the company to store, manage, analyze, research and transport up to 20 million bio-samples using equipment that includes over 800 freezers and 230 liquid nitrogen tanks.

Denmark-based biotech firm Genmab employs 668 employees at its U.S. headquarters in Plainsboro and is about to employ a whole lot more.

In March, Genmab was approved for up to $8.4 million in state tax credits over seven years (through NJEDA’s Emerge program) to support a $32.6 million, 300-job investment in a second location in Plainsboro. The location was selected over a competing site in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, because of the tax credits and the location’s talent quotient and proximity to higher education institutions, the state said.

Brain Train
Johnson & Johnson founder Robert Wood Johnson began his professional training as a pharmaceutical apprentice. So it’s only natural that the county J&J calls home is as focused on workforce development as it is on target sectors such as life sciences, food technology and autonomous mobility.

Innovative new environments in Middlesex CountyInnovative new environments in Middlesex County include (l. to r.) Hackensack Meridian Health’s $200 million wellness center at a transit hub in Woodbridge; one of the world’s largest biorepositories from Rutgers spinout Sampled in Piscataway; and Genmab’s second location in Plainsboro.
Images courtesy of Russo Development/Hackensack Meridian Health; Genmab (photo by Connie Zhou for Gensler); and Sampled (photo by Mike Van Tassell (NJ)

As part of Middlesex County’s $25 million investment in the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center developed by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and RWJBarnabas Health in partnership with the New Brunswick Development Corporation, the RWJBarnabas Health Workforce Partnership will create unique educational pathways and curricula for the benefit of Middlesex College and Middlesex County’s nationally ranked magnet school academies, including schools focused on STEM and on allied health professions. The cancer center, New Jersey’s first and only freestanding cancer hospital, is scheduled for completion in late 2024.

The life sciences also inflect the location choice of Nokia Bell Labs — the company where Alexander Graham Bell’s innovation legacy has lived on for 100 years. The company announced in December it will relocate its research and development campus from historic digs in Murray Hill to the new four-acre Health & Life Science Exchange (HELIX) development in downtown New Brunswick, home to the Rutgers Health New Jersey Innovation Hub now under construction.

It’s one more thing that’s never been seen before in a county accustomed to breaking new ground. Nokia Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Nishant Batra said the move marries the organization’s legacy with a modern R&D facility. “Ultimately,” he said, “we want a facility that feels right for the next 100 years of Nokia Bell Labs.”

Expected to break ground in 2025, the new 1.5-million-sq.-ft. campus will be developed in three phases by SJP Properties backed by the New Brunswick Development Corporation, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the City of New Brunswick. Nokia Bell Labs and partners also are separately launching a new venture studio.

 

New Jersey is an important technology hub for TCS, and we are excited to be a part of its growing reputation as a center of innovation.
— Surya Kant, Chairman of North America, Tata Consultancy Services, announcing the planned hiring of nearly 1,000 more employees, February 2022

 

“Collaboration and cooperation are central to the Nokia Bell Labs research model, and therefore increased proximity to an ecosystem of academic centers of excellence, established industry leaders and exciting new startup ventures was a contributing factor to the site selection,” the company said.

‘Deep Cultural Competency’
All of the above takes place against an everyday backdrop of cultural diversity. With a population of 863,623, Middlesex County is the second most populous county in the state and also one of the most diverse, having welcomed more than 14,500 international migrants between July 2020 and July 2023. As of 2020, 32.9% of county residents were born outside of the U.S.

When it comes to foreign direct investment, the county is a state leader. Foreign-born populations undergird that investment. Middlesex is home to one of the largest communities of Indians outside of India itself. Now there is growing traction with Japanese firms.

“That’s because we possess a deep cultural competency that extends beyond the built environment and education, encompassing art, history and culture,” Castor says. “We acknowledge, appreciate, and embrace everyone”

The words she uses to describe her team’s role could just as easily describe the county’s sense of community:

“Our diversity is not just a statistic,” she says. “We see our role as pivotal in mirroring this mosaic. We act as the conveners and connectors, striving to weave together the various strands of our county into a cohesive whole where potential is realized. This commitment to inclusivity and collaboration is essential as we work toward shared positive economic outcomes for all.”


This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Middlesex County Office of Business Engagement. To learn more, contact biz@co.middlesex.nj.us and visit www.middlesexcountynj.gov/biz.

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

     



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