Cape May County and Atlantic Cape Community College have announced the commencement of formal planning efforts on a project to develop a business resource center for existing and future businesses in Cape May County. The center is dubbed “bizHub.”
Representatives of the county, college, and South Jersey Economic Development District (SJEDD), visited Trenton to attend a kick-off meeting for the new project Aug. 14. Their host was the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), which is providing a $100,000 grant for the center’s planning.
Freeholder Will Morey, who oversees economic development in the county, praised the NJEDA’s pro-active reach.
“The EDA is wisely looking for what will best assist communities with the kind of economic development they truly need,” stated Morey. “The partners in this project illustrate our community’s own keen interest in developing and growing business here in Cape May County.”
“The NJEDA grant and the future bizHub are prime examples of how the college serves the Cape May County community as an economic development partner/engine," added Atlantic Cape Community College President Dr. Barbara Gaba.
Representatives from a wide swath of the community partnered to write and apply for the grant. Most of them will now form a “Working Group,” meeting every two weeks over the next six months, to explore and define what resources bizHub requires to enhance existing businesses, and attract new ones to the County.
The Working Group also will develop a county-wide business inventory and will assess whether bizHub should have a separate physical location or should be located in an existing facility, such as the county’s technology incubator, “duneTech,” located at Cape May County Airport, or at the college’s Cape May Court House campus.
The Working Group includes Vicki Clark, executive director of the Cape May County Chamber, Nancy Cleaver, chief lending officer at Crest Savings Bank, Jim Rutala, a professional planner representing Lower Township, Nancy Sittineri, an economic development specialist for Middle Township, Lou Joyce, executive director of the SJEDD, David Yunghans, Cape May County coordinator of sService Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Maria Kellett, dean of the college’s Cape May County campus, and Carole Mattessich, the county’s director of strategic business development. Joyce, Kellett and Mattessich represented the group at the NJEDA meeting in Trenton.
The NJEDA grant includes matching funds of $10,000 contributed by Crest Savings Bank, as well as in-kind services provided by all partner organizations represented on the Working Group.
“The bank is delighted to help fund an effort that will boost the community," stated Nancy Clevenger. "I am very excited to bring the collective business experience at Crest to the development of the bizHub. We expect to make a meaningful contribution to the long-term viability of present and future businesses here in Cape May County.”
To gain helpful and broad intelligence for their planning, the Working Group will conduct three focus groups consisting of local business people. Those interested in participating can call the office of Dean Maria Kellett at 609-463-3670.
Kellett said she’s excited to be working with other members of the Working Group. She noted that Freeholder Marie Hayes, who is the Freeholder Liaison with the college, has forged a productive relationship with the school and President Barbara Gaba. Hayes is a graduate of the college, and has served as an adjunct professor there.
“We have so much promise here,” stated Kellett. “When the county and college partner, it’s very powerful. Add creative ideas and hard work by the type of partners who have come to this table, and it really forwards our community.”