View Issues Subscribe for FREE
What’s the Big Idea?
Thoughts on ways to make South Jersey a better place to live, work and play.

by Staff

More than a decade ago, we asked dozens of people from across the region to tell us what one thing they would do to help change South Jersey for the better. A lot has certainly changed since then, and so we wanted to revisit this topic to find out what may be the “next big thing” that could make a lasting impact in our community. We spoke with politicians, business leaders, heads of nonprofits and more to get a wide range of hopes and dreams for the future. The answers were thoughtful, detailed and aligned by the desire to improve the quality of life in this beautiful area we call home.



“Going to a traditional four-year college is not the only way to make it in America, and we need to end the stigma that working with your hands is less important than other careers. We should be guiding our children to pathways that fit their interests, and that starts with programs like apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships. 

“Expanding registered apprenticeship programs in South Jersey will not only connect thousands with good-paying, in-demand jobs, but will also build out and enable our local workforce to take advantage of billions in new federal investments coming into our community to rebuild roads, replace lead pipes, to build our green energy economy and more.”
--Rep. Donald Norcross


An investment in South Jersey’s transportation network would benefit the environment and the region’s economic growth. Imagine what could be accomplished if a light rail system was extended from Camden to Glassboro and even further … such as to Manhattan or D.C. Or if we extended Route 55 to the Shore, for example. The future possibilities are limitless, but can only be achieved through smart planning.”
--Dr. Ali Houshmand, president, Rowan University 


“I think if we could set up a better support system for our seniors that would make South Jersey better. … As our population continues to age, we need better transportation systems, better recreational opportunities, better entertainment locations, and more affordability of food and daily living needs due to rising fixed incomes. In addition, we need support for the caregivers of the seniors as they continue to balance their own needs and the needs of their loved ones. This is a big lift but the more we can make South Jersey amenable to help our seniors ‘age in place’ the better all of our communities will be.”
--Jaclyn Veasy, mayor of Evesham


“The continuation of efforts to provide a good transportation network, particularly public transportation is important. The Glassboro-Camden light rail line is a good place to start. Equally important is the enhancement of existing bus and rail service. Similarly, a network of quality roads and highways is imperative.

“Overall, a smart transportation network will enhance economic competitiveness in South Jersey, will provide transportation for a growing workforce, for college and university students and provide easy access to medical resources, recreation and cultural activities.
--Marlene Asselta, president, Southern New Jersey Development Council


“The biggest factor holding the region back from future growth is the lack of public transportation. All South Jerseyans are forced to be reliant on cars to get from point A to point B, which is getting more costly as gas prices—and potentially the gas tax—rise. Rail lines are scarce and those that exist are rarely utilized. Bus routes are limited and do not take residents to the areas needed most—job sites and tourism destinations, to name a few. The region needs new mass transit options and better transportation infrastructure in order to continue to grow and prosper.”
--Christina Renna, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey


“Strengthening the communities we serve is important to reducing food insecurity and building long-term sustainability for South Jersey. By embracing a community-led vision, based on mutual respect and our desire to always learn and be better, we can build a thriving environment for all. As we look to continue to build that community-led vision, it’s important to elevate the voices of everyone in our communities—particularly those we serve. We’ve tried to do that through regular listening sessions with our neighbors.”
--Fred Wasiak, president and CEO, The Food Bank of South Jersey


South Jersey is a fantastic place to live and work, and it could be even better if we work together to increase access to health care services. I’m particularly aware of the need to enhance specialized care for adults with special needs. We have the opportunity—and the responsibility— to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.”
--Dennis Pullin, president and CEO, Virtua Health


One idea to change South Jersey for the better? Let’s bring the Hadrosaurus Foulkii back to her home in Haddonfield. This would generate cultural and historic tourism for the region, and link both Philadelphia’s museums such as The Academy of Natural Sciences with Rowan University’s Edelman Fossil Park. In fact, why not create an entire historic trail, utilizing existing and future transit to encourage exploration and collaboration for the arts, culture and science?”
--Colleen Bianco Bezich, mayor of Haddonfield 


“One idea to improve South Jersey could be to invest in sustainable infrastructure and green spaces. By enhancing public transportation options and increasing areas dedicated to parks and recreation, South Jersey could reduce environmental impact, promote healthier lifestyles and increase community well-being. Such initiatives would not only make the region more environmentally friendly, but also improve the quality of life for its residents by providing more accessible and enjoyable outdoor spaces.”
--Fozia Janjua, mayor of Mount Laurel


“During my time in South Jersey, I have had the privilege to meet so many people who put their concern for others into action as essential workers, public servants and volunteers. My vision for our region is that we develop even more of an infrastructure for giving back, so that South Jerseyans can channel their kindness and compassion into efforts that successfully lift up our communities. The faculty, staff, and students of Rutgers–Camden are hard at work to ensure access to affordable education, quality health care,  food/shelter security, social support and charitable giving are all part of South Jersey’s future.”
--Dr. Antonio Tillis, chancellor, Rutgers University-Camden


“Providing additional programs that help address social equity issues, such as fair access to housing, education and health care. We continue do our part in providing access to integrated care that takes into consideration a person’s physical, mental, behavioral and social needs. I believe it’s important to be purposeful in reaching community members ‘where they live,’ so to speak, with programming that includes incentivized free vaccines, and health education programs for those with limited English proficiency.”
-- Aaron Chang, president, Jefferson Health – East Region (NJ)


“I believe fostering a strong sense of community engagement, investing in sustainable development and preserving the rich cultural heritage of South Jersey will not only make it a better place to live, work and stay but also create a harmonious environment where residents thrive and visitors feel welcomed.”
--Laurie Burns, mayor of Washington Township


“In the last 10 years, our region, and [Camden County] in particular, has been a hotbed of economic activity, with large corporations and businesses expanding regionally, thus creating thousands of jobs for our residents. In fact, to underscore this point, I was just notified that Lockheed Martin is moving another 300 employees into the county in April. A thriving economy and job market contribute greatly to the overall wellness of our region and that is where I believe we should continue investing our time, money and resources into to enhance South Jersey.”
--Louis Cappelli Jr., Camden County Commissioner Director


“Invest in public education and trust educators. We have the best public schools in America … [and] thoughtful investment is how we give students access to the resources and support they need. It’s how we attract a new generation of educators and retain the talented professionals we already have in our schools. In addition to investing in education, New Jersey needs to respect educators enough to let us do our jobs. We got into this profession to make a difference in the lives of students, and too often unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy gets in the way. When we have the time and resources we need to do that work, there’s almost no limit to what our students can achieve. And when students achieve, communities flourish.”
--Sean Spiller, president, New Jersey Education Association


We can create a healthier South Jersey! With a common purpose, and shared commitment to make incremental steps, we can make progress. No single organization can do this important work alone, but when health systems, nonprofits, businesses, academia, clergy and elected officials work together we can succeed. It all starts with meeting people’s most basic needs—food, water and shelter. Next, access to education and jobs training will inspire hope and confidence. Then we focus on nurturing healthier lifestyles by improving access to nutritious foods and safe opportunities for recreation.  

“Our region’s eds and meds corridor has achieved tremendous success, increasing access and affordability for those interested in health care professions. … I’m grateful to all our partners for their commitment to a healthier South Jersey.”
--Amy Mansue, president and CEO, Inspira Health


“We need to preserve the pockets of interest and charm that each town in our region already has. Great wineries, restaurants and breweries, awesome Main Streets, art galleries and open space; that’s’ who we are and why we love living here. All of that in close proximity to the city or the beach. That’s why the best idea for South Jersey, in fact all of New Jersey, is for Trenton leadership to finally address the ridiculous property tax issue in our state and make this wonderful place to live more affordable. The children we raise cannot afford to settle here to raise their family. And our retiring generation is leaving the state in record numbers and taking their disposable income with them to spend in another state.”
--Lou Manzo, mayor of Harrison Township


“In the past decade, South Jersey has seen significant economic growth, yet the fight against poverty and inequity persists. In today’s interconnected world, access to quality jobs and career opportunities is vital for financial stability, personal fulfillment and economic growth. Overcoming barriers like digital literacy, transportation and connectivity is not just a convenience but a necessity. Together, by addressing these challenges, we can unlock the potential of individuals and families, enhancing their quality of life and investing in South Jersey’s promising future.”
--Bill Golderer, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey


“I’d really like to see more walkable and bikeable development in South Jersey, with public gathering places at the hearts of our communities. Despite the growing emphasis on clean energy in our state, so much development is still centered around cars, and ultimately, that kind of development is just not sustainable. As a step in that direction, we’re working to develop the Moorestown Mall into a walkable town center with residential, retail, entertainment and medical components. We want it to be the kind of space where people stay and spend time together instead of rushing off to their next errand. We’re also creating a town green at our municipal complex where people can enjoy live music or a town movie night, or just hang out and catch up with friends.”
--Nicole Gillespie, mayor of Moorestown


“It is remarkable how the people of South Jersey go above and beyond to help those most in need. This is makes South Jersey a very special place to live and work. What South Jersey needs is the recognition it deserves for the quality of services, resources and ingenuity used when working to solve the everyday problems of its residents, no matter their situation in life.”
--Dan Lombardo, president and CEO, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley


I’m always interested in innovative transportation networks that incorporate all travel modalities including bike, highway, air and rail. By embracing and prioritizing all sustainable modes of transportation options in South Jersey, we can enhance the mobility for all residents, stimulate economic development, and foster a healthier environment for future generations to raise their families.”
--Stephen F. Dougherty, executive director, South Jersey Transportation Authority


“I would love to see NJ Transit expand its rail service into South Jersey, besides the rail line that goes into Atlantic City. It would be great to be able to take a train to Cape May or other Shore towns, or along the Delaware River to Penns Grove.”
--Ernie McGill, committee member and former mayor of Cinnaminson

Click here to subscribe to the free digital editions of South Jersey Magazine

To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazineclick here.
Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 12 (March 2023)

For more info on South Jersey Magazineclick here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazineclick here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazineclick here.