By Thomas A. Arnone, Monmouth County Freeholder
I can’t believe I am saying this, but summer has slipped away before our eyes. While the calendar does not officially declare autumn until September 23, the unofficial end of the season is Labor Day, when our beaches officially close, lifeguard towers are put away and the school doors open. As most of us locals know, some of the best beach and park days are still ahead of us, as September and October provide us with the perfect weather to continue to enjoy these gems we are lucky enough to call home.
The 2015 summer tourism season went extremely well, as we were blessed with great weather – modest temperatures and very little rain; in addition both the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays provided us with an extra two weeks of the season.
I am extremely happy to hear that most beach towns are providing initial reports that badge sales were up over last year, with some reporting the 2015 season as a record year. Asbury Park has already reported that beach badge sales were up 21% over last year and Belmar has already exceeded their final total number from 2014. Spring Lake officials have reported that beaches have been crowded all season and the shops on 3rd Avenue are doing record business. Long Branch not only reported record crowds at Ocean Fest, but has continued to experience a packed beach and boardwalk all summer, with all Pier Village shops and restaurants doing very well.
This year record crowds have been reported at most major events throughout the County – with River Fest in Red Bank and Belmar Seafood Festival seeing the highest amount of visitors at both of their events, and Ocean Fest in Long Branch reported over 150,000 in attendance. Of course we can’t forget the history made at the William Haskell Invitational, with a record setting crowd at Monmouth Racetrack of nearly 61,000, officials said that is was the largest crowd in the 145-year-old racetrack’s history. These events, along with our 53-miles of pristine beaches, entertainment venues, restaurants and parks, had our hotels booked solid on weekends with a definite upswing in mid-week business.
The weather has been the main factor in all this success, as well as the County’s promotion of the region. We have had a warm, dry summer thus far and the expectation is that we will see this continue through September and October. Some of the events to look forward to as we move into the next season are:
- Asbury Park Oyster Festival – September 11, 12, 13
- Belmar Pro Surf Competition- September 10 – 13
- Belmar San Gennaro Festival – September 19-20
- Open Space Pace – September 19
- Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival- September 27
- Allaire Village Fall Harvest Festival – September 26
- Highlands Oktoberfest – October 3
These details are important to the economic stability of our County, as visitors spend $2.3 billion annually on food, accommodations, transportation, entertainment and retail sales, as well as $282 million in state and local taxes. More than 32,000 people are employed in tourism related jobs in the county.
Speaking of jobs within Monmouth County, I am making it very clear that moving forward I plan to do everything I can to assist Monmouth County as an employer to begin the practice of hiring within our own county borders (where appropriate). I am certain that we have the talent and qualified people within our own county to fill open positions, and if not, then I will agree to take the next step and search outside Monmouth. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (Compiled by the Monmouth County Planning Board in February, 2012) we have over 630,000 residents here in Monmouth County, with 378,211 (60.0%) of the within the working age of 20-64 years old.
I have done my best over the years to ensure the economic health and stability of Monmouth County through the creation of programs such as Grow Monmouth, a long-term, community wide initiative built through partnerships with industry, municipal, state and federal governments, academia, business and community organizations. I realize now, that while these programs are necessary, Monmouth County as an employer needs to take the additional step of hiring within our own residential pool, as so many of our neighboring counties have already done (several even have it as an employment requirement).
Monmouth County offers a superior quality of life to its residents, drawing some of the region’s most employable individuals with 53 miles of coastline; 75% college educated workforce, 90% high school degree or higher, 8 “Gold Medal” high schools, 9 “Blue Ribbon” schools, nationally ranked public golf courses, and #1 park system in New Jersey.
Proponents of local hiring ordinances claim the practice ensures that tax dollars are invested back into the local economy, while reducing the environmental impact of commuting and fostering community involvement.
Besides Monmouth County as an employer, we are also home to of the some of the best companies in the New Jersey as well. Monmouth County’s 2015 top ten employers are: Meridian Health System, in Wall; Saker Shoprites Inc., in Freehold; CentraState Healthcare in Freehold; Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch; Commvault in Tinton Falls; Monmouth University in West Long Branch; Vonage Holdings Corp. in Holmdel; NJ Resources in Wall; Food Circus Supermarkets Inc. in Middletown; and Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey, Inc. in Red Bank (*List represents non-government employers and several of these employers have multiple locations.)
Going local creates more local wealth, directly impacting the economy within its community. In addition, the indirect impact happens as dollars spent by employees, re-circulates their income into the local economy. I have always advocated that we keep the money within our own community if applicable, and now I plan to do that as one of the largest employers in County.
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