With a month to go before Mayor Joseph Accardi is scheduled to travel to China and two months after he requested and received approval from council for a budget of $3,000.00 to publish a brochure that would promote Roselle Park to potential investors, there is no status or update on the progress from the mayor.
At the July 18th Mayor & Council meeting, Mayor Accardi addressed council during his report and stated that in the past year and a half, he had spoken to a lot of people to try to get investments in Roselle Park. He mentioned that when he traveled to the Middle East last year he met with some people with ‘a lot of resources’ who were interested in coming into Roselle Park and investing. Mayor Accardi mentioned that he directed interested parties to the Borough website, sent information, and put them in touch with real estate agents. During his report the mayor added that he even spoke to a group from the United Nations that were interested in buying houses for what he termed ‘second and third tier diplomats’ who would stay in residences while serving in their respective embassies.
“We’re at a point where I think that we could really make a program like that work,” Mayor Accardi said about taking a larger part in promoting the borough. He added, “I’m traveling to China in October and the purpose of that trip is to speak to another group of investors. These investors tend to be wealthy residents of a foreign nation that want to travel to the United States under an investor’s visa . . . They’re looking for valid investments. They want to come here with a substantial amount of money, invest it, and hire workers once they get here. So I think this is something we, as a community, to look into.”
Mayor Accardi stated at that July meeting that he had discussions planned with Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno – who is the state’s representative for improving business climate in the state – and with the Director of the Chamber of Commerce in the region so that way I can try to get them on board and potentially have them help him manage the information. It was with this information that Mayor Accardi asked for permission from council to look into potentially having a firm prepare a brochure to sell our community; not just the Special Improvement District (SID) or the downtown area or businesses but also residential properties. He further explained, “To sell the community because of its location and in terms of transportation networks . . . of where it has been and the future potential of our community. Sell the community in terms of the residents . . . the businesses we have and the businesses that we could have.”
The mayor stated with Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kenneth Blum to figure out what such a sort of a brochure would cost. Although he had not spoken to any management companies at that time, Mayor Accardi stated that he spoke to one other community that had done something similar for approximately $2,000. The targeted time frame for the brochure was mid-October and that he wanted to have something in place if he were to make it useful. The mayor asked to a budget of $3,000.00 for 500 brochures.
During the discussion, Fifth Ward Councilman Michael Yakubov stated that he was not opposed to a brochure but that he also thought that the Borough should look at American companies that want to invest before approaching foreign companies. Additionally, he thought if new development was going to happen, that it could be a hybrid of transit and other types of commercial development.
“I personally would not like to see housing built in Roselle Park at this time unless there is a valid plan that incorporated a form of commercial real estate into the plan that would bring ratables, would not bring in more school-aged children and could potentially put a burden on the school system,” said councilman Michael Yakubov. He stated this even though three years ago in 2009 he voted to approve a settlement with AvalonBay Communities to build a high-end apartment development which would increase the number of schoolchildren to the school district, especially since a portion of those apartment would be rented at Affordable Housing rates.
Councilman Yakubov concluded by stating, “I’m willing to work with you on this initiative before I go with any brochures he would like to see more information.”
Council-At-Large Carl Hokanson asked if it was possible within the brochure to incorporate the idea of research & development incubators proposed by Councilwoman Charlene Storey in May of this year.
Mayor Accardi said that he had spoken to Carlod Ghosn, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nissan Corporation, in Beirut last year and that Nissan was interested in looking into Roselle Park in terms of using a property where they could put developers for the LEAF, Nissan’s electric car, and their battery system. The mayor expanded his response by saying that a group of 20-30 independent people could be assembled with provided funding to allow them come up with some ideas that he could use for the Nissan LEAF.
The mayor continued his platform, “We could get a proposal in place for the next meeting and maybe some ideas of what should be included in the brochure before we pull the trigger on it. I’d, at least, like to have some feeling that it’s going to go forward. I’m not going to continue to waste my time on this if it’s not going to be something we can do as a united front.”
CFO Ken Blum recommended to Mayor Accardi that he have three (3) bids by the August meeting so it could be awarded at the August meeting. The proposal was voted on and unanimously approved by council.
Then no word of any progress was mentioned at the August meeting. When reached for comment, Mayor Accardi refused to comment on the matter.
Reaching out to other members of the governing body, a majority of them who responded stated that, as of the end of August, they did not receive any information or request for any input on the brochure or even a rough draft of the brochure itself.
Councilman Yakubov stated, “I asked that before this literature is created and distributed I wanted to view it and review it in order to assure that it is highlighting the very things discussed. I would hope that when we spend $3,000 in tax payer dollars we will see a quick and positive return on this type of initiative. What I do not support is the creation of fliers that get printed packaged up and sent off to China or the Middle East. I think all members of council should see the draft and then have the opportunity to change, edit, and approve the final version prior to print. Then it should be made public to our business community, local investors, and perhaps some international investors. ”
In doing further research, it has been discovered that in China, business meetings are held in a different fashion than in the United States and rely more on numerous smaller meetings instead of one major meeting. Additionally, an interpreter is paramount to holding a meeting and brochures are thought of as impersonal and ineffective. Even though the mayor will be traveling to China on vacation and conduct some Borough business while there, no mention has been made if the Borough will pay for the interpreter or will it be a personal expense. If the brochure was to be removed as a promotional tool while in China, no mention has been made as to which companies or organizations (either domestic or foreign) will receive them or if there is a plan to officially follow-up.
Finally, the mayor repeatedly said the referred potential investors to the Borough website which, itself, is not tailored or streamlined to provide information on the borough. If investors will be using the web site as a first step to inquiries, the municipality might better spend its funds to improving it.