Local Business Competes Against City of Brigantine?

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.

Brigantine Root Beer Barell
No Free Support from City Hall

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.

Pig-SuckleWhile 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.

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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:

Picking Winner & Loser for Surf Shops?

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)

Hoopers Seafood Brigantine Chamber of Commerce
Hooper’s Seafood Ignored by Chamber?

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.

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4 thoughts on “Local Business Competes Against City of Brigantine?”

  1. …..And isn’t it ironic
    Don’t cha think?
    A little toooo ironic

    Why doesn’t the “B” team use the same excuses for city employees as they do for local businesses?
    Why doesn’t negative talk and a stagnate wage environment lead to eliminations or mergers of city jobs?
    Why not adjust salaries, wages and employee contributions to heath and retirement to reasonable amounts, says compared to the general public?
    Why not say the city can’t make with its current bloated budget mostly due to the exorbitant unjustifiable salaries and wages?
    Why not let some city positions die off and the duties passed on to others to make the work environment more competitive?

    Ah yeah, I really do think….

  2. new guy to brig

    my wife and i came to brigantine to look at some business opportunities. my wife had an idea (which i won’t disclose in this comment), but there really wasn’t a business atmosphere nor location for her to open her business. (we actually did buy a residential property for our own personal use instead.) but to summarize the business situation problem, brigantine does need more permanent residents to sustain most businesses on the island. i heard the comment of getting the permanent population increased – that is a priority. the city needs to figure out a way to do this; in turn, businesses will be able to do more than just survive, they’ll flourish. hiring a marketing firm (or think tank) would be recommended. where do you get the money for this? don’t grab it by increasing taxes, but make some intelligent cuts to the payroll of the city. that’s a sore subject, but hearing some of the salaries for some city employees is a sore subject for the tax payers. the city employees should make a fair wage, but cuts should be made somewhere (possibly where someone is double dipping, etc.). an independent firm should be brought in to really audit what’s going on; with those audit results, fair decisions could be made. i imagine the only ones who would oppose such a measure would be the ones who don’t want to be scrutinized. the ball is in the city council’s court and if things continue to go south, maybe it’s time for replacements as to make brigantine a better place for all. (those who truly don’t want change for the good of brigantine as a whole and to keep a hard grip on the present status quo will denounce some hard decisions going forward.) all i can say is good luck to all involved.

  3. As homeowners in Brigantine since 1998, and relatively recent (2nd year) permanent residents, we find it outrageously pathetic that a such a beautiful, small, seemingly “intimate” city as Brigantine should be so terribly mired in partisan politics.

    Apparent corruption and total disregard for the simple benefit, economic welfare and overall quality of life of permanent residents and taxpayers, as well as seasonal visitors of and to this potentially idyllic island.

    Just since buying our residence here, we have seen so many restaurants, taverns and, generally speaking, eating and drinking establishments, as well as retail outlets, close-up shop.

    Even formerly year-round establishments close down for the “off-season” that it’s become difficult to even find enough variety of eateries, stores, etc. to patronize here, in lieu of going “off-island.”

    It is truly a SHAME in the truest form of that word.

    Almost as if someone was profiting by purposely keeping competing establishments out! … Almost!

  4. I am a second homeowner also.
    I am confused, yes there are businesses for sale on the island and many have their own story. -One has spent 20-30 years there running a business and now wants to retire in Florida, and so on..

    I am not sure what support people expect the city to give businesses to survive – if they need free taxes to survive then the business is not strong enough to survive, they are not offering a product the market wants.

    Good luck to those businesses for sale as this site talks the economy down and it will make it tougher on the real estate market.

    News 40 just recently decided to go off the air.
    They have the same problem as Brigantine and the small towns in the area – Small Market.

    The market and customer base is too small to support every business all year round

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