Warren County Working to Implement Economic Development Action Plan

(BELVIDERE, NJ, July 12, 2017) - The Warren County Economic Development Committee is working to implement an action plan intended to boost the area’s commercial, industrial and agricultural opportunities.

The EDC recently completed a one-year engagement with Tetra Tech, Inc. and Camoin Associates after the consultants developed the economic blueprint and the Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted the Economic Development Action Plan Matrix it contained.

“The plan helps to build on existing resources and harness new economic development opportunities,” said Freeholder Jason J. Sarnoski, who established the county’s ad hoc Economic Development Advisory Council in 2011 and spearheaded its transition into the EDC in 2016. “The freeholders, in collaboration with the county’s Economic Development Committee, will use this Action Plan matrix to guide their economic development activities,” Sarnoski added.
Among the strategies recommended in the plan are to:

 

  • Create and maintain a streamlined and consistent development process to help encourage economic development.
  • Redefine what it means to do business in Warren County, and develop and maintain an environment that demonstrates Warren County is “open for business.”
  • Build on existing tourism assets and work to maintain quality visitor experiences within the county.

The consultants developed the strategies through stakeholder focus groups; an analysis of development processes, practices and procedures at the county and municipal levels; and discussions with the freeholders, county departments, and the EDC members.

“In order to be most successful we need to ‘brand’ ourselves as a county and have municipal economic development plans that mesh with other municipal economic development plans, so that we are all pulling together to take advantage of our collective strengths and attributes,” said EDC Chairwoman Betty Schultheis. “Each member of the County EDC will be working with two municipalities to help accomplish this goal,” she added.

As another step toward increasing municipal coordination and participation in the county’s economic development efforts, EDC members decided midway through the study to implement quarterly evening meetings held at locations throughout the county. The EDC customarily meets the second Thursday of each month at 8 a.m. in the county’s Wayne Dumont, Jr. Administration Building, but held its March meeting in Mansfield Township and its June meeting in Oxford Township.
The evening meetings are intended to encourage more municipal input and sharing of information on the local level, and the Oxford meeting attracted the largest crowd of any EDC session.

The EDC will hold a regular, morning meeting on July 13 at 8 a.m., while the next traveling meeting will be held in the Blairstown Municipal Building at 7:30 p.m. on August 10.

Meeting dates, locations and agendas are available on the EDC website at www.warrenecdev.com.

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Freeholders Adopt Economic Development Action Plan Matrix

The Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders on November 9, 2016 adopted the Economic Development Action Plan Matrix prepared by Tetra Tech and Camoin Associates. The report is available by clicking here.

Tetra Tech, hired by the freeholers to serve as the county's economic development contractor, worked with Camoin to conduct the study and develop the recommendations found in the Action Plan Matrix. The strategies and objectives in the Action Plan Matrix are derived from feedback gathered at stakeholder focus groups and discussions with the EDC over the planning process. The Matrix is meant to be clear and concise, providing readers with an understanding of Warren County’s goals, while also being easy to digest for a range of audiences. The plan includes concrete, actionable implementation steps that address current economic conditions throughout Warren County’s municipalities, and maximize use of the county’s natural and tourist assets as economic engines to increase visitors and discretionary spending in the county. The objectives and catalyzing actions are built off of a strong foundation of key economic development principles and tools that are summarized in the report.

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EDAC to EDC: Freeholders Restructure Ad Hoc Economic Group into Economic Development Committee

Warren County’s economic development efforts took another leap forward this year as the Board of Chosen Freeholders established the Warren County Economic Development Committee (EDC) to formalize what for more than four years had been an ad hoc advisory panel.

The Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) had been established at Freeholder Director Jason J. Sarnoski’s urging in late 2011 to strengthen the freeholder board’s focus on economic development, after nearly a decade of a hands-off approach that left efforts to attract and retain businesses to outside organizations.

Last year, Sarnoski raised the issue with his board colleagues to establish a formal committee, and on Jan. 13, 2016 won unanimous support from Freeholders Richard D. Gardner and Edward J. Smith to create the EDC.

While the new group will continue to act in an advisory capacity to the freeholders, it also is charged with assisting the County in promoting economic development and establishing a framework to be utilized in coordinating local, state and federal efforts toward this end, with a major emphasis placed on providing the basic foundation essential for attracting and encouraging sound economic growth in Warren County.

The panel has 11 members serving 3-year terms (initial appointments were staggered with 1-, 2- and 3-year terms to maintain continuity) and members are designated from Agriculture, Banking/Finance, Commercial/Service, Corporate/Industrial, Tourism, Realty, Workforce Development/Education, Municipal Government and three district liaisons representing the Eastern District, Central District and Western District. All serve as volunteers, without compensation.

“This committee will be more structured than its advisory council predecessor,” Sarnoski said. “The challenge facing this committee is going to be raising revenue and encouraging people and businesses to move to the county,” he added.

The initial appointees, who met the following day and elected officers, are: Chairwoman Betty Schultheis; Vice Chairman Todd Tersigni; Secretary Eve Azar; and members Scott Anderson; Mitchell Jones; Andrea Kirchuk; John Kruk; Chris Maier; Stan Prater; Herman Shoemaker; and Linda Stettler. Sarnoski will serve as Freeholder Liaison.

The Committee meets the second Thursday of each month at 8 a.m. in the Freeholder Meeting Room of the Wayne Dumont, Jr. Administration Building.
 

Members of the Warren County Economic Development Committee

Front Row: Vice Chairman Todd Tersigni; Chairwoman Betty Schultheis; Secretary Eve Azar; Freeholder Liaison Jason Sarnoski.
Back Row: Linda Stettler; Andrea Kirchuk; John Kruk; Mitchell Jones; Herman Shoemaker; Chris Maier; Scott Anderson; Stan Prater

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TOURISM TALK

The County of Warren is pleased to announce that it is working with the National Park Conservation Association and National Geographic on an exciting new tourism initiative. The Scenic, Wild Delaware River Geotourism Project will create a National Geographic Society co-branded interactive website of the upper and middle Delaware River region that identifies natural, cultural, and historic attractions that make our area unique.

The website already is live but will make its official debut in May, with media events being planned both in the region and in Manhattan to capture the interest of the Metropolitan New York media.

Residents, visitors, community organizations, tourism stakeholders and local businesses were asked to nominate places of interest for the website, and submissions will continue to be accepted. The nomination process is not only simple and easy to use, but virtually all nominations will be accepted, providing a terrific opportunity for Warren County businesses to get on the electronic map.

Warren County is a natural gateway to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Scenic, Wild Delaware River. This regional destination not only hosts between 4 and 5 million visitors each year, but it generates $219 million in sales annually for area businesses. By nominating your site, this National Geographic project will help area businesses connect with those visitors for free!

To browse the website or to begin nominating, please visit: www.delawareriver.natgeotourism.com.

For more information about how to nominate a local business, venue, historic site, park, or other destination of interest, visit Warren County’s economic development website, www.warrenecdev.com,  to find fact sheets and guidelines. Look for the “Geotourism Project” tab at the top of the homepage, then download PDFs of all the information needed to start crafting a submission.
 

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Washington BID Honors Bredin, Stew’s Auto Body

The Washington Business Improvement District honored Marian Bredin, a founding board member of WBID, and several other businesses at the group’s annual business meeting in February.

Bredin, owner of Good Impressions Printing &Mailing as well as the town newsletter, The Messenger, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. She served on the WBID Board of Directors since its inception in 2003, but was instrumental in the formation of the organization prior to that as well. Bredin, who has held multiple Executive Board posts over the years, most recently as treasurer, retired from the board at the end of 2015. The longtime Washington resident also has been a business leader throughout Warren County, serving on various business organizations over the years.

Meanwhile, Stew's Auto Body received an award for its commitment to the community, as WBID honored the company’s donation of services, time and assistance to various Washington functions.

The organization also honored four new businesses established in Washington: ARCANA Toys & Games, Juanito's Mexican Restaurant, RE/MAX real estate, and Prudential Insurance.

For further information about the WBID, visit www.washingtonbid.org or call 908-689-4800.

Photo: Washington BID honoree Marian Bredin with Freeholder Director Jason J. Sarnoski  (Photo by Cathy Miller, Courtesy of Washington BID

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Agriculture's Future in Warren County

 

By Kenesha Reynolds-Allie, County Agricultural Agent

Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Warren County

As part of its economic development strategies, the Warren County  Economic  Development Committee has been working devotedly to increase  focus on  tourism and agritourism in the county. The picturesque landscape of  the county is a perfect combination of mountains that currently boast the  beautiful fall colors, fresh water rivers that are excellent destinations for  fishing, and its fertile valleys. Spread throughout this scenic, historic county,  which provides visitors a variety of attractions and activities, are hundreds of  farming operations.

According to the USDA 2012 agricultural census, Warren County has 784 farms on approximately 72,000 acres of land. Agriculture in the county is diverse, ranging from field crops, to specialty crops, to livestock operations. Similar to the state’s statistics, many of the farms in the county are small, by USDA’s definition, and must rely on additional farm activities to generate extra farm income. Although agritourism is not a new concept, more farmers are incorporating agritourism activities to increase the number of customers visiting the farm, hence increasing sales. Agritourism activities include on-farm sales (u-pick fruits and produce, u-cut Christmas trees, community supported agriculture, on-farm markets), educational tourism (school or group tours, wine tours), entertainment (hay rides, corn mazes, petting zoos), farm accommodations (bed & breakfasts, weddings), and outdoor recreation (hunting, fishing, birdwatching). 
Given the limited number of customers and potential customers in the county, and the high level of competition among agribusinesses participating in agritourism, agribusiness owners are forced to spend more limited resources (time and money) to develop effective marketing strategies to reach consumers beyond Warren County. That is, each owner/operator has the daunting task of promoting his/her business and products to increase exposure and potentially increase consumer traffic. Despite these marketing challenges, the county’s close proximity to the New York City and Pennsylvania metropolitan areas makes it an ideal location to target millions of potential customers. In order to help promote the county’s agricultural roots as well as its new agribusiness model, and capitalize on the positive economic change in the county, the county invested resources into hiring an agricultural agent with expertise in agribusiness and tourism.  Since hired into this position, there has been an increase focus on developing a marketing curriculum for agribusiness in the county.  Although the current strategies are geared towards promoting agribusiness, we are anticipating a multiplier effect on other businesses as well. 
One of the first of many projects developed and implemented was providing a temporary market, the “Warren County Farmers’ Market” at the 2015 Warren County Farmers’ Fair, for agribusiness owners to sell their products and advertise their businesses.  The fair was considered an ideal location for the market, as it is well established and attended by thousands of locals and visitors from Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and other counties in New Jersey. A total of 8 farms and wineries participated in the week-long market (Saturday, July 25 to Saturday, August 1), providing a variety of produce, homemade products (soaps, lotions, honey, wooden bowls and cutting boards, custom woodworking and carved wood signs), and an assortment of wines.  Each farm and winery brought promotional materials to distribute to fair attendees whether they patronized the market or not.  Although the market generated limited or no sales for some vendors, they were appreciative of the opportunity to share their business’s information with potential customers they would never have met otherwise.  The market was well received by consumers who were excited about the idea of having fresh produce to snack on at the fair, and take home at the end of the day.
Two particular incidents perfectly summarized consumers’ appreciation of the market at the fair.  One vendor who sold prepared food at the fair was ecstatic there were tomatoes being sold only a couple hundred feet from his tent, when he ran out of this key ingredient for one of his dishes.  He continuously expressed his gratitude for the convenience of fresh produce in an environment where it was non-existent previously. Secondly, a group of consumers from New York waited by the market until opening hours because they heard about the market and wanted to ensure they were able to purchase fresh, local produce to take home. Overall, there was positive feedback from both fair attendees and vendors who are anticipating an improved annual market at the fair.  To ensure growth and success of the market, there is collaboration among myself (the agricultural agent), the fair directors, and vendors, to identify areas in need of improvement; including location of the market on the fairgrounds, increasing the variety of products offered, and identifying additional ways to promote the market to consumers beyond the county.    
Although the farmers market is the only project that has been implemented this year, there are several other projects in the planning stages for next year and beyond.  Currently, planning is underway for a series of events, “tasting on the trails”, which will take place in the summer and fall months, annually.  Warren County is known for its diversity in attractions, including bike tours, hiking, kayaking, and fishing, among others.  This provides us the opportunity to take our foods and wines to our visitors who are participating in these activities.  “Tasting on the Trails” is a series of events where dishes are prepared by our local chefs, made with locally grown produce, and taken to locations where people are enjoying the county’s natural resources. Information on each farm that provided the ingredients used to prepare the meals, as well as information on our wineries will be provided.  This is to ensure consumers know where to find Warren County locally grown and made products. 
Besides targeting individuals who are currently visiting the county, it is our priority to share with others who are seeking similar farm experiences, foods and wines, but are unaware of what is available in this county.  In an attempt to reach these individuals, a website and several social media pages will be created that features agricultural businesses.  The website will be similar to other food businesses databases, where consumers are able to browse all farms and agribusinesses, or choose to search by categories including products, experiences, zip code, among others. For example, if a customer is interested in pick-your-own apples, they will be able to sort by this specific criterion, which will generate a list of farms that participate in this particular activity.  Farms will be given the opportunity, and encouraged to update their profiles as products offered, hours of operation, or any other important business information changes.  This will ensure consumers have access to current, up-to-date information, as they make farm visit plans.
We are passionate about sharing with others the diversity in Warren County’s agriculture that we experience and love.  Whether you are looking to purchase fresh, healthy, local farm produce, experience a day on the farm to pick-your-own produce, cut-your-own Christmas tree, play with farm animals, conquer corn mazes, enjoy hay rides, enjoy an evening in the vineyard, preserve memories through photos on the farm, or simply to learn about the history of our farms, Warren County is your ultimate destination!  Come visit us, share your experiences with a friend, and make this county your repeat destination for on-farm family fun!

 

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