Is Brigantine ‘business friendly? With over 40 empty storefronts and a brutal business approval process, many have asked that very simple question. Some claim that Brigantine City Government has a negative influence on local commerce. Whatever the case, most agree that government in general, and Brigantine specifically, should rarely be running or subsidizing a business, especially if that activity could potentially hurt or stifle a free and open marketplace.
At the recent Brigantine forum moderated by the League of Women Voters, candidates were asked what they would to to attract more business to the island. The answers were a mixed bag of hope and pessimism, mixed with just a glimmer of entrepreneurial foresight.
Some troubling answers came from the team of Guenther, Sera & Simpson.
The Mayor is not shy about avoiding talk of new business development. Guenther quickly blamed ‘all the negative talk about Brigantine’ as cause for the lackluster business environment. Mr. Guenther then followed up with talk of ‘reasonable taxes’ and a full array of city services that Brigantiners enjoy. He did not answer the question.
God bless his little heart. The 22 year Mayor dug deep and made an odd reference to how the AC Connector Tunnel helps the local economy. If time permitted, Mr. Guenther may have mentioned indoor plumbing as proof of his party’s business accomplishments.
Mr. Simpson was also quite pessimistic on prospects for Brigantine’s business sector. Makes you wonder why he’s on the Economic Development Committee.
Simpson on Brigantine Business: You can’t make it here, believe me.
‘You can’t make it, believe me’. Yes, a Brigantine Councilman running for re-election really believes that. Simpson tried to convince attendees there’s little hope for retail success, but maybe we could get some lower rents at our ACME/TD Bank shopping complex.
Vince Sera pointed the finger at low, year round residency even though other shore towns thrive with much smaller numbers. Our coastal neighbors thrive because they smartly maximize the warm months between April and October.
Click to LISTEN. Brigantine leadership discusses potential for retail rebound in Brigantine:
Competition breeds greatness, but not on Brigantine Beach.
Unless we’re hallucinating, candidate Sera made the argument for letting some businesses die for the good of the remaining few. Retail euthanasia?
Sera says something like this: Yes, we need to help them but too much competition and they’re under cutting each other, and then nobody can survive”. Sera then changed focus to Real Estate ‘ratables’ or revenues that primarily come from part-time resident tax dollars. The Brigantine Republicans are not shy about their economic plan: grow Real Estate tax dollars to support the expansion of city operations and full-time employee count at City Hall.
Spoken like a true socialist, came a grumble about Sera’s business acumen from the back of the crowded Community Center.
While we don’t have much optimism in Dr. Kern’s ‘population plan’ to grow the economy, we do see ancillary benefit in the concept; grow local business by attracting families with great schools and low taxes..and hopefully they’ll spend and support local business operations.
With the success of the wildly popular Brigantine Farmers Market under her belt, Councilwoman McClay briefly shared a ‘Shark Tank’ inspired plan to bring together entrepreneurs, investors and creative thinkers. McClay would then connect the group with a ‘business assistance’ committee designed to help navigate the maze of red tape and small-biz choke points inside Brigantine City Hall.
Can Brigantine Reverse the Retail Retreat?
Many scratched their heads when City Manager/Public Safety Director Jim Barber cut off funds for tourism & marketing. See article here: Killing Brigantine Tourism. These types of actions all contributed to Brigantine’s current situation.
Other examples of fiscal and economic mis-management include:
Brigantine taxpayers have quietly subsidized the so-called ‘Brigantine Surfing School’ for the past few years. Anecdotal evidence suggests City Hall support of Primal Surf Shop had detrimental effect on the once thriving Root Beer Barrel Surf Shop, currently up for sale.
In March of 2011, Fred Ray, the owner of Fred’s Brigantine Gulf, filed a complaint in state Superior Court alleging that former police Chief Jim Frugoli was largely responsible for his auto repair shop going out of business.
Oddly, even the Brigantine Chamber of Commerce seems to have a hand in picking winners and losers when it comes to their own Brigantine business directory. (See below: Facebook post from Ed Wilkins of Hoopers Seafood in Brigantine)
Competitive roadblocking from other local business is nothing new for start-ups trying to establish themselves. It comes with the territory. But in Brigantine, various City Hall entities have been accused of this road-blocking. Inspection inconsistency (Glitch-Gate), onerous fees, threatened and actual boycotts, violations and harassment, permit delays, un-needed ordinances and a maze of mercantile madness keep many would-be entrepreneurs from crossing the bridge and setting up shop in one of our 40+ empty storefronts.
Business Blocking Goes Digital on Brigantine Beach
For the past two years, the now defunct BB-NJ.com Business Directory was yet another example of taxpayer supported disruption of local retail. (see images below) The BB-NJ.com web-based directory of small business was developed, hosted, maintained and managed by Brigantine Police Officer, now Chief of Police; Tim Reed. City Council may not have been fully aware of this project as we don’t recall it ever being placed on the agenda for council review and acceptance.
Many Brigantine business owners anonymously complained about the BB-NJ Business Directory. Mr. Reed had the ability to ‘pick winners and losers’ in regards to valuable, city promotion & advertising. Some ‘winners’ were not even based in Brigantine. Mercantile & other required certification checks were waived in almost all cases. The Chamber of Commerce, Beachcomber News and Brigantine Times were not amused by this incursion into their financial livelihood.
A City Hall employee being associated with running an un-official City of Brigantine Beach Facebook Page is also problematic. In other industries this would be clearly forbidden. Some lose their jobs or are reprimanded if caught abusing social media, even if used personally at home. See Highlands New Jersey Social Media Debate where a resolution was just approved by Borough Council: officials, employees and volunteers are required to add a disclaimer to any of their posts on certain social media pages.
Read More: Highlands approves social media disclaimer | http://nj1015.com/highlands-approves-social-media-disclaimer/?trackback=tsmclip
Trusted, municipal endorsed positions like Chief of Police, Mayor, Hockey Coach, Lifeguard or City Manager must represent the city 24 hours a day. Even a whiff of ‘conflict of interest’ or activity harmful to the good name of Brigantine must always be avoided.
BB-NJ Business Directory. Click to See Larger Images.