Businesses learn about county resources at fair

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Providing tips for owners and managers during the Small Business Resource Fair were Sean Hasson of the Burlington County Bridge Commission (clockwise from top left), county economic development Director Rob T. Wells, specialist Harry Lewis and analyst Pete Taylor.

Although it was a gray, cloudy morning on May 15, there was plenty of light inside the county’s human services building, as close to 100 small business owners learned about various ways to help their bottom lines.

“This is our second annual small business resource fair,” said Rob T. Wells of the Burlington County Department of Economic Development.

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The fair is among new initiatives he instituted last year after being appointed director of the department in 2022.

“We also have educational seminars once a month at different locations around the county, and our goal is to attract new businesses and help sustain existing small businesses,” he said, adding that owners and managers at the event learned about local, state and federal programs available to them.

“Burlington County is strong economically,” explained Wells, whose office is located near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge on Route 73 North. “We are incredibly centrally located, and can reach 8.6 million people in an eight-hour drive.”

Wells’ department shares a building with its partner, the Burlington County Bridge Commission’s Department of Economic Development. Helping to register guests at the resource fair was the commission’s shared-services manager Sean Hasson.

“We had 80 owners registered before today, and others have shown up,” noted Hasson, who distributed a list of the various agencies represented.

Wells, a native of Maple Shade who earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers-Camden and his master’s in business administration (MBA) from Fitzhburg University in Massachusetts, pointed out that problems faced by businesses include inflation and a shortage of qualified workers.

It is also a tough time “as we head into a recession,” added Wells, who worked at TD Bank for 12 years before joining the Department of Economic Development. “Small businesses tend to keep their employees longer, especially family businesses.”

Among beneficial educational seminars was one held in January, where representatives of Bowman & Company auditors shared tips on how to file annual business tax returns and what new changes have been made in the state and federal tax codes.

“Business owners often find the returns complicated and difficult,” explained Wells, who also highlighted the fact that the county offers business loans with a capped interest of 4 to 4.5% through two county small business loan programs and the Route 130 Revolving Loan Fund program. For information on those, email

Agencies and organizations represented at the resource fair included the state’s Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Business Action Center, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the county library system, Rowan College at Burlington County, the African American Chamber of Commerce, Public Service Electric & Gas and ARC of Camden County.

“More than 100 business owners attended our first small-business resource fair last year,” said bridge commission Chairman Matt Riggins, “and they gave rave reviews about the opportunities to meet and connect with representatives from organizations like the Department of Labor, the Business Action Center and Burlington County’s Workforce Development Board, to name a few.”

In addition to the resource fair, the county and the bridge commission will host a business-to-business networking event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, at the Splitz Bar and Grill on Route 73 in Maple Shade. The free event will provide additional opportunities for area business owners to network and meet with local officials and leaders in an informal setting.

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