EDAC continues efforts to foster new business in downtown Cranbury

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Lido Sushi Asian Bistro is one of the current restaurants located on North Main Street in downtown Cranbury on Sept. 3. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF
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Pet groomer business Pawz and Clawz also on North Main Street in Cranbury. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF
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Chic Boutique at North Main Street in downtown Cranbury on Sept. 3. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF
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Lido Sushi Asian Bistro is one of the current restaurants located on North Main Street in downtown Cranbury on Sept. 3. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF
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Pet groomer business Pawz and Clawz also on North Main Street in Cranbury. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF
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Chic Boutique at North Main Street in downtown Cranbury on Sept. 3. ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

The Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) is almost complete with the first of three phases in its effort to boost economic growth in Cranbury.

The discovery phase is the first of three phases for the committee and is set to be completed on Sept. 15. The next phases are the define phase and deliver phase. The deliver phase would begin at the end of 2020 and continue into 2021.

“We have already surveyed residents in the discovery phase and currently are also surveying businesses which is still being worked on. With the businesses there will be not only a survey but also a face to face meeting, which won’t be wrapped up until Sept. 15,” said Darek Hahn, chairman of the EDAC. “With the residents surveyed we had more than a 50% response rate out of 900 on the township email list.”

The committee is scheduled to present its findings from the discovery phase to the Township Committee on Sept. 28.

“We will then go from discovery to define. Discovery is all of the information we have. This is all the factual information we are basing things on. The define phase is, this is what we are going to do,” Hahn said. “The define phase will be part of the presentation so that we can create some kind of plan, so that in January we can start taking action and implementing.”

At the end of the define phase, with marching orders that are to be defined by Dec. 31, the EDAC will go to the Township Committee to see if they agree with the agenda items defined during the define phase. If the committee agrees, the EDAC will move ahead with the defined plan.

“Whatever the list of agenda items we define, can be implemented over the next year or two if the Township Committee is in agreement,” Hahn said. “My guess is during the define phase we will have another component of reaching out to the residents for more questions. Whether it is a focus group or another survey, I do not know yet.”

The committee consists of seven community members. Led by Chairman Darek Hahn, Delpha Georges, Lisa Knierim, Anjan Lahiri, Tamara Vostok, Pam Walker and Nancy Witt are tasked with finding new ways to attract and retain local business in the downtown area of Cranbury.

“This is an incredible group of people that agreed to be a part of this committee. We have only been meeting for a month and half and we completed the township resident survey and are now conducting the businesses portion,” Hahn said. “We have really talented people that are part of this committee. We have a marketing person, a couple of CEOs, and real estate and construction business experience with members on EDAC.”

Committee members, along with members of the public and existing downtown businesses, are also helping the businesses currently downtown thrive and grow.

The idea for the establishment of the EDAC came from Mayor Matt Scott, who brought the idea to the rest of the township committee, who then approved of its creation during 2020.

“I am pleased with how things are so far. They are meeting every week and reaching out to the key stakeholders in town to make sure they are involved,” he said. “To see this come to fruition is really satisfying. It was one of the reasons that I ran for a seat on the Township Committee.”

Scott sees this establishment of this committee as key for the township during the period of COVID-19.

“Having this committee this year is more important than ever because of all of the stresses small businesses are under. This group can really help us when restrictions are lifted with renewing community activity and helping move the downtown forward,” he said. “If they were not here we would be in a worse situation.”

Deputy Mayor Mike Ferrante pointed to the casting of a wide net of residents to join the EDAC as one of the reasons for the committee’s burst of energy and enthusiasm.

“You really want to engage new people and new thinking. People that are in Cranbury now, not all of them grew up here. So a lot of them know what economic development might look like in other towns and areas,” he said. “I think people bringing in ideas from somewhere else is a great way to keep people engaged in town.”