The Cape Issues team is committed to engage the public to consider and support efforts to enhance the county and an environment with opportunities that support future generations of our citizens. As we discuss issues affecting Cape May County, there are questions that need to be addressed by the county and its municipal governments.
For example, why doesn’t the county have a current, approved economic development plan? When you look at the county Planning Department website, it appears there are no recently updated county plans or reports, i.e., 2005 Comprehensive Plan, 2006 Transportation Plan, 2011 Annual Report, and 2013 Water Quality Management Plan.
It would be appropriate if the public had easy access to how the county balances the need for economic development, environmental protection, open space preservation, emergency planning (evacuation) and transportation planning. We should also know what the South Jersey Economic Development District and our participation in the Cumberland-County-led Workforce Investment Board have done for the county.
While there is a One-Stop Employment Center under the supervision of the county Planning Department, we have found it difficult to get any comprehensive documentation about significant results achieved. The county needs a proven economic development specialist who sets and achieves attainable goals.
The focus should be on industries which bring well-paid, year-round positions. Our school systems need to be restructured to better prepare our students for jobs in existing and emerging businesses rather than being forced to leave Cape May County for career employment.
Cape May County is blessed with a climate and location that makes it ideal for seasonal tourism. That blessing overtaxes our highway capacity while it limits the availability of affordable housing for the first time homebuyer.
This means that many workers look outside the county for a suitable place to live. Our housing options must be priced within the means of our citizens and our highway infrastructure must be modernized.
These factors and workforce development based on current industry needs and future opportunities are critical to attracting business, supporting the local population and providing continued opportunity for new businesses.
We don’t think the county economic development strategy should be limited to the county airport, but should consider how to attract more mainland-based businesses in Dennis, Lower, Middle, and Upper Townships, and Woodbine. It should also consider taxpayer benefits for year-round residents and zoning options to include “small home” development in our offshore communities.
If we want the best future for our wonderful county, we need to ensure our elected governments work to improve the economic and physical environment currently in place.