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Hammonton and New Jersey Manfacturers

The Blueprint for a
Model Partnership

Mayor Steve DiDonato Bernie Flynn
By Steve DiDonato
Mayor, Hammonton
& Bernie Flynn, President & CEO,
New Jersey Manfacturers

Many towns would like to attract a responsible, community-minded company to town. Such businesses create jobs and the prospect of enhanced municipal revenues. Larger companies can provide economic benefits to an entire region. If your municipality is looking to benefit from a corporate relocation, it must be business friendly and prepared to develop a mutually beneficial partnership.

While it is not always possible to quantify the impact, the relationship between the town of Hammonton and New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) shows every indication of a successful merger. Our partnership benefits both entities and provides employment and other economic opportunities that benefit the entire region. A great deal of good can come when private business and government work together effectively. The Hammonton/NJM story is a prime example of this phenomenon at work.

It all started with an idea from Sam Pignatelli, a Vice President at South Jersey Energy and a longtime friend of New Jersey Manufacturers. Pignatelli suggested Hammonton as a potential location in South Jersey for NJM in 1997. The relationship between the town and NJM has evolved steadily ever since, culminating in NJM’s 147,000-square-foot facility in late 2010.

In 2000, NJM opened customer service, claims and sales operations at a leased facility on South Whitehorse Pike. NJM quickly outgrew the confines of this space, leading to expansions in 2001 and again in 2002. NJM moved to more spacious offices on South Grand Street in 2004, where the company remained until the permanent facility opened its doors.

“We went from 22 employees on the first day in 2000 to 246 today,” said Frank Galloway, NJM’s Director for Building Services, who has been at the various Hammonton offices since the very beginning. “The town of Hammonton has been with us every step of the way.”

The public/private partnership reached its apex with the opening of the company’s permanent South Jersey office. The project generated hundreds of construction jobs, in addition to the permanent, professional staff in place today. Hammonton realized lasting benefits and worked closely with the company throughout the planning process to help ensure its success.

NJM Facility on Hammonton
The relationship between Hammonton and New Jersey Manufacturers has evolved steadily, culminating in NJM’s 147,000-square-foot facility in late 2010.

“We had a good relationship with Hammonton, thanks largely to the commitment of the town’s professionals,” said John Regan, NJM’s Construction Project Administrator. “I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with municipal governments, and Hammonton is one of the best in terms of cooperation and expediency.”

Maintaining consistently open lines of communications helped the project proceed smoothly, Regan said.

“Early in the process, we offered the town an opportunity to be a part of the planning, to review drawings, etc.,” Regan explained. “They enthusiastically took us up on our offer. They took the time to go through page turns (detailed review of the plans). It is a very proactive community. Everybody in local government is connected with the project.”

Regan also lauded the “transparent relationship” the town maintained with NJM throughout the process.

“It cultivated a relationship with a lot of integrity and respect,” Regan said. “Solving problems in that kind of environment is not difficult.”

Attracting businesses to a community is a key factor in helping to keep taxes stable. In addition to the company’s role as an active employer, the building has provided a clean ratable for the town’s tax rolls, from which all residents benefit. At the same time, the 246 people working at NJM’s Hammonton office, many of whom are town residents, feel fortunate to have a job with a stable employer in a safe, clean environment. NJM benefits these employees; in turn, their efforts benefit the company and its policyholders, as well as neighboring businesses.

The company’s presence in town has also helped attract other high-profile employers to Hammonton, including AtlantiCare and Richard Stockton College.

It wasn’t always like that, however. When Whitehall Manufacturing shut down its research facility in Hammonton in the1990s, the town experienced a reduction in the number of professional jobs. Now, NJM and some of the other major employers in town provide professional job opportunities, meaning young people can leave to attend college knowing they can come back to their hometown to pursue fulfilling careers.

For NJM, Hammonton has proved to be a place with a high-quality workforce and welcoming municipal and civic leadership. Hammonton is a small town of 15,000 residents, where people tend to know one another. On visits to local eateries or town celebrations, residents see a lot of familiar faces. Its downtown is reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. And its location, between Atlantic City and Philadelphia, presents compelling advantages to businesses looking to relocate.

New Jersey Manufacturers has been a good neighbor in Hammonton. They’ve raised the town’s profile across the entire state. In addition, NJM has helped fund and support public events such as Green Day and the Red, White and Blueberry festival.

NJM and NJM Bank, the company’s wholly owned financial subsidiary, are also active partners in the Façade Improvement Drive spearheaded by Main Street Hammonton. “Thanks in part to NJM, we have an ability to provide design grants to new businesses, allowing them to have a quality façade design,” Cassie Iacovelli, Executive Director of MainStreet Hammonton Iacovelli, said. “Having that grant be available is a large part of the success of our downtown, which is the economic center of our community.”

The company is also the prime sponsor of “Hammontonopoly,” a version of the famed real estate trading game that provides incentives to patrons of local businesses. Sales of the Hammontonopoly game represent the biggest single fundraiser MainStreet has. The group uses the money to support business-building initiatives like the façade program.

NJM and the town of Hammonton are most proud of the benefits their partnership has helped provide to the community at-large. In working together for the greater good, they’ve demonstrated the power of an effective public/private sector partnership and hope theirs will serve as a thriving example for others to follow.

 

Originally published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 90, Number 6, June 2013

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