Beach Haven Economic Panel Outlines Plan of Action

May 03, 2017

Efforts are under way to make Beach Haven an even better place to shop, dine, stay and play, says Councilman Don Kakstis.

Challenged with a short 10-week prime business season, as well as empty stores, Kakstis said there is a major ongoing initiative to develop an economic growth plan for a successful business district. He said the  program includes identifying Beach Haven’s customer base and preferences, and implementing necessary improvements and change that would improve profitability and lead to the launching of a marketing plan to attract investment.

Kakstis said to accomplish this goal, Beach Haven has established an 11-person Economic Development Team that is working with Lori Pepenella as part of a pilot program with the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, where Pepenella is chief executive officer.

Since starting monthly meetings on the last Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. in the council meeting room, the group is pursuing numerous strategies. 

The establishment/designation of a Redevelopment Zone in the business and maritime districts is under way. As part of this initiative, zoning, building codes and ordinances will be reviewed along with other options permitted by this designation to facilitate investment.

To better understand the customer base, the people who live, work, shop and visit Beach Haven can take an online survey to be launched shortly before Memorial Day weekend. The survey will examine dining, shopping, entertainment, recreation venues and the wedding business. Visitor knowledge of the maritime and historical districts will be assessed. Support for various fall, winter and spring events will be explored. The question “What would you recommend to make Beach Haven better?” will be asked throughout the survey.

In addition, a sampling of the existing retail, service and entertainment businesses will be interviewed starting in August 2017. These interviews will include questions about opportunities and challenges, sales and economic trends, marketing, etc. Under the direction of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, Stockton University will also conduct face-to-face interviews during the summer. A final report of the findings will be issued in October 2017 and will be utilized in the development of a marketing program for Beach Haven.

Comparing Beach Haven to other seashore destinations, the group will need to identify and prioritize what architecture, environmental and infrastructure improvements are required. Taking into account the costs of the improvements and how they would benefit the community, a schedule of projects for implementation is being developed. Financing options, including the application for grants and public/private partnerships, will be a critical element of this effort.

To supplement the efforts of the team, and to better assure success, Maley and Associates along with the JGSC Group are engaged as consultants.

“Recognizing what we don’t know is important, as they bring an in-depth level of experience and expertise,” said Kakstis.

The councilman said Beach Haven “is a great historical destination.”

“Having a vibrant business district is an important element, and when combined with its other assets makes it a great place to live and visit,” said Kakstis. “However, escalating costs, societal changes and preferences need to be acknowledged and recognized to have a successful business climate. Becoming known as a business-friendly community will attract investment, reducing the tax burden of homeowners. Today there is a renewed interest to invest in the Beach Haven business and maritime districts, in part because of the efforts under way by the economic team working with both the Beach Haven and Southern Ocean chambers of commerce and with business owners.”

Kakstis said the community should be excited about the reopening of Surflight Theatre after a two-year absence.

“The importance of having the Surflight back and its impact on the revitalization of the business district cannot be overstated,” he said. “We need to make it a success.”

Pepenella said partnering was a natural since they share common interests.

“A lot of information is going to be gathered this summer,” she said. “We need to hear from the people who work, live and visit here. We’re always looking at ways to improve tourism and keep up with the latest trends in marketing and stay competitive as a tourist destination.”

— Eric Englund




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