Debra Morgan, Senior Vice President and Market Manager for Ocean County, joined Lakeland in early 2019 to manage the Bank’s branches in Toms River, Jackson and Lakewood. The Ocean County Team has a special, cohesive bond, and Morgan was a perfect fit. She was quick to assimilate with colleagues and customers and, to any outsider, it would appear as though she has been a part of the Ocean County team for years.
Shortly after Morgan started, Alizar “Nick” Zorojew, Executive Director of the Toms River Business Development Corp. (TRBDC), invited her to a meeting to learn more about the Business Improvement District (BID) and to tour the downtown area. It was a late summer afternoon and after grabbing a cup of coffee, the two walked around the business district as Zorojew explained the important role of BID.
“Nick was so passionate about Toms River and making it a better place to live and work,” said Morgan. “He talked about all the things they were doing to attract new business to the downtown while also helping to retain the established businesses.” Zorojew shared details about how they work to bring people into the area through farmers markets, festivals, special holiday events and the Business Incubator project. Business Incubation is a business support process that works to accelerate the successful development of start-up companies. The Downtown Shoppes at 53 Main has space to house eight retail spaces and offers an array of resources and services to entrepreneurs to help them get their business off the ground.
Zorojew also spoke about BID’s Façade Improvement Program. He explained their belief that by enhancing the outside appearance of the buildings in the business district, the entire downtown could be revitalized. The Façade Improvement Program offers up to 33% of construction cost to a maximum grant of $2,500 in matching funds to owners of commercial property and businesses located in the Downtown Toms River’s footprint to improve the appearance of individual building facades, signs and awnings.
“The Façade Grant is one of the most direct ways the BID works to enhance the physical space in Downtown Toms River,” explained Zorojew. “This financial incentive is often the motivating factor to encourage owners to make improvements.”
BID had been awarding six grants a year, but due to a lack of funding in 2019, they only issued three awards. A rising tide lifts all ships is BID’s mantra and Zorojew explained how it applies to Toms River stating that when a street level business puts on a new awning or replaces doors, windows, signs or lighting…it looks good for the whole street.
“I love the idea of a downtown filled with shopping, restaurants, and businesses and know it is the lifeblood of a thriving community,” said Morgan. “I have seen other communities become really successful and I wanted to help Toms River experience that same success.”
Morgan learned that Lakeland Bank had a program to support special nonprofit initiatives through its Community Impact Grant and believed that the BID’s Façade Improvement Program was a great candidate. She nominated BID and was delighted to receive the news that the organization had been selected as one of the nonprofits in Ocean County that would receive a Community Impact Grant.
“This dedication to continuous quality improvement is only possible with the cooperation of our businesses, property owners, government partners and local community supporters, like Lakeland Bank,” said Zorojew. “And their support is an indication they are here to stay in Ocean County.”
The Grant was recently presented to Zorojew at the Battle River Brewing which is currently under renovation at 69 Main Street. The Brewery is the first recipient of 2020 to be awarded the Façade Improvement Program with funds provided by Lakeland. It is expected to open soon and will be a welcome addition to the other businesses located downtown.
“A vibrant district attracts more people and business and that’s just good for community,” said Morgan. “I am really proud Lakeland Bank provided this grant to Toms River Business Improvement District and look forward to seeing those dollars at work locally!
Downtown Toms River – May 2020 Events
2 – Toms River FoodFest
16 – Chili & Salsa Cook-off
20 & 27 – Farmers’ Market
Toms River Business Development Corp.
The TRBDC, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, manages the Downtown Toms River not-for-profit organization which works to promote and implement the economic revitalization of the downtown Toms River business district. To learn more about the Façade Improvement Program, contact Alizar N. Zorojew at 732-341-8738 or anzorojew at downtowntomsriver dot com.
Lakeland Bank’s Grant Program
The Bank established a non-competitive grant program in 2018 to support specific community-focused initiatives hosted by nonprofit organizations that make a strong and lasting impact on our communities. The program is non-competitive with no public solicitations for applications. Prospective recipients and their programs are nominated for consideration for a grant based upon an internal nomination process designed specifically for this program.
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