Cumberland County is one of only 15 communities nationwide to be designated as a Round II Empowerment Zone. Since its inception, the Cumberland Empowerment Zone Corporation has leveraged more than $238.5 million in funding using $17.7 million in Empowerment Zone grant funding. The program has been recognized by HUD as one of the most successful Empowerment Zones in the nation. The federal Empowerment Zone initiative was designed to bring people and places together in a concerted effort to reclaim neighborhoods, building economies and strengthen community values. These zones target communities with high levels of distress, defined by specific criteria: poverty rate of the community, existence of brownfields, underused or unused industrial parcels, lack of transit, high crime, and other indications of social and economic distress.
Cumberland County's Empowerment Zone consists of targeted areas in Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland and Port Norris. Because each municipality is a small, urban area, local and county representatives took a cooperative and regional approach to Empowerment Zone designation. The targeted communities of Cumberland County have significant economic and social needs. Empowerment Zone designation enhances Cumberland County's ability to link its communities with opportunities in the region. By stressing community heritage and the links that bind the past with the future, Cumberland County communities set the stage for sustainable growth and development that respect the environment and use natural and cultural resources as asset. The partner communities ensure that new growth and development occur in ways that protect the natural, cultural and historic character of the area.
The Cumberland Empowerment Zone Corporation (CEZC) was created in 1999 to implement this Empowerment Zone program in Cumberland County, providing targeted neighborhoods and businesses with the flexibility to design and implement comprehensive neighborhood and economic development initiatives. The CEZC's mission is to utilize the unique heritage of Cumberland County (its natural resources including the diversity and talents of its citizens) to promote sustainable growth and development by delivering innovative, customized programs that respect the environment and use natural and cultural resources as assets. The CEZC focuses on partnerships that have been developed among residents, businesses, local organizations and various levels of government.
The federal Empowerment Zone program sunsetted in 2010. However, due to careful planning and management of funds, the CEZC is able to use second generation funding to support several loan programs. The Board of Directors then authorized and approved expansion of Empowerment Zone boundaries for use of the second generation funding to the entire municipality to which said funding is allocated with the condition that funding remain consistent with the goals and objectives of the CEZC strategic plan. Eligible applicants for these funds are municipalities, public/private for-profit and non-profit entities who will implement projects that stimulate economic and community revitalization with Zone municipalities.
The Empowerment Zone initiatives facilitate neighborhood revitalization, the creating of new employment/training opportunities, resident empowerment and the increased investment of private/public capital within the municipalities of the targeted communities. Projects such as economic development through loans, bonds and tax incentives, job creation, business development/expansion, technical assistance and training, transportation, educational programs, and community development have been targeted for funding.
The Community Advisory Board and Board of Directors have approved over 130 projects and loans since the first round of applications in 2000. Other significant accomplishments in Cumberland County can be found in the CEZC Operations Report 2000-2001 and the CEZC Operations Report 2002-2003 or by downloading the CEZC's brochures and newsletters.
Contact us for more information on the CEZC, the Empowerment Zone program, or if you are interested in applying for funding.
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