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Nonprofit announces $15 million economic plan

MILLVILLE – A nonprofit has created an economic initiative that could pump as much as $15 million throughout South Jersey to help low-income families.

The Pascale Sykes Foundation announced the plan Thursday at the Cumberland County Improvement Authority headquarters on High Street. The organization has partnered with other agencies to raise money for the initiative.

The purpose is to enhance education and workforce development across Cumberland, Atlantic, Gloucester and Salem counties.

The foundation also unveiled a re-branding of the four counties as “New Jersey’s Heartland.”

Pascale Sykes has already worked with the four counties through various social service and transportation initiatives.

“We know there’s a plethora of education courses offered by Rutgers, counties and other educational institutions,” said Frances Sykes, president of the foundation. “But we had something else in mind. Something that includes coaching, mentoring and business financial arrangements.”

Pascale Sykes is collaborating with the nonprofit New Jersey Community Capital, which will help attract small businesses into the region. Pascale Sykes initially kicked in $4.1 million for the plan, and NJCC will try to leverage that money into $15 million.

Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly said he’s worked closely with Pascale Sykes in recent years, as the foundation has provided funds for the Greater Bridgeton Area Transit, which provides transportation for people to and from work.

“That has made a difference in our community,” Kelly said. “So I’m looking forward to the next thing. It’s a great way to leverage some ideas that we have, and to do some grassroots economic development for the city. One thing South Jersey doesn’t have is resources like North Jersey … We have some budding businesses here, and this can be the difference maker.”

The “New Jersey’s Heartland” marketing plan unveiled in collaboration with the Atlantic City-based Masterpiece Advertising hopes to showcase the region’s highlights in farmlands, education, creativity, innovation and other areas.

“From the start, it was clear that if we were going to achieve our goals increasing our world around us — creating pride in the region and positioning the four counties as a great destination for business and visitors — that we would need a strong name for the region,” said Phyllis Lacca, president of Masterpiece Advertising. “A handle that would portray the four counties as a great place to live, work and play.”

The new program also aims to work with existing economic development efforts across the region.

Chris Torres; (856) 563-5264; ctorres@gannettnj.com

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