By Menashe Miller
Since the 2010 Census reported that Lakewood has grown to be the largest municipality in Ocean County (population 92,843), people have been asking how we were able to count our population. In the 2000 Census, Lakewood was labeled an HTC Zone, which stands for “Hard to Count.” Ten years later we are now known as BTC, Best to Count. Many leaders, who feel that the 2010 Census did not accurately represent their population, are wondering how that happened.
We attribute the change to our increased efforts to count our population, and to economic growth and improvements in our town.
Achieving a Complete Count Because we have our own set of challenges in Lakewood, I put together a group known as the Complete Count Committee, made up of someone from every segment of our town. Included were representatives from private and public schools, churches of every denomination, synagogues, senior citizen communities, the Hispanic community, the African American community, the Jewish population, the police department, clinics, publishers of our local newspapers, and representatives from all the agencies that benefit Lakewood residents.
The mission of the Complete Count Committee was to ensure that all Lakewood residents—citizens or not, homeless or not—would be counted, so that we would qualify for our fair share of federal funding and political representation.
The Complete Count Committee members met regularly to discuss local problems and to pool their resources. Betty Rod, partnership specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Philadelphia region, met with us. She gave advice and made sure that we followed the law.
To get an accurate count, we needed to overcome some obstacles. For example, some groups were afraid of being counted because they are not citizens. We had to make sure our undocumented residents knew that for the purposes of the Census it didn’t matter if they were not citizens. We reassured them that census data is confidential and, according to the law, could not be used against them.
Members of the Complete Count Committee reported that some people did not want to be counted because they felt they don’t have a voice anyway. We had to inform these people that not being counted would result in a reduction in state and federal funding. This would mean there would be less money to spend on services for those who need them most. We made it clear that funding for schools, transportation, clinics and hospitals was at stake, among other benefits.
Lakewood’s baseball stadium, home to the Lakewood BlueClaws, has won three championships and has led the South Atlantic League in attendance since its inception in 2001. The success of the stadium attracted three nationally franchised restaurants and a Hilton Garden Inn, which generate about $15.6 million in ratables, $500,000 in general tax revenues, and approximately 175 jobs.
In Lakewood, we have a large senior citizen population. Many older people spend the winters in warmer climates and would not be in Lakewood during the 2010 Census. We had to make sure that our senior citizens knew that they should still list Lakewood as their primary residence since they spend the majority of the year here in Ocean County.
Lakewood officials also established Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) and Be Counted locations to assist people, answer their questions, and help them fill out the required forms. In addition, school children received coloring books and materials that explained the importance of being counted in the 2010 U.S. Census.
Lakewood’s Complete Count Committee includes (l to r., standing) Pastor Earl M. Jackson, Refuge Apostolic Church; Jay Braun, LRRC Director; Moshe Gleiberman, Vice President Administration; Beth Medrash Govoha; Michael McNeil, Director of STEPS; guest minister from Dominican Republic; Dr. Dovid Friedman; CEO of LRRC and CHEMED, Pastor Emanuel DeJesus Cruz, Bethel Spanish Church; guest, member of Bethel Church, Howell; Pastor Glen Wilson, Restoration Family Worship Center; (l to r, sitting) Nancy Robinson, Chief HR Officer, OHI; Virginia Papandrea, Ocean County Library; Pastor Raquel Salguero, Missionary Pentecostal Church of God; Frances Kirschner, President of Frantasy Enterprises PR Firm; and Betty Rod, partnership specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Philadelphia region.
Partly as a result of the committee’s efforts, Lakewood’s official population grew from 60,352 people in the 2000 Census to 92,843 individuals in the 2010 Census, an increase of 54 percent! Because our Complete Count Committee worked so well together, I decided to keep this group together as the Complete Town Committee. Each committee member has valuable information and insights to provide. By working together on a regular basis, they can address many of the problems and issues we have among various segments of the community. I think together we’ll do a great job.
Why People are Choosing Lakewood Now that the census figures have been published, the next question is why are so many people choosing to live and work in Lakewood? People choose to live in a place for many reasons, including its location, quality of life, economic growth and development, opportunities for employment and affordability.
First of all, Lakewood is a beautiful historic town near major cities. We are an hour and a half from New York City, Philadelphia and Atlantic City. We are near the Garden State Parkway, and U.S. Routes 70 and 9, with easy entrances and exits to our town and neighboring beaches, boardwalks and malls.
In our 26-square miles, we have several lakes and three county parks, including Ocean County Park, once the 323-acre estate of John D. Rockefeller. Ocean County Park is open to the public for picnicking, swimming, and fishing. We have two public golf courses, a private golf course, ten municipal playgrounds, historical sites, fitness trails; volleyball, basketball and tennis courts; and playing fields.
We have two renowned institutions of higher learning: Georgian Court University and Beth Medrash Govoha Yeshiva.
We also have the historic Strand Theater, a plush, year-round entertainment venue; and our own family baseball stadium. Our minor league team, the Lakewood BlueClaws, has won three championships and has led the South Atlantic League in attendance since its inception in 2001. The success of the stadium attracted three nationally franchised restaurants and a Hilton Garden Inn, which generate about $15.6 million in ratables, $500,000 in general tax revenues, and approximately 175 jobs.
These, however, are not the only reasons our population is exploding. The outstanding and continual economic growth of our town is based on several factors. We have the second largest municipally developed industrial park in the state, a large employment pool, a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), and an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) that offers many incentives for UEZ businesses.
Lakewood’s Industrial Park features more than 2,000 acres, 200 buildings and at least 325 businesses employing 10,000 people. Our municipally owned airport, adjacent to a portion of the industrial park, is fully operational and planning to expand its reach for both corporate use and recreational flying. Several major corporations, such as Gaming Labs International, the Lightstone Group, and Blinds to Go USA have settled in our Industrial Park or established headquarters there.
Lakewood’s municipally-owned airport, adjacent to a portion of the industrial park, is fully operational and planning to expand its reach for both corporate use and recreational flying.
The FTZ is a boon for companies involved in international trade because it allows for special customs procedures. For example, companies that import and export items in FTZs do not have to pay any duty for items being re-exported.
The more than 448 UEZ businesses in Lakewood have benefitted significantly from the UEZ and the economic development projects funded by it. As of April 2010, the UEZ supported more than 7,000 full-time jobs and 1,190 part-time jobs. In addition, the UEZ has created 1,934 full-time and 348 part-time positions, with $576.6 million in private investments.
Lakewood’s UEZ founded a Financial Assistance Program that offers low interest loans to businesses, resulting in another 500 plus jobs, ratables and tax revenue. The UEZ also offers a matching grant Cooperative Advertising Project to encourage businesses to advertise, a Small-Business Development Consulting Program to create a more efficient work environment, free Business Encouragement Seminars, and an annual business expo.
Lakewood is a place where you can have it all. We often say, “Lakewood is easy to get to… hard to leave.”