Gloucester County's top cheerleader Maggie Smith gives executives the business. Then, they move here. If You Go

Posted: September 28, 2003

What is good for Gloucester County is good for Maggie Smith.

The decision this month by Jack & Jill Ice Cream Co. to relocate from Bensalem, Pa., to Logan Township's industrial park was good for her.

So were the recent warehouse expansions in Logan, one by a distributor of health-care supplies, another by a restaurant supplier. And so was the groundbreaking this month for an industrial park in Glassboro, and the launching of eight small businesses.

Officially, Smith is executive director of the county Department of Economic Development.

Unofficially, she is a booster for the county and its 24 municipalities.

She describes her style as "in their faces" - especially when it comes to dealing with the folks in Trenton.

"Sometimes, the state isn't as receptive as we like about what we have done - and want to do - here in South Jersey," said Smith, 55, who lives in Washington Township. "It's just as important to educate the public sector as it is the private sector."

Smith relishes her work.

"I love getting information about Gloucester County in front of the right people," she said.

Bringing the right people together is also part of the job.

"Our office often works as a liaison between the county government and municipalities, the state government and municipalities, site locator personnel and communities, employers and employees, and bankers and brokers," Smith said.

Smith, a Morris County native, has been bringing people together since being elected to Washington Township Council in 1984. After four years there, she was elected, as a Democrat, to the county freeholder board, where she served six years until joining the staff of former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley.

When Bradley retired, she worked as vice president of government banking for First Union before becoming the county economic-development director three years ago.

To sell the county, Smith must educate developers and others about what it has to offer.

"Not everybody knows about Gloucester County," she said. "After you tell them about the quality of life that we have here in Gloucester County, they're more receptive."

The ignorance about the county that she encounters is "the story of the state itself," Smith said. "There are oil refineries in only a small portion of the state, but when people outside the state think of New Jersey, that's what they think."

In promoting the county's various communities, Smith keeps in mind that for some, economic development may mean a new industrial park while for others, it might be redevelopment of existing buildings.

Also critical is being able to attract grants, such as the $25,000 in state money that Glassboro received this month to investigate whether a vacant icehouse, which the borough would like to develop, would need groundwater remediation.

Smith also assists existing businesses in sharpening their competitive edge. Toward that end, her office plans to hold a free economic summit next month.

As for the county's edge, it is location, Smith said.

"People are telling us they're moving to the county for quality of life," she said. "We're right along the Interstate 295 corridor, and we're equally close to Philadelphia and the beach."

That is why Smith and her husband, Barry, who died nearly three years ago, moved to Washington Township from northern New Jersey 25 years ago.

"I live in a municipality of more than 50,000 people yet I have a peach orchard down the road from my home," Smith said. "You can't get that in a lot of other places."

Contact suburban staff writer Louise Harbach at 856-779-3861 or lharbach@phillynews.com.

What: Gloucester County Economic Development Summit. Representatives from banking, commercial real estate and development, education, retail, and health care will speak.

When: 8 to 10 a.m. Oct. 15. Registrations taken through Oct. 10

Where: RiverWinds Community Center, 1000 RiverWinds Dr., Thorofare.

Cost: Free

Phone: 856-384-6961

People

Meetings

Book Discussion Group West Deptford Library, 420 Crown Point Rd, W. Deptford; 856-845-5593. 7:30 p.m. 1st Thu.

Book Discussion Group Bellmawr Branch Library, 35 E Browning Rd, Bellmawr; 10:30 a.m. last Mon.

Bookmarks Monroe Twp Library reading group. 306 S Main St, Williamstown; 856-629-1212. 7:30 p.m. last Tue.

Gateway Model Railroad Club 100 Browning Rd, Brooklawn; 856-858-6644. 7 p.m. Tues.

GFWC Washington Twp Junior Woman's Club Washington Twp Senior Center, Greentree Rd, Washington Twp; 856-582-8671. 7:30 p.m. 1st Wed.

Gloucester Twp Literary Guild Book Discussion Gloucester Twp Public Library, 15 S Black Horse Pk, Blackwood; 856-228-0022. 7:30 p.m. 1st & 3d Thus.

The Networkers Group Business networking group. Seeks new members; breakfast meeting. Sage Diner, Rte 73 S, Mt Laurel; 856-667-4882. 7:30 a.m. Tues.

South Jersey Chemical Sensitivity Group 856-231-9142. Call for time & location. 1st Wed.

West Jersey Rose Society Voorhees Community Center, White Horse & Berlin Rds, Voorhees; 856-234-6583. 7:30 p.m. 1st Wed of month.

Whatever's Write Prose Writers Critique Workshop Rohrer Memorial Library, 15 MacArthur Blvd, Haddon Twp; 856-854-2752. 7-9 p.m. 1st Thu.

Seminars & Classes

Center for People in Transition Gloucester Co College, 1400 Tanyard Rd, Deptford; 856-415-2222. www.gccnj.edu. 3-session self-esteem workshop. 7 p.m. Mon, Thu & 10/6. Class on obtaining Commercial Driver's Class B License. Start in Oct. Call for schedule, fees.

Cooking Classes Kitchen Kapers, East Gate Square, 1341 Nixon Dr, Moorestown; 856-778-7705. Call for schedule, fees.

German Language Lessons St Stephens Meetingroom, 230 N Evergreen Ave, Woodbury; 856-468-9525. 6 p.m. 1st Tues.

La Campagne Cooking School Led by executive chef Eric Hall. La Campagne, 312 Kresson Rd, Cherry Hill; 856-429-7647. Entertaining at Home. Thu. Foods of Italy. 10/8-9. Fish Cookery. 10/16. Hors d' Oeuvres. 10/22-23. Louisiana: Cajun & Creole. 10/30. All classes: $40. 7-9 p.m.

Markeim Art Center Lincoln Ave & Walnut St, Haddonfield; 856-429-8585. Art, craft classes for children-adults. Call for fees, schedule.

Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts 22 N High St, Millville; 856-327-4500. www.riverfrontcenter.org. Painting, drawing, other classes for children & adults.

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