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In Princeton (and nearby): The address is everything — Companies outside of town willingly claim residency

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Princeton and its surrounding municipalities.
Princeton and its surrounding municipalities. - ()

Miele, ETS, Munich Reinsurance America and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory all have two things in common: They are some of Princeton's better-known international companies.

And none of them is actually located in Princeton.

They're just a few big names that actually call places along the Route 1 corridor such as Lawrence Township, Plainsboro, Monmouth Junction and West Windsor home, but still use a Princeton corporate address.

For good reason.

“Most international companies want the Princeton name because they want to be able to say their U.S. headquarters is in a place where other people from around the world will recognize,” said Aubrey Haines, CEO of Ewing-based Mercer Oak Realty — which specializes in leasing Princeton locations.

Haines said the cluster of companies using a Princeton corporate address in neighboring towns along Route 1 is no coincidence. In the 1970s, when the regional market first took off, Haines said the U.S. Postal Service and some local government officials worked to extend the Princeton ZIP code to entice companies to settle in the area.

At the time, many executives were already living in the Princeton area and looked for ways to bring their New York-based companies closer to home, Haines said. Having a recognizable address helped that cause.

And in many ways, it still does today, he said.

“If a company is moving from Manhattan to a suburban location, it's tough for them to swallow the idea that their address is now Plainsboro or West Windsor,” Haines said.

Haines added that it's not that there's necessarily a knock against neighboring towns, but they “don't have the same international cachet that Princeton does.”

Lauren Moore, executive director of the New Jersey Business Action Center, said that rather than feeling shortchanged, neighboring towns have demonstrated through their ability to attract and retain major companies using Princeton corporate addresses that they have been “able to very effectively use that to their advantage.”

“Absolutely it's not a slight,” Moore said.

It also can be an important tool for the state to use.

Moore references the case of major consumer products manufacturer Church & Dwight, which he looks back on as “one of this administration's biggest successes.”

A few years back, Moore said the Princeton-based company, particularly known for its Arm & Hammer brand of products, “was ready to relocate to Pennsylvania and they were almost out the door.”

But having spent more than 60 years calling Princeton home, the company was able to partially preserve that tradition and find a suitable alternative for its new $70 million, 250,000-square-foot headquarters, which opened last year.

“When they were looking for a site, they still wanted to have the prestigious Princeton address, and they found the site in South Princeton.”

In case you were wondering, “South Princeton” is really Ewing Township.

And while Church & Dwight's official corporate address does indeed reflect the company's location in Ewing, it also notes that it is located in the “Princeton South Corporate Center.”

Princeton gets its reputation from the reputation of its university, which was just named the No. 1 school in the country for the second consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.

Just ask Jerry Fennelly, president of Hamilton-based commercial real estate firm NAI Fennelly and a member of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce's board of directors.

“The brand, Princeton, is a worldwide known brand and probably goes pretty high in the categories of brand awareness … and the No. 1 driver is definitely Princeton University,” Fennelly said.

He said the Ivy League school “not only puts $1 billion a year into our economy, but has a world brand that goes with it.”

Anywhere on the globe.

“If you're in China and you say, 'Princeton,' (they say) 'Oh, I know Princeton,'” Fennelly said.

But it's not necessarily the school itself that draws companies — but the things that go with it.

Haines said the name is “not just a location,” but a brand that has evolved past just being a place with a top-notch college in town.

“Princeton has tremendous demographics,” Haines said.

Between schools, a highly educated workforce and an ideal location between New York and Philadelphia accessible by both train and car, Princeton's appeal to both national and global companies extends beyond just the university's recognition, he said.

“All of that creates a quality of life that is world-class,” Haines said.

Choose New Jersey certainly knows it.

The economic development organization that is tasked with attracting companies to the Garden State appreciates what the Princeton name brings in a conversation.

“The Princeton name is recognized worldwide and, as home to prestigious Princeton University, has a certain cache, especially for overseas companies,” Choose New Jersey President and CEO Tracye McDaniel said.

“Several foreign company executives we've worked with on business attraction projects have expressed interest in a Princeton location since executives in their countries know the name Princeton and equate it with excellence.”

As does, some might say, Choose New Jersey.

The organization's headquarters is geographically within the boundaries of Plainsboro, but its postal address is ... wait for it ... Princeton.

McDaniel says that's happenstance more than anything.

“Choose New Jersey chose office space in Princeton Forrestal Village for its location in central New Jersey and the easy access it provides to all parts of the state, including its close proximity to Trenton,” she said. “The Princeton address is simply a plus.”

A very big one many companies feel.

E-mail to: andrewg@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @andrgeorge


Size: 18.1 sq. miles
Population: 30,000
Mayor: Liz Lempert
Notable: Princeton almost equidistant between New York City and Philadelphia, has been named one of the 25 best towns in the country to live and work in.

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