“GROW MONMOUTH” OFFERS FAÇADE IMPROVEMENT “Made in Monmouth” Event on September 28 by Laura Kolnoski
A total of $75,000 has been earmarked for the new Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program, intended to help eligible, privately held commercial buildings upgrade the look of their businesses. Announced last month by Thomas Arnone, director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the program uses HUD Community Development Block Grant funds that were de-obligated by grantees to assist with the improvement of business facades and the replacement of deteriorated or poor quality commercial signs and awnings. No matching funds are required from the business or the county. Grants for façade improvements will fund 100% of the project cost, up to a maximum of $1,850. Total project costs cannot exceed that amount and cannot be part of a larger building façade improvement project.
This new initiative under the county’s Grow Monmouth program is managed through the Grow Monmouth Committee, comprised of staff from the Monmouth County Department of Economic Development, the Monmouth County Division of Planning (Office of Community Development). Eligible areas include all or part of 26 of the county’s 53 municipalities. Eligible areas within each of the municipalities can be located on the Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement website, www.visitmonmouth.com. Towns that receive their own HUD funding directly, including Asbury Park, Long Branch, and Middletown, are not eligible to participate in this program.
The committee will evaluate applications to determine eligibility and make grant awards to those proposed projects determined to meet the program criteria by remedying substandard commercial building facades, storefronts, and improving the overall streetscape in a community. Grant awards will be made on a first come, first served basis.
A resolution green-lighting the program was recently approved by the county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders. Freeholder Director Arnone, liaison to the Department of Economic Development, originated the Grow Monmouth initiative working with professional staff. “I am very proud to have been an instrumental part of the Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program,” Mr. Arnone said. “This is yet another example of the county’s commitment to our business world and to the continued promotion of economic growth within our county.” The Façade Improvement Program is funded through the Monmouth County Community Development Block Grant Program. Applicants are encouraged to contact the Monmouth County Department of Economic Development at (732) 431-7470 to discuss their projects prior to submitting an application.
Shop Local at “Made in Monmouth” Following a successful first effort in March 2012, the second free “Made in Monmouth” Expo will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, September 28 at the MAC Center of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, sponsored by the county’s Department of Economic Development. The first expo showcased 80 area businesses, attracting hundreds of visitors who became new customers, as well as commercial concerns seeking networking opportunities, new products, and business partners. The event was so successful, participating businesses immediately signed on for this year. At least 100 county-based businesses are expected to showcase their wares. A vast array of products and services will be available, including jewelry, bagels, orchids, surfboards, clothing, pottery, handmade glass, honey, cosmetics, flags, beer, candy, soaps, gourmet pretzels, tea, children’s and pet items, and more. The registration deadline for businesses is Friday, September 6. An online application is available on the county website, www.visitmonmouth.com, or by calling Economic Development at (732) 431-7470. A list of participating vendors will be published on the website.
“The expo gives people another opportunity to shop local and help our county economy,” said Monmouth County’s Executive Director of Economic Development John Ciufo, who runs the program with Department’s Director Amy Fitzgerald. Grow Monmouth is a long-term, multi-pronged initiative to retain, grow, and attract businesses while creating jobs and ultimately lowering taxes. The umbrella program offers a “Business Building Tool Kit” of up-to-date data on everything from demographics to mailing lists, potential locations, local regulations, website optimization, current maps, marketing information, and Geographic Information System (GIS) capabilities. A 40-page, full-color “Grow Monmouth” Guide was created last year to augment and explain the program and its myriad services. The guide can also be viewed online.
“Monmouth County has always brought top-quality merchandise to markets here and around the world,” said Mr. Arnone, a former Neptune City mayor. Keyport was home to Aeromarine, which converted military aircraft to civilian service beginning in 1921. Some of the nation’s largest uniform manufacturers were in Red Bank, Long Branch, and Neptune City. A Wall Township company once made NASCAR racecars and there still is one of the most successful engine builders for custom cars, trucks and hot rods in Freehold. “Today, Monmouth County produces sophisticated custom motorcycles, emergency vehicles, coffee, specialty teas, and much more,” Mr. Arnone added. All services are free to vendors, businesses, and municipalities.
Local governments can benefit from county experts who assist with economic development, cutting red tape and becoming more business- friendly. Outreach and partnerships include business, education, state, county, and municipal government non-profits and community organizations. Tourism efforts are also being enhanced under the Grow Monmouth umbrella. Officials have met with hundreds of business, civic, and government leaders to inform everyone about the state-of-the-art information services now available.
“We are creating a new way of thinking, bringing new businesses in and helping existing businesses thrive,” said Mr. Arnone. “If we put people back to work, they will spend money in our towns and at our businesses.”