By Linda Smith Hancharick WEST MILFORD — Bob Nicholson, chairman of the West Milford Economic Development Committee (EDC), thinks the group he steers can do more for the township if it receives commission status.
Nicholson addressed the township council two weeks ago about making the committee, which is an advisory function to the council, a commission. As a commission, he said, the EDC would be able to secure grants and enable them to reach beyond the job they are doing now.
"The members think it's a good idea. We've discussed it," said Nicholson. "We wouldn't need funding from the township but we could get grants."
Why a commission? One of the main reasons for commission status is financial. As a commission, Nicholson said the group can apply for grants and then do something with the money. Being a committee, there is no budget and the group isn't able to apply for grants. They have worked with the business community, made recommendations about how to get more traffic into the township, with an emphasis on tourism.
Prior to establishing the EDC in 2010, Nicholson said there was an Economic Tourism Commission in place but was deactivated about four years ago.
EDC members have attended business seminars sponsored by the county and brought the information back to the business community here.
Nicholson has long looked to spread the word about West Milford and what the township has to offer. One of the ways he would like to do that is through the media, specifically television. He talked about possibly filming commercials to air on cable television throughout the state in an effort to bring people to West Milford, whether it's for a boat race, an air show, or to ride bikes on the soon-to-be completed pump track.
"West Milford started as a tourist town and that's how it will stay," said Nicholson. "The Highlands has made it unbuildable so we work with what we've got. But you do need money to take your ideas and transform them."
It takes money to do that. Nicholson is quick to point out that the money does not come from the taxpayers of West Milford. Instead, there are county and state grants available to help bolster the business community through the EDC.
About the EDC The EDC was created by the council in January, 2010, in an effort to help encourage economic development in the township and help retain those businesses that are currently here. There are nine volunteer members of the EDC and one council liaison. Everyone on the committee has different responsibilities, Nicholson said, dealing with various aspects of business in the town. The committee is reestablished each year by the council. According to the ordinance passed in January, the council established the EDC with the purpose to strive to promote economic development activities within the township. The committee must also report to the mayor and council with recommendations, opinions and input on issues affecting the business community.
The council will discuss the request.