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Say 'Yes' To Success

by Kaytlyn Mroz

Accounting for 500 square miles of land, Cumberland County boasts 70,000 acres of farmland, making up nearly 20 percent of the state’s agricultural market value. As if that isn’t enough to draw you in, the county has over 40 miles of the Delaware Bay coastline and 41 percent of preserved land. While the scenery isn’t hard on the eyes, the vast amount of space and resources makes it great for business.

GROW NJ, an incentive program for eligible businesses that are creating or retaining jobs in New Jersey, has already awarded over $24 million in tax credits between Northeast Precast, Surfside Products, Univision and Allied Specialty Foods, creating over 250 jobs. There is an additional $35 million in GROW NJ approvals expected for five more companies in the county.

“I think we have the workforce, which is getting strengthened every day with training programs, we have the financial investments right now, not only locally but … throughout New Jersey,” says James Watson, director of economic development for the Cumberland County Improvement Authority. “These things are tremendous for us and companies get the advantage by coming to Cumberland County.”

Driving business into Cumberland County and keeping stable businesses happy is not a job for one department. Everyone does their part in maintaining businesses that want to expand and finding a solution to every question a new business may have about how to grow their companies—that is exactly what the Cumberland YES (Your Economic Solution) Campaign is all about.

“It really came out of our desire as a county where, pretty much, companies are coming in saying, ‘Can we do this?’ ‘Can we do that?’ and we say ‘Yes’ and see how we can get it done,” says Watson about the creation of the YES Campaign at the beginning of 2015. “I think it’s the attitude of the Improvement Authority that we’ll do whatever it takes to get business in and help businesses grow.”

Hank Sauce, a company that markets and produces an array of hot sauces to restaurants and businesses on the East Coast, is an example of what the YES Campaign can do for businesses. A growing brand, Hank Sauce is expanding west and will soon be manufacturing in Millville’s Mike Lascarides Industrial Park.

Executive director of the Cumberland Development Corporation and the Bridgeton Area Chamber of Commerce, Tony Stanzione says the businesses that are still in the county have a high belief in the area, also. He says, “We do courtesy calls, stop by, ask questions, we see if there is something we can help with.”

Juggling two separate positions within the county, Stanzione says the cities of Vineland, Millville, Bridgeton and the Cumberland Development Corporation all work together. “We’ve always had this idea that the economic development should be a shared effort between towns,” says Stanzione.

While a majority of people educated within the county do move on to jobs there, it has been a No. 1 priority to enhance the education in Cumberland County.

“This past year, the graduating class of Cumberland County College—about 80 percent—were the first to gain a degree in their family past that of a high school education,” says Joseph Derella, freeholder director. “So that is a positive step since we were the lowest in the state.”

Focusing on the county as a whole, Derella says, “The [goal] is to provide the residents of Cumberland County with different things.”

“One of the major things we are doing right now is the development of our education and workforce training opportunities,” says Gerard Velazquez III, the executive director of the Cumberland County Improvement Authority.

With an already existing, higher education campus (Cumberland County College), the county invested in a $70 million project at the high school level. Velazquez says the new Cumberland County Technical Education Center (TEC) is set to open in September 2016. When doors open, 225 freshmen will have the opportunity to study in a program of their choosing, from Allied Heath to Law Enforcement & Homeland Security—with everything in between.

Additionally on the college campus, The Center for Workforce & Economic Development (CWED) purchased a facility that is home to the Board of Social Services, welfare and other agencies. While still keeping these already existing agencies, the new CWED facility’s goal is to provide prospective and existing businesses with assistance and other services.

“It’s a great opportunity to start to develop the workforce to take the jobs coming to Cumberland County,” says Velazquez of the CWED.

“Between those projects and the college, we call it the ‘economic triangle,’” he says. “The idea is to educate high school students, college students and adults—all on the same campus. We want to be able to train not only students and future employees, but also train for employers.”

It may seem like a lot is happening all at once, but these projects have been in the works for years. Velazquez says, “What we want businesses to know is that we are open for business and we want to do everything we can to facilitate opportunities in Cumberland County.”

Besides the available land at low cost, businesses should be looking for an area that people are drawn to. Attractions like The Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center, Museum of American Glass, New Jersey Motorsports Park, Cohanzick Zoo and Army Air Field Museum, to name a few, are certainly providing for a higher rate of tourists.

“As is the case seemingly everywhere, we have transitioned from a very industrial and manufacturing economy to one more focused on retail, service and tourism,” says Earl Sherrick, executive director of the Greater Millville Chamber of Commerce. “The Jersey Motorsports Park, The Levoy Theatre and more active Wheaton Arts have brought many visitors to Millville and Cumberland County and have enhanced the hotel and restaurant sectors. Recently, and moving forward, there has been a big emphasis on eco-tourism along the Maurice River and Delaware Bay that has had a positive impact as well.”

The Cumberland County Arts & Innovation Center will also draw a crowd. Housing classes in everything from fine arts to ceramics, and journalism to digital media, along with courses in painting, drawing and others, Sherrick says, “We see it as a natural fit to Millville’s Downtown Arts District and it should bring several hundred people to town, weekly.” A short drive away from Philadelphia, a few hours from New York City and within striking distance of other major cities, what’s not to love about the atmosphere of Cumberland County? Sherrick says, “If you are a business owner or manager and there is a product or service you need, there is very little you could need that is not available within a 30-mile radius.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 5, Issue 11 (November, 2015).
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