Somerset County Creates Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development

Posted on September 20, 2021

Combined Departments Will Coordinate to Help Lead Somerset County’s Smart Growth and Economic Development Strategies for the Future

Somerville, NJ – Somerset County announced today that it will merge the Planning Division and Office of Economic Development to create a new Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development reporting directly to Somerset County Administrator Colleen Mahr. The new Office will be the central hub working with the Board of County Commissioners, County divisions and departments, local governments, non-profits, and the business community to coordinate efforts to build a strong economic environment, develop high-wage employment growth, and protect open space and historic resources throughout the County.

“This is an important step for Somerset County, already known for its exceptional planning and as a regional economic engine,” said Deputy Director Sara Sooy. “The environment in which we all live, work and play is changing more rapidly than ever, and having the Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development in place will allow us to plan ahead and react quickly to take advantage of all new opportunities that arise.”

The new Office will be led by Walter Lane, under whose direction the Somerset County Planning Division is a recognized planning leader in New Jersey. Over the last seven years, much of the County Planning Division’s projects and initiatives have included an economic development component or theme.  The award-winning Supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County Initiative, the Walk, Bike, Hike Somerset County Study and the recently released Somerset County Preservation Plan all contain strategies, policies, and recommendations which support, enhance, and leverage economic growth in Somerset County.

“Somerset County has a wealth of resources including its people, educational opportunities, businesses, amazing natural resources, and easy access to two major urban centers,” said Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson. “It’s vital that our business, community, and government leaders work in tandem to maximize these resources for the benefit of everyone in Somerset County, and under Walter’s leadership I know the new Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development will lead the way.”

One of the main goals of the Office will be to foster the growth of the much-lauded public-private partnership between the County and the Somerset County Business Partnership to secure a sustainable and prosperous future for the County. A key component of this will be supporting the new Film Commission created by the Board of County Commissioners this spring to aid the tourism and hospitality industry’s recovery from the recent COVID downturn.

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Source: Somerset County Office of Public Information, 9-20-21