The City of Trenton, New Jersey received an Innovation Planning Challenge Grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in late 2018 to plan for Trenton Production and Knowledge Innovation Campus (TPKIC). The City retained AEG to conduct a study of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Trenton and to identify the needs of local entrepreneurs. The City also retained AEG to identify existing federal, state, and local economic development incentives available to Trenton businesses and create an eligibility and navigation tool for those incentives.
We performed a baseline geographic, demographic, and economic assessment of Trenton and the Trenton region. We then identified the elements of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and gathered information on existing programs, facilities, and other ecosystem assets in the Trenton region and at the region’s higher education institutions. We also identified industries in the region that are showing particular growth and innovation. To identify market needs and support for the TPKIC, we conducted phone and in-person interviews with members of the area colleges and universities, state and local government representatives, local businesses, and other community stakeholders. Further, we convened three in-person focus group meetings in Trenton to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the system, growing industries, gaps and needs, and best uses for the TPKIC.
We found that the Trenton region is home to a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem that has multiple strengths upon which to grow. However, the ecosystem lacks opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing, and the region’s business incentive programs are difficult to navigate. We recommended the TPKIC be built following a phased approach. In the first phase, the TPKIC should address current entrepreneurial ecosystem gaps by providing mentoring, training, and incubator space to individuals wanting to start their own businesses.
We further identified existing federal, state, and local economic development incentives available to businesses that relocate to or exist in Trenton, and created an eligibility and navigation tool. This tool was provided to the City of Trenton, along with a brief methodology memorandum.
The ecosystem report was shared with community stakeholders, regional economic development agencies, higher educational institutions in the region, and the State of New Jersey to support the TPKIC planning efforts.