Gloucester officials are taking a number of steps to improve economic development in the county, a speaker said during a town hall meeting Tuesday night.
Douglas Meredith, Gloucester’s economic development director, said plans are in the works to benefit the entire county such as an improved website and enhanced marketing efforts, with certain components, like a village type plan, being suggested for Gloucester Point.
The village plan, Meredith said, would be aimed at "connectivity," better linking neighborhoods and helping keep some local traffic off busy Route 17. "You’ve got to look long term," he said.
Meredith was one of the invited speakers during a town hall meeting at Abingdon Elementary School, which was hosted by Gloucester Point district supervisor Robert "Bobby" Crewe. This was the third meeting held by Crewe in recent months as an attempt to spur business development in the lower county.
More businesses in the lower county must become active in supporting commercial growth here, Crewe said. He encouraged the dozen people in attendance to try to bring friends and other business owners with them to Crewe’s next town hall meeting in September.
Although specifics have not been announced, Meredith said that Gloucester may explore "incubators," or business development sites. Meredith said that it is important for there to be more public-private partnerships to help trigger business growth here.
Crewe said that the lower county might benefit from the formation of a business association. He said that the Gloucester Economic Development Authority has several committees exploring projects at this time, with a Gloucester Point committee possibly to discuss the business association at some point.
Looking a bit farther up the county, Meredith said that the Gloucester Business Park at White Marsh is mostly filled with tenants. A seven-acre site is being held back, he said, to accommodate a larger business at a future time.
Anne Ducey-Ortiz, Gloucester’s planning director, spoke about Urban Development Areas, a new state requirement. Ducey-Ortiz said that UDAs are proposed in the Gloucester village (extended to include the large Villages of Gloucester project south of Gloucester C.H.) and at Gloucester Point—areas with higher densities and expected growth.
In addition, Ducey-Ortiz said a third UDA has been suggested in White Marsh to include the Gloucester Business Park and expected growth in that area.
Ducey-Ortiz said that Gloucester has received a regional grant to develop its UDA plan.
Robert Tassone of Port Financial Services and its subsidiary Consulting 4, Inc., with offices at Tidemill Center and Hartfield, described a new marketing effort he has undertaken that encourages local businesses to participate in a discount card for their employees.
The plan is to encourage employees to see how important their spending habits in-county are to the welfare of other local businesses, he said, as well as to provide the workers with tangible evidence of the special value of their job in the form of discounts at various businesses in Gloucester and in nearby communities.
A website will provide constantly changing specials for card-holders, and business owners pay an annual fee to belong to this service. Tassone said he plans to have the discount card project in operation by late July. For more information, visit www.boomerangdiscount.com.
During questions from the floor, Howard Mowry raised concerns about the traffic problems at the Main Street/Route 14 intersection in the village. Mowry said that the large wooden planters in a median at that intersection should be removed to allow additional space for turns.