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New Jersey Highlands Economic Sustainability Plan

The Challenge

The New Jersey Highlands is home to 2.6 million people within 1,323 square miles and, most importantly, is a highly-coveted natural resource area that provides drinking water to more than 300 municipalities and 70% of New Jersey’s total population.

While the New Jersey Highlands Council is known for its role maintaining and enhancing water quality, its work is less prominent in the sector of economic development. Yet, resolved to prioritize business opportunities that are compatible with its work, the Council set out to pursue an economic sustainability plan at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Solution

Recognizing that it needed to be more inclusive of environmental considerations as values shift in the field of economic development, the New Jersey Highlands Council was in a unique position as a regional planning agency to show that natural resource protection and a vibrant economy are not mutually exclusive goals.

Labor market analysis demonstrated the strengths of each corner of the Highlands counties. This data was supported by an extensive stakeholder engagement plan that prioritized the input from a range of perspectives. While business needs continue to shift under pressure from the pandemic and other global events, the tactics in the plan revolve around establishing processes and structures that will allow the Highlands Council and their stakeholders to capitalize on future opportunities.

The Impact

Citing the ambitious plan and vision set out by this effort, the New Jersey Highlands Council voted unanimously to formally release the Economic Sustainability Plan in December 2021.

The plan has already driven conversations at the municipal level where local economic development committees are using it to understand the role they are suited for in the economy. County economic development leaders have committed to working as a coalition to support this regional effort, which is a unique approach to economic development in New Jersey.

Now, with a Communications Plan in hand, the Council is poised to share the findings and catalyze next steps throughout the region.


Preview Image: Photo by Harrison Kugler on Unsplash