Stretching across the width of New Jersey’s southern region touching both coasts, Burlington County is a mix of farms, forests, suburbs and highly traveled roads. Its access to Philadelphia, New York City and the major highways passing through the state make the county a desirable place for families to settle, raise children and educate them in some of the state’s most recognized school districts. For these reasons— among others—businesses have been able to grow and diversify in order to cater to Burlington County’s population and recent developments prove the economy is healthier than ever.
TAKING THE POPULATION’S PULSE
“Burlington County has been diversifying over the past 30 years. We used to have our eggs in a few baskets of employment: manufacturing, retail, industrial, but that has since changed,” says Mark Remsa, director of economic development and regional planning for the Burlington County Bridge Commission. “Now, the top employer in the county is health care, particularly ambulatory services. This follows the demographics of the population, particularly as baby boomers are getting older and have a higher demand for health care services.”
This is echoed in the activity seen by major health care organizations expanding their services in the form of hospitals, doctors’ offices and acute care. Foremost among them includes Virtua’s $1 billion hospital and med- ical campus planned for Westampton. The former 110-acre farmland site will transform—over the next two decades—into an acute care hospital with a surgery center, rehab facility, hospice and long-term care, and other medical offices. As a result, Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly will close.
Dr. Mark Schwartz, president at Burlington County Orthopaedic Specialists and chief of orthopaedics and chairman of the department of surgery at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Burlington County, says he’s been practicing in South Jersey for 25 years and has seen a “tremendous” change in health care offerings. “I remember coming here and Route 38 was one lane in each direction and not even paved in Mount Holly,” Schwartz says. “But the potential for growth has been realized. The mentality used to be [that] people needed to go to Philadelphia or New York for good health care. That is no longer a fact. We have great doctors and hospitals right in our own backyard.”
He further adds the overall quality of life in the county makes for a wide range of patients to serve. “It’s a phenomenal place to live and raise a family, so you have this population of kids to retirees that is perfect for practicing medicine,” he says.
The population is driving healthy competition, attracting even Pennsylvania-based hospitals to come to South Jersey, and our homegrown organizations are staying on their toes.
Deborah Heart and Lung Center has been a fixture in Burlington County for nearly a century. According to President and CEO Joseph Chirichella, the center’s location in Browns Mills has given them access to a wide variety of people who need their services.
“The county has a fair number of retirement communities, and they are more prone to needing health care services, and baby boomers approaching retirement are the next biggest group,” he says. “Part of the reason we’ve stayed in [this part of] Burlington County is our proximity to Ocean County and the Toms River area. Half of our patients come from there.”
Chirichella says Deborah has a few big, strategic initiatives it’s working on, particularly catering to what he feels is an underserved population in Pemberton. “The township has only one primary care practice, one dental practice, no pediatrician, no ObGyn, no sub- specialties—residents have to leave town to get this care,” he says. “We’re hoping to break ground on a new medical building by the end of this year that would bring those services to them—imaging, urgent care, primary care, ObGyn. It’s an opening to take the Deborah services and get them into the community with Deborah-affiliated physicians.”
Additionally, those who live in the nearby Joint Base will have access to services not avail- able on the base and Deborah is recruiting specifically to fill those needs.
GROWTH AND TRAINING TALENT
While health care seems to be getting most of the attention when it comes to expansion within Burlington County, some other sectors are also gaining traction. Remsa names distribution centers specifically.
“The retail trade is still a large employer, but you can only have so many stores in a region,” he says. “But we’re seeing the retail industry transforming from brick-and-mortar to online and that means companies need to add fulfillment centers to meet the demand. That’s an area growing in this county due to the amount of developable space we have and the access to the turnpike and 295.”
Just a matter of weeks ago, Amazon opened two of these distribution centers in New Jersey, one of which is in Florence Township. At about 600,000 square feet, the center created approximately 500 jobs and will make same-day delivery possible to many in this area. Grainger Industrial Supply also operates a new 1.3 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Bordentown.
He sees opportunities for growth happening in scientific, technical and financial sectors as well. “The local economy is becoming even more diverse,” Remsa says. “Professional services like law offices, accountants and engineering are here, but another growing piece is computer system design and service industry. These businesses serve others in our area. A number of businesses need those types of services.”
Technology is also advancing manufacturing. “Traditional manufacturing may have diminished but companies are looking for technology to manufacture, like metal fabricating, or companies that feed the aerospace industry, like Lockheed Martin,” Remsa says.
No matter the industry, a crucial aspect to their success is talent, and Burlington County has no shortage of skilled and able workers. “Burlington County school districts produce high-caliber students and a high percentage go to college ... giving us a well-trained work- force,” says Deborah’s Chirichella.
For this reason the business community is even more invested in the educational opportunities available in the county, namely the newer initiative of Rowan College at Burlington County, which helps provide an affordable path to a college degree from Rowan University. Businesses in Burlington County are particularly interested in the talent coming out of this institution and bringing them into the workforce.
Anna Payanzo Cotton, vice president of the Workforce Development Institute of Rowan College at Burlington County, says her organization works side-by-side with businesses in the community to help those unemployed or underemployed get training for those industries.
“We target industries based on market information—companies near us and their hiring needs—and work on coordinating pathways in education and career training,” says Payanzo Cotton.
Tony Mahon, president of Assured Partners of New Jersey/AJM Insurance, is a chairperson of the WDI. “There’s a lot of excitement in the business community around Rowan [College at Burlington County], and the potential of being able to tap into the resources of talent there,” Mahon says. “Those seeking employment can get skill training, interview training or résumé building at the institute and they are going to be sought after by the local and national employers in South Jersey.”
In line with the growing industries high- lighted by Remsa, the WDI has identified these areas of opportunity from a hiring stand- point as well. “Manufacturing is one area we’ve seen a disproportional increase—machining, parts refurbishing—so we have partnered with quite a number of manufacturing companies to find out what’s missing in the current training,” says Payanzo Cotton.
This feedback led to them being awarded a National Science Foundation Grant that helped create an Advanced Manufacturing Center at BCIT’s Medford campus where students can get exposure to tools and equipment they’d be using.
WDI also worked with Virtua in regards to its nursing program. “We wanted to find out what additional training nurses were getting after being hired and figure out how we can integrate that into the certifications we offer,” says Payanzo Cotton. “We’ve identified new areas of certifications available, such as EEG techs, patient advocators/wellness ambassadors and pharmacy techs. We also want to make sure we educate the public about these career tracks. ... There are so many places you can go beyond what you might think.”
Aside from the major industries pushing Burlington County’s economy forward, small businesses also play a part in the county’s appeal and success. Specifically, downtown districts offer residents and visitors reasons to shop and dine locally.
“The business climate in Moorestown is mixed ... and it’s a challenge for small businesses because of the number of national chains that seem to be driving a lot of the business,” says Don Powell, president of the Moorestown Business Association. “Moorestown has a very good Main Street, and clusters of stores on Young Avenue and in the Lenola section of town. We encourage people to deal with all of those merchants.”
The MBA sponsors various events throughout the year to keep its members engaged in the community. Events include candlelight shopping, a ladies night out and holiday stroll. “These events get people out and involved,” says Powell. “Restaurants offer specials, stores have sales. ... It all adds to the ambiance of Moorestown and being in the community. It’s good for both businesses and residents.”
Mount Holly has also seen a resurgence centered around its downtown vibe. “Years ago, downtown shops were closed up and people were going to malls,” says Rich DiFolco, deputy mayor of Mount Holly. “Now people are returning to downtown for that individualized shopping experience. People want to go eat, shop, walk around.”
Mount Holly has been offering incentives, like a reduced sales tax rate (3.5 percent) in its downtown, and all along Main Street businesses are filling in vacant spots. DiFolco highlights mainstays like Robin’s Nest restaurant, Downtown Pizza and Vincent’s Ice Cream, and newcomers like Local Eatery and Pub, and a soon-to-open Spanish restaurant and a Greek restaurant in the former Mug Shot Cafe spot.
“We were also the first town in New Jersey to have a brewery on Main Street. Village Idiot has been very successful, and we also have Spellbound, which is a direct competitor to Flying Fish in its size,” he says.
The town is also gaining some traction among the millennial population, due in part to its art-centric community and redeveloped residential spaces, like the former Gar- dens area, which is now half-redeveloped with apartments and townhomes at max capacity, says DiFolco. He adds the old Lake Appliance is being turned into loft apartments.
“The idea is offering people the chance to live downtown where they can walk and get everything they need, while having access to mass transit and the major highways. Rowan College at Burlington County has also chosen their Mount Holly campus as its art learning college, so anyone with a concentration in art will come here for classes,” DiFolco says. “It’s very nice, relaxed, comfortable. Over the next couple of years we see a lot of opportunities for further development and bringing back the single family community.”
WHAT BUSINESSES ARE SAYING
President, Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce
“Business is in an uptick in our community. We’re seeing businesses open and hiring employees. Things are really turning around in our community and members are out there networking, and networking with like- minded businesspeople.”
Regional Vice President, Conifer
“Burlington County has been a historically strong market for us. It has great access to major employment centers within the county and the Philadelphia metro area, and it has everything families would want: good schools, jobs, quality of life.”
President, Sciacca’s Upholstering & Design
“We are celebrating 70 years and we love being part of the Burlington County landscape. My grandparents opened in Riverside and grew the business through years of working with friends, neighbors and the community. Today we have a large amount of clients from the immediate area, as well as throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. Our growth is strong due to the amount of marketing and promotion through traditional sources and being members of the Delran and Riverside Business Associations and the BCRCC.”
MARY ELLEN ROSE
Managing Shareholder, Capehart Scatchard
“Our location in Mount Laurel benefits us as a regional law firm. We’re able to serve clients from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and we have easy access to transportation to get us to the courts in Philadelphia or New York City. The operational costs are also much more reasonable here than if we were in the city.”
Regan Young England Butera (RYEBREAD)
“Ben Franklin said New Jersey is a ‘keg tapped at both ends.’ Burlington County is more or less the same, except instead of Philadelphia and New York, we are oriented toward Camden County/Philadelphia and Trenton/Princeton. Folks in Burlington County tend to gravitate to these areas for their media, jobs, professional [services] and entertainment.”
Owner/Director, Liberty Lake Day Camp
“For the first time since 2009, I’ve begun to see the beginnings of an economic turnaround in Burlington County. In my business, it’s about children. There has been a population dip with the Recession, but now that confidence is better, we are seeing [those who had held off] have children.”
Marketing Director, Artis Senior Living of Evesham
“One of the best things about being in Burlington County is the camaraderie of the people who live in the community, and how everyone’s belief is to always do what is in the best interest for the residents. Having a business in this county means residents have so many options at their fingertips for whatever their families need, whether it is senior care, child care or anything in between.”
“There are many strengths about being in Burlington County: the diversity of businesses, the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey and its proximity to Philadelphia.”
President/COO, Evesham Mortgage
“The business environment in our area is very strong and vibrant. [The county has] been a thriving market for the mortgage industry as well as the real estate industry. Home values have been rising and there is strong demand to move into the area. I attribute this to the great school systems and ease of commute to both Philly and New York.”
President, AJM Insurance
“The business climate is absolutely on fire. A lot of that has to do with the way local government has partnered up with businesses in the area, making it favorable to do business. That’s a plus from a business and community aspect.”
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 6, Issue 10 (October, 2016).
For more info on South Jersey Biz, click here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Biz, click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Biz, click here.