Van Drew, Andrzejczak announce members of 1st District Economic Development team : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
Van Drew, Andrzejczak announce members of 1st District Economic Development team
MILLVILLE — Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak announced Thursday the members of a newly created task force designed to improve economic conditions in the 1st Legislative District.
The 25-member bipartisan group is composed of freeholders, presidents of local community colleges, economic development experts and state officials. The team will study for two years and at the end, recommend ways to improve one of the most economically depressed areas in the state.
Van Drew will serve as chair of the panel and Andrzejczak will serve as vice chair.
“We owe it to our children and our grandchildren,” Van Drew said at his Millville office. “We have had a culture of unemployment that has existed for generations. We are doing this because in many ways things are not getting better — in some ways it has gotten worse.”
As of April 2014, Cumberland County faces a 10 percent unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though this is a 5 percent decrease from 2013, joblessness in the county remains substantially higher than the state overall. Cape May and Atlantic counties — with about 11 and 10 percent unemployment rates, respectively — face equally daunting tasks.
“We will be tackling the issue how to grow and what industries we can bring,” Andrzejczak said.
Van Drew said teaming colleges and industries together, similar to the measure taken by the Cumberland County freeholder board and its proposed new technical school at the county college campus, is a great idea.
And, he noted, with Atlantic City’s steadily declining gaming industry, with the recent closures of major casinos — improving the city’s image as a vacation destination remains a primary focus.
Some of the local Cumberland County officials include: Freeholder Director Joe Derella; Millville Vice Mayor Jim Quinn; Thomas Isekenegbe, president of Cumberland County College; Chuck Wyble, president of the Greater Millville Chamber of Commerce; and Vineland City Council President Anthony Fanucci.
The task force was approved by the Senate in May.
Van Drew said the team will identify improvements to policies, regulations, incentives to industries and general methods to help grow businesses in the 1st District.
The group will host a minimum of two meetings in both Cape May and Cumberland counties and a report will be submitted by the task force 24 months after the date it organizes. The first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9. A location has not yet been determined.
One industry the team will seek to improve its aquaculture, which Van Drew said has lagged over the past decade.
“New Jersey’s aquaculture industry has stayed quite stagnant, where Virginia and Maryland have grown hundreds of percents — their aquaculture has exploded.”
Van Drew said this is mainly due to regulatory red tape at the state level.
“ … There are 11 different departments in the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) that deal with aquaculture, and (none) agree with each other,” Van Drew said. “They don’t agree with the direction we should take in the future. How can we expect any business person to know what to do, how to start, when the regulatory mechanism works in that way.”
He charges state bureaucracy as the reason his proposal to build a natural gas pipeline from the Millville area through the Pinelands to Beesley’s Point in Cape May County was stalled, as well as losing a company interested in coming to Millville’s industrial park.
Though the task force won’t issue its report for about two years, Andrzejczak said measures the team come up can still be implemented in the mean time.
“If we come up with something before then, we will be able to jump on that and make the changes in the mean time,” he said.
Adding, “At the end of the study, the task force will be bringing everything together to show to the state what we need in South Jersey to give us more opportunity down here.”