College makes it a point to serve local business community

Israel Posner, third from left, participates in a panel discussion in conjunction with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Richard Stockton College in March 2010.

Through its expansions over the years, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey has emerged as a major player in business development in South Jersey.

The college conducts market research that provides information to businesses in the region, holds educational programming for business owners, and for eight years has hosted the Small Business Development Center at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

The center advises entrepreneurs and start-ups, and aids existing businesses seeking to expand or increase profitability.

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"I've seen the tremendous growth in servicing the business community," said Israel Posner, executive director of Stockton's Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism. Posner has been at Stockton for 38 of the school's 40 years.

This role comes at an important time in the region's business history as Atlantic City seeks to reinvent itself as a unique tourist attraction in the face of growing competition from out-of-state casinos. In this role, information is important.

"Research can be anything from market research dealing with gaming or hospitality or tourism in the region. We might be looking at information that is relevant to the entire industry and the shoreline. We also might be working with individual organizations as well," Posner said.

Faculty have been involved in research, including perception of safety in Atlantic City and what factors contribute to customer loyalty in the area, Posner said.

In the spring, a tourism visitor profile study involved thousands of interviews with people from Boston to Virginia, Posner said.

"We asked what types of people visit Atlantic City and how do general tourists differ from people who search for casinos," Posner said. "We discovered the importance of arts and culture to the general traveler. And if you are trying to transform Atlantic City from a gaming-centric destination to a broader tourism destination, this research helps you determine the types of amenities you need to attract the general traveler."

Stockton's Levenson Institute also sponsors the annual Jersey Shorecast, in which local economics professors, tourism experts and others predict how businesses will fare in the upcoming tourist season.

Stockton's expansions led last year to the $20 million purchase of the Seaview Resort in Galloway Township. The facility is operated as a resort and being integrated into the college's hospitality management program training future business professionals in the region.

"Imagine that, the students who major in hospitality and tourism management have the opportunity to intern and reside at a first-class resort and also take classes at a first-class resort," Posner said.

Joseph Molineaux is the director of the Small Business Development Center at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The organization uses federal and state funding to aid businesses in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.

Stockton has hosted the Atlantic City-based development center since 2003, Molineaux said.

"On any given year, we'll train anywhere from 1,000 to 1,600 individuals through our training programs," Molineaux said.

One-on-one counseling sessions average 500 to 700 unique users a year, he said.

"We've been really fortunate to have this kind of relationship with Stockton, especially in southern New Jersey where there is so much entrepreneurship," he said.

The programs help people develop and plan business plans and prepare to apply for business loans. New businesses can get help with a needs assessment and determining whether they have the capability to run such a business and the capacity to pay back any loans.

Existing businesses can get help reviewing past performance and isolating areas where they can improve, Molineaux said.

Tightening up costs. Looking for lenders. Developing more income streams. Even helping with Facebook and social media marketing.

"We're at the right place at a difficult time for small business. Having that role and understanding that role helps us reach out and reach as many businesses as we can," Molineaux said.

The center, Molineaux said, helps business people make good decisions.

"Stockton is a great college to be associated with because they are growing, they're doing the same things we're doing with small businesses in their own model," he said.

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