CNBNEWS.NET NOTE:The newly formed Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation submitted the news release below to the Gloucester City News 15 days ago for publication. We just received a copy of it today, March 20, 2013, thanks to the co-chairman Frank Antico Jr.
Chairman David Stallwood has been asked repeatly by CNBNews since December 2012 to explain the purpose of the GCEDC. We also wanted to know how much this group of volunteers borrowed from the City's Urban Development Action Grant program (UDAG)? And, how much did they spend to purchase the two commercial properties on Monmouth Street? For the answers to those questions See Not A Peep Was Heard
~Bill Cleary, CNBNews Editor
Chairman Stallwood writes,
At a very well attended Gloucester City Business Association (GCGA) meeting held last Tuesday, we gave a report on the Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC). This bought up some great questions that we felt we would like to share. We hope this will clear up some of the mystery of the GCEDC.
Question 1 - How and why did the GCEDC start up ?
In the past few years the Gloucester City Business Association (GCBA) had received many complaints about the operation and viability of Gloucester City’s Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ). The GCBA Board started to look deeper into the UEZ program and the changes that had made it unpopular and inefficient. The research conducted by GCBA took about eighteen months from start to finish (this was not something that was rushed into). In our research, we discovered that a lot of the other UEZ's around the state had turned over the day to day operations to an Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The GCBA Board then went to the City to bring them up to speed on our research. With a good response from Mayor and Council, the GCBA went ahead and formed and paid for the Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) to become a reality.
Question 2 - How did the GCEDC Board Members get picked?
When the GCEDC was formed, like any other corporation, it had to have trustees. The first trustees came from the GCBA Board including: Dave Stallwood, Frank Antico Jr and Bob Booth. After the corporation was formed in June of 2012, the first board meeting was held where bylaws were adopted and the rest of the board was assembled. Under the guidance of the State’s UEZ Office in Trenton and other EDC's (such as Jersey City) we bought on another GCBA Board Member, Bob Bevan; a resident, former Councilman Nick Marchese,; Councilman Dan Spencer (Head of the Finance Committee) and the President of the Planning & Zoning Board , Frank Wunsch. Each of these members was selected by the original trustees for: (1) their interest and commitment to the revitalization program and (2) for the qualities that they bring to the table. This board was not picked by Mayor and Council but each member was run by the Mayor for his approval since we did not want any personality conflicts (for this to work everybody has to work together).
Question 3 - What is the purpose of the GCEDC?
Our goal is to help rebuild Gloucester City’s commercial and retail base.
Question 4 - How did you pick your projects?
Several years back there had been a business analysis of Gloucester City by the JGSC group who had been hired by the UEZ. The goal was to give some direction on how to go about revitalization of the commercial / retail districts. One of the priorities that came up then was the Monmouth Street business district. After some additional research by the GCEDC, this project again surfaced as a top priority. With that goal in place, we formulated a plan of how to move forward with this project. With some help from the City allowing us access to UDAG funding, we took out a loan for $400,000 to start up our revitalization program. This loan will be repaid to the City in accordance with its terms. To this point, we have purchased two of the four target properties and renovations are underway. The third and fourth buildings are in negotiations and we hope to close and work on those soon. While we are in the construction stage of this process, we have split our board responsibilities and some of our members are working on finding suitable businesses to fill these retail spaces. The response that we are receiving from other business owners and community leaders has been very uplifting.
Question 5 – What is the relationship between the GCEDC and the UEZ?
Based on the questions and comments we have received, there seems to be a lot of confusion between the two. The long and short of it is that the GCEDC is a NJ non-profit corporation (self-standing like any other corporation). It is not a part of Gloucester City government. but does work closely with the City to plan and execute business and commercial revitalization projects. The GCEDC also runs the UEZ program on behalf of the City of Gloucester saving the UEZ program around $150,000.00 a year in salaries and benefits. Every board member on the GCEDC is working on a volunteer basis to bring business back to Gloucester City.
Question 6 – Why was the GCEDC so slow in letting the public know what we were doing?
Once we had devised a plan for Monmouth Street, we needed to keep our intentions close to our chest for economic reasons. When in a situation of purchasing properties for renovation, the last thing you need is sellers who have done little to bring these properties up to retail standards deciding that they hit the lottery and increasing their listing prices. What must be understood, is that we are trying to rebuild a downtown on a very limited budget. The GCEDC Board is willing to donate our time and expertise to bring Monmouth Street back and our efforts should be viewed positively. Sometimes, however, what is going on cannot be disclosed immediately since advance publicity may negatively impact the project and threaten its economic viability. Your patience is appreciated and we will need your assistance - especially in recruiting and supporting new Monmouth Street businesses.
In closing, I would like to thank the Gloucester City News for allowing us to explain our redevelopment program. We would also like to thank Mayor and Council for their willingness to work with us as well as all of the other volunteers who have given their time to advance GCEDC to where we are today. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions; please feel free to bring them to us. We have a very close relationship with the GCBA and they have allowed us to use their PO Box and website. You may send a note to GCEDC at PO Box 602, Gloucester City NJ 08030 or use the “Contact Us” tab on www.gcba.info. We hope to have our own website up in the near future to keep everyone updated on our progress. We also encourage local contractors and subcontractors (HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.) to mail us their business cards and register with the GCEDC if they are interested in working on our projects since we intend to use local, licensed and bonded construction professionals.