Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Water Based Transportation: A Catalyst for our Economy and Quality of Life

A self sustaining year round economy is key to survival in this period of economic downturn. Our residents see the value in living in the Borough of Highlands year round. It is time to encourage businesses to value Highlands in a similar way. By encouraging year round commercial property uses in the downtown business district, the Borough can stimulate economic growth that will ease the burden on residential property taxpayers and provide jobs closer to home to improve quality of life for individuals and families in our Borough. Our water based mass transportation system is the key to achieving this goal.

A dining and recreational destination, Highlands has year round restaurants consistently serving a variety of top quality cuisine. Highlands is also home for first class distinctive year round lodging alternatives which are often fully booked due to high demand. We now have the opportunity to showcase Highlands' Bay Avenue business district as a unique and desireable location for commercial offices atop existing restaurants and storefronts, with temporary lodging and affordable permanent living space nearby. During this difficult economic period it is possible that offices currently located in Manhattan or its vicinity might consider relocating to Highlands. After all, we are only 45 minutes from Manhattan by ferry.

Office space on Bay Avenue might have minimal impact on the residents, especially if employees use mass transit to get to and from work. Employees in Manhattan are already accustomed to mass transit as the primary means of transportation. Some are already using the ferry to come to Highlands from Manhattan during the summer season. Local employees who live in Highlands can walk to work. Corporate clients are generally located in the city, and professional service companies usually travel to the client offices to perform their work. The ferry is within walking distance from the Bay Avenue business district, making travel from the home office to the client site pleasant and reasonable in time.

Occasionally meetings may occur in Highlands, where Highlands office staff would entertain clients in an effort to secure contracts. These clients might come to Highlands by ferry from Manhattan, met at the terminal by Highlands office staff. A brief walk or golf cart ride from the ferry to Highlands restaurants for lunch might signal the beginning of a beautiful business relationship. Commercial office uses could breathe new life into an already up and coming business district, our main street in the Borough of Highlands, providing new employment opportunities for Highlands residents and an increased demand for the businesses already here. It is also foreseeable that over time demand for other businesses (e.g. retail) would develop. All accomplished with water transportation at the center.

Highlands Borough will benefit from the enhanced value of individual commercial properties as they become more desireable and produce more income to the property owner. Better commercial assessments will relieve some of the burden now placed primarily on residential property taxpayers to maintain municipal operations. There may be potential for public-private cooperative funding of community projects benefitting our economy (e.g. facade improvement) once offices have relocated here and become part of the Highlands community. Our youth may wish to intern or take part time employment in these offices to test whether they would like to work toward those jobs, graduating from high school already with corporate job experience. The internship might include a trip to Manhattan to see work performed at the client site. What an educational networking opportunity!

Highlands is working with other municipalities in the Bayshore region and points north to establish a sustainable water transportation system for both commuter and recreational use, both arriving at the Jersey Shore and returning home. There are ongoing discussions regarding possible connection of water based mass transportation to land based mass transportation alternatives already in existence. This might entice those already using mass transit to give water based transportation a try. Furthermore, the reduced price of state subsidized transportation alternatives may make use of the possible mass transit loop more affordable.

Highlands is already a beautiful vibrant year round community. We should leverage what we've accomplished to improve quality of life and help Highlands taxpayers at the same time. Highlands businesses and residents have already invested our hard earned tax dollars in creating and maintaining our beloved Highlands as she exists today. We have all done a terrific job thus far. We should now consider taking our efforts to the next level, where our investment will produce even better return, not only financially, but in our future quality of life. Our families, our youth, and our businesses deserve it.