Come to the Jersey Shore for Valentine's Day and then come back in the spring, summer and fall.
That was the message from Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno who kicked off the state's "Show your Love for the Jersey Shore" campaign on Monday afternoon at Jenkinson's Aquarium on the boardwalk in Ocean County's Point Pleasant.
"Come to the Jersey Shore for Valentine's Day, we're open for business," Guadagno said, standing at a podium just across from the penguins. She said it's crucial that the private-public marketing campaign effort, which is being done in conjunction with other marketing campaigns, gets the message out so the state's $38 billion tourism industry can again be robust.
"The Jersey Shore is a large piece of that industry," she said. "We need to keep our numbers up for day trips and overnight stays."
She said the state's other marketing efforts include signs touting: "New Jersey, State of Resilience," at the Super Bowl and also at an upcoming expo in Chicago in March. "Choose New Jersey" funded those efforts, she said.
She said next week she will promote Jersey Shore tourism in Montreal, Canada. Tourists from Canada are the most frequent tourists who stay overnight, she said.
She said she is hoping the entire Shore region is ready by Memorial Day, but that the state is "shooting for July 4th."
In Point Beach, business and government officials expect the center, commercial section of the boardwalk and its businesses to be fully operational by Easter weekend and for the entire boardwalk to be intact by Memorial Day weekend.
Guadagno and Smith happy to see public-private recovery efforts
Guadagno thanked Point Beach Mayor Vincent Barrella, who was sitting in the front row next to Frank Storino, one of the owners of Jenkinson's.
"The mayor is here and he will be one of the greatest advocates for the Shore," she said. "He told us you have to come back and we're here, mayor, keeping our promise."
Guadagno also praised the owners and staff of Jenkinson's, where staff lived at the aquarium for more than a week and kept all of the animals safe, and where crews are working to restore Jenkinson's Boardwalk in time for the annual Easter egg hunt and 2-for-1 ticket sales during Easter weekend (March 29 through 31).
Rep. Chris Smith, who has been meeting with and in frequent communication with Barrella since the storm, said, "Mayor, thank you for your leadership. I was here two days after the storm and the mayor was everywhere working with his OEM (Office of Emergency Management Coordinator). Thank you for your tremendous leadership and for your staff."
Smith said he is supporting the message that the Jersey Shore towns, like Point Pleasant Beach and Belmar, where he spent many of his vacations, are back in operation.
"They're back and people need to know that," he said.
When asked about the cost of the "Show Your Love for the Jersey Shore" campaign, Guadagno said. "I'm not sure yet, but it doesn't cost much right now. This is just a precursor to a marketing campaign."
She said that long before Sandy, the state had approved an expenditure of $2.5 to 3 million to promote the Jersey Shore. That allocation, which is separate from the campaign that was jump started Monday, will go forward as planned, she said.
"You punch me and I'll punch you back"
Guadagno noted that states like Virigina and Maryland are doing lots of advertising about how their beaches are in great shape. Sounding more like her boss than herself, Guadagno said, "You know this administration. You punch me and I'll punch you back," she said, getting a laugh.
"We'll focus on our beaches, we'll double down," she said.
Guadagno wants to know why her house is in a V zone
When asked about the local residents who own businesses, but are having trouble re-opening because their homes flooded and they're awash in red tape and confusion, Guadagno said she understands because she is one of the residents who doesn't have the answers on her own home.
"My own home in Monmouth County was moved from an A zone to a V zone and I'm very interested in finding out why," Guadagno said, referring to her home in Monmouth Beach. A "V zone,"
She said she recommends residents read the state Department of Environmental Protection website that has just posted answers to "frequently asked questions" about flood zones. (Click here and download first FAQ in list.)
Regarding helping residents fund renovations and elevations of their homes, Guadagno said state officials are working closely with federal officials to develop a method of fairly disbursing $1.8 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds issued by Congress last week.
"It has to be transparent," she said.
All residents and business owners should register with FEMA and SBA
She urged all residents and business people impacted in any way by Sandy to register with FEMA and SBA to be in a position to obtain any grants or low interest loans that may be applicable.
After the press conference, Elizabeth Mackay, director of the state's Small Business Advocacy office, said the deadline for most Small Business Administration (SBA) loans is March 1, but that businesses who lost revenue because of the storm have until July 31 to apply for SBA "Economic Injury Loans."
Those loans are made to eligible businesses that lost revenue because of the storm, even if they had no flooding or physical damage, said Garth MacDonald, an SBA public information officer, who was at a local meeting last week and also at the aquarium on Monday.
"If we decline a loan, we refer back to FEMA so the applicant can be considered for other grants," MacDonald said.
And any owner of a business, home or car that was flooded or damaged physically should also apply for the low-interest loans, MacDonald said.
He said there are loans available for up to $2 million for businesses, $200,000 to repair or replace homes and another $40,000 for personal property loss. For more information about SBA loans, see the SBA website. To listen to an audio seminar about SBA loans and other important information for businesses, click here. To register with FEMA, visit the Disaster Assistance section of the FEMA website.
Penguins, fish, sharks and the staff that kept them safe through Sandy
Guadagno came early to see the penguin exhibit, which was expanded and officially re-opened in July. The aquarium was closed from just before Superstorm Sandy until Feb. 1.
Some staff members lived in the aquarium for more than a week, from just before Sandy struck, to make sure all the animals stayed safe, and they did, said Aquarium Director Cindy Claus.
The basement of the aquarium, which is below the main level open to the public, flooded and is still not usable, said Claus. The animals that had been there were moved upstairs before the storm, she said.
In a clear illustration of the growing pains of trying to recover from a devastating superstorm that easily chewed through large chunks of boardwalk and flooded homes, a Bobcat crashed through a small section of the boardwalk near the aquarium on Saturday. The section was roped off on Monday.
Toby Wolf, Jenkinson's marketing director, said she didn't know yet if the piece of equipment was manned by a private contractor for Jenkinson's. She and Barrella, in a joint interview with Patch, said they would look into it and hopefully use insurance coverage to help cover the cost of repairing it.