Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey

January 31, 2024

Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey

Focusing the lens on a welcoming town with a proactive approach to economic development

 

Business View Magazine interviews representatives from Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, as part of our continuing focus on economic development in American towns and cities.

Perhaps nowhere in America is George Washington more geographically memorialized than in the State of New Jersey, where 12 out of its 564 officially recognized municipalities bear his name. There is Washington, Washington Crossing, Washington Heights, Washingtonville, Washington Park, and Washington Valley. The other six are all called Washington Township and they can only be distinguished from one another by placing them in their appropriate counties across the Garden State.

Washington Township in Gloucester County, on the eastern edge of the Philadelphia metro area, is the largest, with a population of 49,000 people who live within the communities of Turnersville, Hurffville, Grenloch, CrossKeys, Mayfair, Bunker Hill, Sewell and Chapel Heights.

Originally populated by the Lenape Native Americans, the township was incorporated in 1836. By the 1880s, it had more than 200 farms, and well into the mid-20th century, the 23-square-mile municipality was mostly farmland and open space. However, over the last several decades, it has become one of the fastest-growing communities in the state, with much of its recent population coming from the largely Italian section of nearby South Philadelphia.

“We’re a large town but with the feel of a small community,” says Mayor Joann Gattinelli, who since first assuming office in 2017, has strived to establish stronger relationships between the township’s residents and their government. “People want to be a part of Washington Township,” she states.

“We’ve got a lot of boards and committees. We listen to people and what they say they’re looking for. And we pride ourselves on reaching out. We have shown that we are a town that is welcoming.”

 

 

Seeking new business

That proactive demeanor lends itself, as well, to the township’s approach to economic development. “We’re open,” Gattinelli says. “We want folks to come into the town. When we see a business approaching, we have a great system within the municipality. Nancy (Nancy Mozzachio, the township’s Economic Development consultant) is notified. She picks up the phone and calls. So, there is contact with those folks almost immediately. A lot of times, these folks have a vision that they want to bring to the table.”

“They’re opening up a business, but they may not know how. This is where we come in. We have the knowledge about programs, whether it be from the state or the county, and we’re able to help them find them, or at least present them with the resources so that they will be able to investigate them themselves.”

“I had a business in town before, and I can certainly appreciate what Nancy does,” Gattinelli continues. “She knows the grants, the programs that are available for women-owned businesses, veterans’ businesses, the small business loans. This is something that folks really need. That’s where we as a municipality step up to help. If I had the knowledge, moving in, about all the resources that were out there, that could have been my jumpstart to success.”

The good news is that the township’s business development operation has been a success for many other businesses that have moved in over the past few years. “We have seen an incredibly robust stable of businesses come and commit to this town — even through the pandemic,” Mozzachio reports. “We’ve had a significant number of businesses open their doors – over 150 businesses since 2020.”

“And there are very few businesses that don’t succeed,” Gattinelli adds. “During COVID, we established different plans to help the local businesses that may not have been able to survive. We were able to get them to communicate with each other via Zoom, and we lost very few businesses in town. And I believe that is because of the relationship between the residents, the other businesses, and all of us within the municipality just wanting everyone to succeed during that time.”

On the commercial front, Phoenix, Arizona-based Sprouts Farmers Market recently opened a 25,000-sq.-ft. organic grocery; and Embellish Events, a wedding and party venue that opened this past spring, has already committed to doubling its space.

“Throughout, we have had many businesses coming in that have, in a relatively short period of time, grown and become successful and are seeking new space or are committed to additional space,” Mozzachio notes.

“When I’m dealing with a business that is looking for additional space, I’ll usually run through a whole list of potential resources for them. For example, the state offers programs related to the installation of HVAC and operating electric to make a building energy efficient, and you can almost get those upgrades for free. So before a business says ‘I need to account for the capital for that,’ I’ll explore to see if they’re a candidate for that program. Or if there are any micro-loans that they may need, we have a great program in the county that was established several years ago that provides up to $50,000.

“Then, there are offshoots of the SBA (Small Business Administration, a federal agency) that offer a lot of free resources and grants. So, I think that we’re very strong as a municipality as it relates to resources. I definitely get calls from other economic development people asking for some of the information that we source for businesses.”

 

Make sure all the pieces fit

All that outreach and support might suggest that the township is lax in performing its due diligence or is willing to grant residency to any business that might want to set up shop. But that’s just not the case. “We’re very conscientious about the projects that we are bringing into town,” Gattinelli avers.

“Especially when you are looking at light industrial, we want to make sure that they’re placed properly. We’ve got some great areas that would be great for redevelopment but we also have to be mindful of each project, making sure that it makes sense for Washington Township and what would best serve our community, our visitors, and our residents. That’s most important.”

Current corporate partners

While the town is always, and carefully, on the lookout for new commercial residents, it is also home to many long-time businesses and community partners. “We have a very significant car dealership footprint in Washington Township,” Mozzachio relates. “The Turnersville AutoMall, which is a division of Penske, has quite a few different car dealerships in our town. And that particular group has been very good to deal with, like providing vehicles for our 4th of July parade.”

Another corporate partner is Jefferson Washington Township Hospital, a 279-bed general acute care facility providing a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services while employing over 2,200 people. In September 2021, the hospital opened Silvestri Tower, a new 7- 7-story, 240,000 sq. ft. patient pavilion, marking the conclusion of an overall $222 million investment in world-class healthcare. “We are considered the hospital hub of South Jersey,” Gattinelli claims. “You can seek a doctor for any ailment, sickness, or surgery, right here in Washington Township.”

Keeping the infrastructure healthy

Just as people sometimes require attention from medical experts, a town’s infrastructure also must be tended to, kept in shape, and, when needed, upgraded, often for the sake of safety. Recently, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) approved the installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Delsea Drive (Rt. 47) and Salina Road. “No other administration was able to get the state to do that,” says Gattinelli. “And we need that light. There have been numerous accidents at this intersection.”

A few miles north, on Delsea Dr. and County House Rd., a new mixed-use project, Bella Vista Village, was recently approved by Washington Township’s Planning Board. New construction on eight acres of wooded land will include 60 residential units and space for parking and commercial activity.

Another major construction project that is set to start in the spring of 2025 is a $57+ million upgrade of a stretch of Route 42/Black Horse Pike that goes through the core of one of the town’s commercial corridors. More than four miles of roadway will be milled and repaved, shoulders widened, and upgrades made to guardrails and sidewalks. In addition, 10 intersections along Route 42 will be upgraded to include adaptive/synchronized traffic signals, which are intended to improve traffic flow through the area, and ADA-compliant curb ramps will be installed throughout.

 

 

Keeping people safe

In addition to keeping its infrastructure up-to-date and approving more housing and retail options for its citizens, a priority for any government is keeping its people safe. In that regard, Washington Township has been rated 91% effective. “I have to say that our first responders and their community caretaking are bar none,” Gattinelli states.

“I would be remiss if I did not mention how in tune our police, fire, and EMS are with the town. We have the best around, for sure. We have a great connection between our schools and our police department and we now have a school resource officer in all of our schools. We just established that this year. We also have a great partnership with Uber. We have a Washington Township Safe Ride program that gets folks from an establishment that serves alcohol, safely home. If you provide a township address, they will take you from the establishment and you do not have to get back in your car. That has been widely successful, and we’re very proud of it.”

Hope for a new town center

Going forward, Gattinelli says that she would like to see the establishment of a main street or downtown destination district that draws people to it with arts, entertainment, and family activities. “We don’t have that center of town,” she reflects.

“It’s been on the agenda for quite some time. We’ve spoken with developers in reference to that and there are some parcels that could be utilized. So, I would absolutely love to see a main street. I think it would be so welcoming and I think that it would be a huge win for Washington Township. I’d also like to see a brewery or winery come to town. Believe it or not, as large as we are, we have not been able to establish that. Years and years ago, Washington Township was more or less a destination. I want to establish that again. It’s coming together, but I just want to be able to do something a little more.”

AT A GLANCE

Washington Township, New Jersey

WHAT: A township of approximately 49,000

WHERE: Gloucester County in southern New Jersey

WEBSITE: www.twp.washington.nj.us

PREFERRED VENDORS

Woodmont Properties – www.woodmontproperties.com

Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce – https://www.gc-chamber.com

Omni Recycling – https://omni-recycling.com/

DIG DIGITAL?

January 2024 cover of Business View Civil and Municipal

January 2024

You may also like

Topics
Latest