GALLOWAY – Township officials say they aren’t going to sit back and see what shakes out with Atlantic City’s economic crisis. They aren’t going to wait until the economy countywide improves, either.

They are being proactive.

“We had no dialogue with a company called RDI or its parent company Barrette when we undertook the process to designate the former Lenox property as a redevelopment area,” Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola, who heads the Economic Development Committee, remarked Wednesday, Sept. 14. “And although it was a long and drawn out process to meet the stringent state’s criteria for the designation, we felt that in order to attract anyone willing to take a 400,000 square foot building that had been empty for over a decade, we could not sit around any longer. We needed to be proactive.”

Incentives are what brought the manufacturing and distribution center to 545 Tilton Road, where aluminum, vinyl fencing and railing will be manufactured and distributed. The most important aspect of the plan is to provide hundreds of jobs in the struggling area.

The site was designated as a redevelopment area so the township could offer incentives such as tax abatements to attract companies such as RDI.

“We had a great amount of success with the RDI project and I think this is a great opportunity for Galloway Township,” Coppola said at the latest council meeting Sept. 13.

Mayor Don Purdy said the goal of the township is to allow growth to increase commercial ratables without impacting schools. By creating these designations it is possible to do that.

Coppola said the redevelopment designation allows businesses to seek aggressive incentives from the state’s Economic Development Authority in the form of state tax credits. It also allows the township to enter into a long-term incentive agreement with the business. The result in RDI’s case is the company will receive up to $29 million dollars from the state, with the caveat being the guarantee of at least 350 new jobs.

Coppola said Purdy should be credited with the push to get RDI and other ratable producers in the township. He said Purdy gave the directive to the economic development committee to seek redevelopment status.

“He knew that other towns in the state had employed the designation and attracted new businesses, but it was something Galloway had never tried,” Coppola said.

That is changing.

“We are looking to tip the scales in the favor of the businesses and sweeten the pot. We don’t want to artificially create an area for the businesses,” Coppola said of providing incentives to bring new businesses to the township. “We just want to give them a little push.”

Township Planner Tiffany Cuviello will give a presentation at the Sept. 27 council meeting on the township’s next plan to improve the ratable base through a township-wide rehabilitation designation.

Cuviello, at the direction of the Economic Development Committee, worked to obtain the rehabilitation designation by meeting all of the state’s requirements over the past year.

“Redevelopment is not the only tool towns can use to encourage smart growth,” Coppola said. “Rehabilitation is also a designation. The criteria is less stringent and the incentives are all short term but it provides a little push to help fledgling businesses get a foothold so they can climb and grow.”

As with the redevelopment area, any rehabilitation area tax-incentives would only be on the additions to the existing property.

Cuviello recently completed the first and possibly the largest hurdle in Galloway’s quest for a rehabilitation overlay, Coppola said.

“She had to show that the entire township met the criteria for such a designation.” The plan was accepted by the planning board at the Sept. 1 meeting and forwarded to council for their consideration at the Sept. 27 meeting.

The township hopes to emulate some things Somers Point did.

Officials there recently employed a city-wide rehabilitation overlay with great success and saw a significant uptick in applications to their planning and zoning boards, Coppola said.

“I think it is a positive outlook for Galloway,” Purdy remarked at the Sept. 13 council meeting of smart growth projects and incentives in the township. “The first thing people have to ask themselves is what does Galloway have to offer?”

Times are changing, he said.

“Galloway has always been way behind the times with this,” Purdy said of smart growth projects and designations. “We have to have smart growth.”

Coppola said the township is definitely beginning to overcome hurdles of prior administration’s decisions involving businesses, but it is a constant uphill battle because of the economic climate in the county and problems in Atlantic City.

“Although we had great success with Barrette bringing their company and jobs to our community, our area is still struggling,” Coppola said. “In times like this we need to be proactive to keep our economy moving, that’s what we intend to do.”

The next council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 in the municipal complex, 300 E. Jimmie Leeds Road.

Email Madelaine Vitale at mvitale@catamaranmedia.com.