Long Story Short: South Jersey chamber white paper earns rave reviews

32-page report aims to serve as guide for policymakers to understand often-misunderstood region

The white paper prepared by the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey on how the region is unique — and needs to be understood as such by lawmakers throughout the state — has received strong revies.

The policy report, entitled “Long Story Short: South Jersey — A Busy Policymaker’s Guide to Understanding a Misunderstood Region,” appears to be hitting the right chord — according to a number of state leaders.

State Sen. John Burzichelli (D-Glassboro) said what many are thinking.

“The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey’s policy report details what many of us from South Jersey already know — that the region brings an abundance of economic development opportunities, but also unique hurdles,” he said. “(The report) is a ‘must read’ for anyone dedicated to understanding how to create lasting economic and workforce development progress in the seven most southern counties of New Jersey.”

Rowan University President Ali Houshmand, who is making his university an economic engine for the region, agreed.

“South Jersey is ripe for economic growth, and Long Story Short perfectly outlines the many opportunities the region presents,” he said. “A quick but thorough read that anyone interested in South Jersey’s diverse landscape, as well as workforce development opportunities and challenges, will appreciate.”

Chamber CEO Christina Renna, who prepared the report along with government affairs head Hillary Chebra, said the organization felt it was important to bring the region to life for those who live outside of it.

“South Jersey is deeply misunderstood by policymakers,” she said. “Although the region has many similarities, its differences make holistic policy measures difficult to enact. As a result, South Jersey is at times neglected when well-intentioned policies are crafted and intended to have a statewide benefit.”

The 32-page policy report gives a breakdown of all seven counties (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem) — and then details four issues that impact each of them:

  • Lack of public transportation/transportation infrastructure;
  • Broadband accessibility;
  • Equitable incentives tailored to South Jersey’s unique needs and underserved areas;
  • Shortage of housing options.

Greg Lalevee, the business manager for IUOE Local 825, said he found it to be informative.

“We appreciate and applaud the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey to provide this detailed report on the micro-level economic opportunities to policymakers and advocacy organizations like ours,” he said. “Too often, this portion of New Jersey is overlooked — and, despite some unique challenges, presents ample potential for industry expansion. This type of localized data is invaluable for our membership.”

Choose New Jersey CEO Wes Mathews, whose group works to bring companies to the state, said the information was invaluable.

“The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey’s ‘Long Story Short: South Jersey’ report delves into South Jersey’s economic landscape, offering valuable insights on workforce development and growth opportunities in the region,” he said. “It provides compelling information for both policymakers and stakeholders, with the aim to propel South Jersey towards a future of sustained economic growth and opportunity. It’s extremely well-articulated, designed and easy to read.”

All of this thrilled Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees), who works tirelessly for the region. He’s glad others will be able to see what he sees.

“Those who live in South Jersey have long known that it is a hidden gem, ripe with untapped potential,” he said.  “This report reaffirms my conviction that a one-size-fits-all economic policy solution won’t suffice; we need geographically nuanced policies tailored to address the distinct challenges of each region.

“It is only when we empower every corner of our state that we fortify our combined strength and foster a stronger more resilient New Jersey overall.”

The report drew reactions from a number of people both inside the region and outside of it. Here are a few more:

  • Joe Bertolino, president, Stockton University: “As an anchor institution in South Jersey, Stockton University recognizes the region’s challenges and opportunities and supports the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey and partners in our shared objective of economic growth in Atlantic City and beyond.”
  • Lauren Moore, president, Atlantic County Economic Alliance: “Everyone knows Atlantic County as a tourist destination. The ACEA’s mission is to diversify the county’s economy, while making policymakers aware of the opportunities and the workforce development initiatives that we have successfully orchestrated over the last five years to attract new industries and companies to create high-paying jobs. Long Story Short brings to light these emerging sectors, underscoring the vital need for targeted state support geared toward nurturing the county’s economic profile.”
  • Chris Paladino, president, New Brunswick Development Corp.: “The Chamber of Southern New Jersey’s recent report, ‘Long Story Short: South Jersey,’ takes the reader on an objective tour de force of a misunderstood region of our state. Its intriguing format drives you across the state from the Atlantic Ocean to the Delaware River, laying out the strengths, challenges and opportunities of the region. The policy recommendations put forth are rational and responsible and would go a long way to energize the South Jersey economy, making our entire state stronger.”
  • Michele Siekerka, CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association: “For too long, South Jersey has been too far under the radar and, yes, misunderstood. I commend the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey for shining a bright light on the ‘possibilities’ of this region, the ‘hurdles’ that can hinder progress and the ‘policy suggestions’ that can lead to sustained economic impact for the region and New Jersey. ‘Long Story Short: South Jersey’ sets out a great roadmap to guide our policy makers in unleashing the vast assets of Southern New Jersey.”
  • State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Moorestown): “This report highlights many of the most pressing issues impeding economic growth in South Jersey, while acknowledging the opportunities for improvement. The lack of reliable, frequent public transit options, the shortage of affordable housing and increased warehouse development are all significant problems here in Burlington County and beyond. I thank the CCSNJ for helping to shine a light on these issues as well as their continued advocacy on behalf of the entire South Jersey region, and I look forward to engaging with them as we work collaboratively to address these challenges.”
  • Former Senate President Steve Sweeney: “The CCSNJ understands that the economic health and vitality of the entire state is determined by what happens everywhere, not just in a specific region. Long Story Short identifies needs in South Jersey that are not unique to any single region, including a lack of housing options, public transportation infrastructure, broadband accessibility and equitable economic incentives. However, CCSNJ’s study sheds valuable light on how this misunderstood region plays an integral part in providing solutions to these problems for all of New Jersey. I appreciate the leadership and innovative thinking that CCSNJ brings to the table.”
  • Tim Sullivan, CEO, New Jersey Economic Development Authority: “South Jersey’s economy is pivotal to the success of the state and future generations. The chamber’s policy report highlights the need to diversify South Jersey’s economy, and offshore wind is a monumental opportunity to invest in long-term growth and sustainability, which has already started to create family-sustaining jobs across the region. We must capture this moment to ensure South Jersey is a national leader in this booming sector.”
  • Michael Testa (D- Vineland): “The report issued by the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey is well-thought out and highlights the issues plaguing the all-too-forgotten parts of the state. The report echoes my sentiments that South Jersey hasn’t been a priority to many of my colleagues for far too long, but, with some help, we can turn it into an economic powerhouse for the state.”
  • Antonio Tillis, chancellor, Rutgers University – Camden: “Southern New Jersey has all of the assets necessary to elevate our state to its next level of preeminence — innovation, intellectual capital, agriculture, tourism, integral inks in our global supply chain and a ‘can-do’ attitude that does not quit. Kudos to the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey for providing the blueprint for anyone committed to realizing South Jersey’s amazing potential as an economic powerhouse and a place where individuals and families will choose to live and work.”