Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read September 2021— Counties in South Jersey are embracing a move toward a stronger, more resilient post-pandemic economy and diversification appears to be the secret ingredient. Today, the seven counties in the southern tip of the state are national references for traditional industries like tourism and manufacturing, as well as more vanguard ventures such as clean energy, aviation and cannabis.
Over the past 17 months, each county in the region has shown its capacity to adapt and thrive but also a desire to innovate in a time of unprecedented crisis. This resilience, combined with an ample portfolio of industries, presents a reassuring landscape for the region’s economic future.
Early in the pandemic, South Jersey understood the importance of developing a comprehensive plan to safely reopen the local economy, particularly in those counties that depended on tourism. In Cape May County, for example, business leaders came together to craft a reopening plan that was later presented to the governor as a strategy to protect residents and visitors alike, while ensuring the survival of the local economy. Soon, the county discovered the great potential of offering “digital nomads” a place to work and rest as telework became a regular practice during the pandemic.
“Where would you rather be working, in the city or in a beautiful community in Cape May County? As the pandemic is resolved by the vaccination efforts, work from home isn’t going away in various sectors, and those individuals will continue to spend their time where they have the best quality of life,” said Leonard Desiderio, Commissioner Vice-Director of Cape May County, during an interview with Invest:.
Cumberland County, meanwhile, leveraged its manufacturing tradition to invest in sectors that flourished during the pandemic, although it faced supply chain obstacles. “Food manufacturing, warehousing and food storage have all grown in the county and now our biggest problem is supply of raw material to build these warehouses. This is the only thing holding back our manufacturing growth,” Gerard Velazquez III, president and CEO of the Cumberland County Improvement Authority, told Invest:.
Other counties are venturing into nontraditional industries not just to bounce back from the pandemic but to set a long-term path for innovation and prosperity in South Jersey. For instance, Atlantic County is targeting cannabis growers with the announcement of a plan to build 200,000 square feet in facilities related to this industry.
Additionally, there are substantial efforts underway to attract aviation companies to Atlantic County, including a partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration. “We have created an aviation accelerator program for small companies to come in. We have already graduated our first cohort to come in and help them advance their business plan and their business model,” Lauren Moore, executive director of the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, told Invest:.
Along the same lines, Salem County is creating the infrastructure to become a source of clean energy through wind power. Currently, a massive wind energy project is being constructed in the county that will create approximately 1,500 direct jobs and training opportunities. “There will be training for those jobs that are going to be needed through a partnership with Salem County Community College and Salem County Vo-Technical School,” Director of County Commissioners Ben Laury told Invest:.
As the United States continues to to overcome the economic challenges of the pandemic, counties in South Jersey are consolidating a diversified portfolio of industries for the future. By embracing both traditional and nontraditional activities, the region is becoming a national reference for resilience and innovation.
This development in South Jersey will be a main topic of discussion at the Invest: South Jersey 2021 Launch Conference on Thursday, Sept. 23. “Clear vision: How South Jersey’s counties are working toward building a stronger economy,” will look at municipal strategies for economic diversification and growth. Moderated by Flaster Greenberg Co-Managing Shareholder Steve Poulathas, the panelists include Gerard Velazquez III and Leonard Desiderio alongside Atlantic County Economic Alliance Executive Director Lauren Moore and Salem County Director of County Commissioners Ben Laury.
To register for the event, click here!