SSouth New Jersey is in many ways poles apart from the northern and central regions of the state. More rural and less densely populated, its economy is largely drawn by industry, healthcare, education and agricultural. And while Atlantic County, with Atlantic City at its heart, and Camden County, a commuter enclave of Philadelphia, typically bring South Jersey into the spotlight with their massive revitalization projects, some of them less publicized counties in the region – Gloucester, Cape May, Burlington, Salem and Cumberland – are also experiencing their share of significant economic development.
Pushing some of that growth is the fallout from COVID-19, as many city dwellers haveWe moved to outlying suburbs and more rural towns to escape overcrowding and unrest in cities and take advantage of remote work opportunities and better housing prices.
“That’s part of the problem: getting people to understand that our county is a viaboption from a business perspective, especially with access to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Delaware,” says Jerry Velazquez, President and CEO of The Authority NJ (aka Cumberland County Improvement Authority). “People are working from home and have the flexibility to choose where they want to live and work, so they see Cumberland differently than before COVID.
He says Cumberland County has attracted interest from businesses in areas like manufacturing, warehousing and now cannabis industry, with three to four large cannabis developments totaling 500,000 to 600,000 square feet planned for 2022.
Plans also include the expansion of Millville Airport as well as the expansion of companies like Chem Glass, Kres Cold room, RovagnatI, comar Glass, Oatley and Northeast Precast. In addition, a soon-to-be-opened data center in Deerfield Township will create up to 100 well-paying computer jobs.
Burlington County is also seeing its share of industrial growth, including the opening of a third location in Moorestown for OPEX, a warehouse and document and mail automation company, which also has a location in nearby Pennsauken. Meanwhile, the Rockefeller Group, began construction of an approximately 345,600 square foot distribution center eijust a few miles from Exit 7 of the New Jersey Turnpike in Eastampton Township, which features 96 trailer locations, 54 dock doors and 4,000 square feet of speculative office space.
Moving Coastal Displacement
On Dec. 9, Cape May County received a $3 million grant from the US Economic Development Administration (USEDA) for the construction of a 16,000 square foot multi-tenant building in the Hangars Technology Park at Cape May County Airport. This project will complement a recently completed 20,000 square foot hangarke structure whose tenants include: Cellular Tracking Technologies, a leader in wildlife telemetry and IoT solutions; D-Tech International, which manufactures self-service library kiosks; and Aedicella regenerative medicine company.
It’s all part of Coastal Shift, an effort to bring new industries to Cape May County that provide well-paying jobs year-round. Tourism has always been the economic engine of the county, which attracts around 10.2 million visitors a year, but with a year-round population of just 95,000, public servants are embarking on projects that will attract new businesses and better-paying jobs to the community to revive a year-round economy.
“This is probably the most committed the county has ever been to economic development. USEDA has been a great partner and looked at how he can invest and diversify our market here with aviation tech jobs and give us a real opportunity to grow,” says Joe MolineauxEconomic Development Program Manager for the Cape May County Planning Department.
Coastal Shift, which began before the pandemic and intensified as COVID-related lockdowns devastated the tourism industry, also includes a County Commons makeover, a 185,000 square foot complex in Rio Grande that once housed a Kmart and strip shopping center. The new Full Circle plaza, which is expected to be open by Memorial Day, will include a movie theater, bowling alley, playground, bar, restaurant, federally run veterans clinic and a Tractor Supply store.