Writer: Joshua Andino
3 min read December 2022—New Jersey is on the up — and while the state continues its efforts to become more business friendly, South Jersey stakeholders continue to grapple with how best to balance development while maintaining its distinct charm as 2023 nears.
As New Jersey’s growing economy sees it slowly rise through state rankings, density and land scarcity, as well as South Jersey’s strategic location, has driven development, particularly industrial warehousing, further south. While a cooldown in real estate markets seems to be underway, the industrial sector itself remains lucrative and has yet to hit its peak, reports REjournal. New Jersey ranks third at 7.8%, behind only California’s Inland Empire and Boston, for year-over-year leasing activity and rent growth, driven in large part by the strategic location of the Port of New York and New Jersey in the north while PhilaPort flanks the state’s southern border.
When asked about the expanding scope of New Jersey development, David Greek, managing partner of Greek Development, told Invest:, “In Central and North Jersey, there has been a continued lack of space and an increasingly difficult environment to perfect entitlements and purchase land…If they have a port-related requirement, typically in the past they would limit it to port-centric markets, which are directly adjacent to Newark Port. Because of space scarcity, those requirements have broadened to the point where a port requirement is looking all the way down to 8A on the Turnpike, or all the way out to Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.”
In South Jersey, the business activity has driven new development across already established communities at Camden and Pennsauken, while challenging the more rural, and some would argue idyllic living that South Jersey provides as opposed to the concrete and steel so often associated with the state’s north. TopPop Packaging co-founder and CEO Thomas Martin told Invest:, in a separate interview, “South Jersey used to be all farms. Camden and Pennsauken had most of the industry but it’s now exploding all the way out. You go to Swedesboro and it’s unbelievable that you’ll see 500,000 to near million-square-feet buildings.”
That same growth has similarly highlighted infrastructure needs that, long in the works, have only become more prescient. The Glassboro-Camden light-rail project, which has seen several starts and stops over the last two decades, will drive conversations around the communities and educational hubs the rail line will connect, contrasting the generational differences between longtime residents and new arrivals. “[The Glassboro-Camden LRT] will take cars off the roads and give students a better commuting option that also offers unique connections to both Philadelphia and New York. While some older residents have pushed back on this type of infrastructure growth in their neighborhoods, our data shows that younger homeowners feel the opposite. They want proximity to transportation hubs and are less likely to own a car, so a train service like this would be optimal,” explained Marlene Asselta when she spoke to Invest:, earlier this year.
Since then, the project has begun soliciting its preliminary engineering and design phase, with 18 miles of reactivated rail and up to 14 proposed stops, with an anticipated completion in 2028.
Finally, the ongoing growth across the region has reached South Jersey’s coastal hubs as well, leading to exploratory steps to diversify the economy even as tourism continues to rebound. “Cape May County is a tourism community and a very successful one at that. However, we are looking at other ways that we can build on that success and grow a strong year-round economy,” Emily Paul, president and CEO of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce told Invest:.
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, in a separate interview explained that while the gaming industry would see a full return in short order, the city would continue its efforts to make itself more family friendly. “We are also on the cusp of changing the culture in Atlantic City in terms of family entertainment. There has been a lot of on-and-off talk about building a water park and now it is finally happening. Construction has started and you can now see the frames of the entrance…In Atlantic City, I see a growing market where we have more full-time residents and homeowners. We have projects on the books where this will be our main focus. This is what we need to do to make Atlantic City what we know it can, will and should be.”
Overall, South Jersey is thriving. Development continues to provide opportunities for new and expanding enterprises, while the state continues to provide a number of grants to further support small business owners and their employees. With the state’s economic growth expected to continue, bolstered by one of the most educated workforces in the country, the conversation around the region’s future is one wherein public and private stakeholders will have to decide what South Jersey will look like in 2023 and beyond. As Wesley Matthews, Choose New Jersey President and CEO said, “What’s happening in South Jersey is unprecedented.”
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