By Thomas A. Arnone
Look for the Monmouth County tent at this year’s Belmar Seafood Festival June 8 through June 10. County staff will be there to share information about county programs and services and welcome visitors.
In addition to supporting this popular tourism event, the county hopes to use this opportunity to drive residents to the county’s Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com and ask them to sign up for the county e-newsletter.
This year, the Tourism Division was moved into the new Department of Public Information and Tourism with the goal of making the county a more active partner in local tourism, which is a billion dollar industry in Monmouth County.
Did you know that tourists spent $1.98 billion during their visits to Monmouth County in 2011? That’s a 4.3 percent increase over the $1.90 billion total for 2010, according to a study compiled by the New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism.
Here are some more interesting facts from the study. In 2011, visitors to Monmouth County spent:
$499 million on food;
$439 million on accommodations;
$425 million on recreation and entertainment;
$357 million on retail purchases, and
$266 million on transportation.
The fact that the tourism industry is beginning to show signs of recovery is terrific news for local businesses, and it is also good news for the state. Visitor spending in 2011 raised $264 million in state and local taxes.
The Board of Chosen Freeholders funds a mix of radio and print advertising each year to help draw visitors to Monmouth County. The county also participates in specific projects, such as the new Shore EZ Ride shuttle service that was unveiled last year and will continue this year in Long Branch, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach.
It is important for the county to invest in tourism. Not only is it a billion dollar industry, but it supports nearly 30,000 jobs – about 10 percent of the county workforce.
In other news, on April 27 the New Jersey Conference of Mayors’ held its annual conference at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City. While at the event, I sat on a panel with Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, Assemblyman John F. Amodio and other officials discussing shared services, tax reform and state aide.
Other members of the panel include Jack Fisher of the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARC), Charles Richman, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish, president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, and Somerdale Mayor Gary Passanante, Camden County’s shared services director.
Monmouth County earned a seat at the table. Last year, the Board of Chosen Freeholders created the Office of Shared Services. Today, the Monmouth County Office of Shared Services is the most active and progressive shared services agency in the state with about 100 shared services agreements with local municipalities.
Sharing services is the best and most immediate way to trim expenses and lower taxes. We have a proven track record in Monmouth County and we continue to look for opportunities to save taxpayer money.
Finally, the month of April closed with a brisk walk on the boardwalks in Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach and Avon for the March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies walk. March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and their babies.
Thomas A. Arnone is deputy director of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders.