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Economic Development

Economic Development Committee

The mission of the Economic Development Committee of the GTRCC, is to identify and advocate for the necessary steps to create sustainable economic growth in the Greater Toms River Area.

When I heard the revitalized Greater Toms River Chamber was setting up an economic development committee (EDC), I was excited. Although I work in investment management now, I grew up in a family business and I know firsthand the importance of creating economic growth and how in turn it fosters community development. Finding ways of fostering real economic growth by working with our members to develop and grow links to the wider U.S. and international economy, is essential to our ongoing health as a community. Economic growth is the lifeblood of any successful town and having a chance to contribute to that process in some small way, with my colleagues on the EDC, is a privilege.

We started to meet in October 2015, to talk about how we would organize ourselves around the areas of greatest importance. We have many strengths on which to build in Toms River, not least of which is an emergent group of business leaders who want to work through the chamber to make Toms River a better place to live for themselves and for their children.

In fact, it’s this strong sense of community and family that is chief among the many resources Toms River can claim to offer the world, as people look for a better quality of life in the highly mobile society in which we live. The families that grew our town into what it is today did so as they sought a better quality of life for their families, outside the cities of the 1960s and 1970s. That sense of “family over all” is in Toms River’s DNA and it remains so as we seek new economic growth in the 21st century.

Our physical resources add hugely to the quality of life available here; we are fortunate to have a beautiful wide river, a scenic bay and the Atlantic Ocean surrounding us as we go about our daily lives. There are probably thousands of chambers of commerce around the United States that would kill for their town to have a beautiful river, bay or ocean, so they could attract new economic activity. Having all three on our doorstep puts us streets ahead of the majority of the country in terms of quality of life and potential for growth.

In addition to these foundations, the main strengths we have identified on the EDC lie in our proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, our progressive K-12 educators, our constantly evolving community college at OCC/Kean, our competitive housing costs and property taxes relative to the overpopulated north of the state, the wisdom and economic power of the second largest senior population in the country (after Dade County, Florida), our rapidly growing health care system and a joint military base of vital strategic importance on our doorstep, where 40,000 people go about their lives in the service of our country.

So how are we going to use this list of enviable resources to foster economic growth in Toms River? To start with, we’ve organized ourselves into the three areas we see of vital importance to economic growth in Toms River: tourism, health and technology and education. Chamber members in each area are giving up their time and expertise to look at new ways to foster improvements in our community from organizing customer service programs in our tourist industry in conjunction with OCC, to engaging with our educational leaders about the high school and third-level skills our children need to learn to build successful careers without leaving our town upon graduation.

In addition, we have started to collaborate with the Market Shift team at NJ Institute of Innovation and Purdue University, Indiana. We have started a process with this team that seeks to utilize our existing human and physical resources in a new way. In short, to work with what we already have to create a platform for new companies to create growth and new employment opportunities. The resources that are being allocated to the GRTCC for this project are a wonderful opportunity for our town, as the leaders we are engaging with have been part of total economic redevelopment projects in Charleston, South Carolina; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Youngstown, Ohio; and Oklahoma City, to name a few. These were all successful revitalization projects, supported by Purdue University and led from the ground up by a local community leadership who decided they were going to develop the true potential of their towns. At this early stage, it looks like it will suit the self-starters I have seen in Toms River down to the ground.

We just had our first strategy session on February 16th, 2016, and we are happy to report that it was attended by leaders from education, banking, property, our military, engineering companies, veteran’s representatives, healthcare and local government. Watch this space because if you have an idea for a company, or want to develop one you already own, if you want to grow and use your skills in a new way, then we are going to have a platform for you to build your company and your life in Toms River. My colleagues on the EDC are looking forward to assisting you on your journey.

Mark Cunningham
Global Wealth Management, Merrill Lynch
Co-Chair, Economic Development Committee, GTRCC

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