Monmouth County’s Grow Monmouth initiative is already showing results. Using the program’s Economic Opportunity Mapping tool, business people and local officials are able to identify areas that can become future sites for commerce or industry.

Recently, two companies have come to the county through the New Jersey Business Action Center, which is overseen by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. The county’s Economic Opportunity Mapping Tool was used to identify areas where these companies could locate their businesses. One was from out of state and the other is expansion of an existing company.

Economic Opportunity Mapping is Geographic Information System-based tool that t he county had in-house that was used for regulatory compliance. It was expanded to include zoning, highways, sewer service areas, flood plains and environmental constraints for each town in Monmouth County. We can then zone in on specific sites.

Prospective sites suitable for development can be determined easily and quickly using this tool. One of the business owners commented how much time this tool has saved them in determining properties they wanted to see.

Monmouth County residents will be happy to know that local gasoline stations are not duping the public when they pull up to the pumps.

A recent check by the Statewide Octane Testing Task Force, of which Monmouth County’s Department of Weights and Measures participated, turned up no violations. By comparison, 14 gasoline stations in Bergen, Camden, Gloucester and Middlesex  counties were charged with selling fuel with octane levels lower than advertised.

In other news, the Monmouth County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) received a $180,000 National Emergency Grant to help municipalities and other public entities hire new employees to help mop up from Hurricane Irene.

In fact, Spring Lake will be using some of that money to hire 10 laborers who will work through February to rebuild the boardwalk. Nearly two-thirds of Spring Lake’s boardwalk was destroyed in the hurricane.

Several other municipalities are determining the scope of work they need done and will be using part of this grant to hire laborers as well. These grants help towns save money on work that they have no choice but to complete.

The WIB is also working on a project to develop business service standards and an outreach plan for marketing its services to businesses. The move stems from recent focus groups that identified business service needs and customer requirements.

Those findings will be included in the WIB’s Business Development strategic plan, which is being paid for using a $54,000 grant. As a result, the WIB and the One-Stop Career Centers will be realigned to provide better service to businesses and residents of Monmouth County.

Finally, the Board of Chosen Freeholds urges all municipal and school officials to participate in the county’s commodity resale program. The commodity resale program enables towns and school districts to purchase items directly from the county, usually at a lesser price.

For example, if the county has purchased a large quantity of road salt, the agencies can buy what they need from the county. The county will extend its price to them plus the cost of loading or transporting the material for them. A number of towns already participate.

The program is primarily administered through the Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering. To learn more about this program, visit the department online at www.visitmonmouth.com

* Thomas A. Arnone is a Monmouth County freeholder.