Sunday, April 15

Thomas Edison Offers

Online Courses Meeting Law’s High Tech Needs

Technology may eliminate some jobs, but it also exalts others. For more than a century paralegal professionals have served as lawyers’ grunt workers. Grinding out standard briefs, memos, motions, as well as morning coffee, they have traditionally fallen, like graduate students and laborers on the Great Wall, into the category of the unsung and underpaid. Yet for the paralegal a new light is dawning.

Within the last three years, the legal system has gone cyber and lawyers, more than ever, are scrambling to find a higher level of technical assistance. Law firms are willing to set pay for these new multi-skilled paralegals commensurate with their worth. To answer the call for the advanced paralegals, Thomas Edison College is offering a technologically updated, 45-week online course, “Certificate in Paralegal Studies,” beginning Sunday, April 15. Cost: $3,920. Registration at 888-442-8372 or visit www.spec.tesc.edu.

This basic certification program entails a six-course package: introduction, contracts, torts, legal writing and research, administrative law, and — unique to Thomas Edison — a course on “Introduction to Technology in Law,” given by Thomas Goldman, author of “The Paralegal Profession.”

Additionally, Edison College has developed three hot advanced specialties centering on high tech needs within the legal system. These are paralegal litigation specialist (focusing on new technological legal support), paralegal information technologist, (for the computer support person seeking a legal specialty), and nurse paralegal (the legal side of healthcare).

These courses, in line with the legal system’s cyberchanges, are taken completely online. Access to law libraries and resources are provided via online links. Grades are determined by projects performed online interactively, giving the paralegal a portfolio of work at graduation.

Bill Mulkeen, director of Edison’s new paralegal program, has spent his the 30 years practicing the law and teaching it. After earning his law degree from Seton Hall University in l974, Mulkeen clerked for the Union County Superior Court. He then set up a private practice in Cranford. He represented various insurance and savings and loans institutions, as well as acting as general counsel for the City of Elizabeth and Union County College.

In 1991 Mulkeen tried a brief stint at Thomas Edison College, and then moved on to develop legal studies programs at Warren County and then Essex County community colleges. Shortly afterward he returned to Thomas Edison, where he handled learning assessment, along with legal and government studies.

By 2003 Mulkeen and Goldman saw that the entire method of conducting law and litigation has gone electronic. “We first developed courses to train and update lawyers,” recalls Mulkeen, “but the lawyers were too busy just keeping up with the law, and weren’t interested. Thus, fortuitously, this new challenge fell to the paralegals.”

Legal tech revolution. The long rows of impressive leather bound legal volumes on lawyers shelves are largely just gathering dust now. The hefty, traditional briefcase, bulging with papers, is now being replaced by the laptop. Like so many professionals, attorneys are opting to write and present cases with computer tools, not merely because it is faster, but because it is mandated by law.

“More and more, courts are demanding everything from complaints to final motions be filed online,” says Mulkeen. “In fact in bankruptcy court online filing is mandatory.” Additionally, Mulkeen points to Federal Rule 26 of the United States Legal Code, which states that not only must lawyers examine and consider the data of a case, but also the “metadata.”

This requires that the attorney, both ethically and legally, must consider, for example, not merely an initial report draft and the final one, but also all of the correspondence between clients, experts, and attorneys that went into making it up. This includes all the E-discovery, that endless stream of documents and spreadsheets sent back and forth between involved parties. “It’s an enormous amount of material, and would be impossible, but for the right software,” says Mulkeen.

To the outsider’s eye, perhaps nowhere is the high tech change more visible than in litigation. The advent of what is now termed the electronic courtroom has changed not only case preparation, but also presentation. A lawyer enters the court bearing only a laptop and a CD ROM. Expert witnesses located several states away are called to testify on a large screen before the jury. The knife remains in the evidence room, but is now examined from every angle. So are the corpse and crime scene. Previous testimony is not merely read back, it is flashed before each jury member’s personal screen. This is made possible by the attorney’s paralegal.

New tech tools. This new and expanded role of the paralegal comes with its own tools. The old standby of the Lexis Nexis database still provides the paralegal with the full text of all relevant cases and standard language for various legal documents. But now, for E-discovery, he may turn to Kroll Ontrack (ww.krollontrack.com) — an immense, cross-indexed filing system that stores and retrieves every paper and online transmission involved with a case. Memos are given immediately to the attorney, with links to peripheral papers.

For larger, more involved cases, the paralegal might employ CaseMap (www.casesoft.com). This software gem replaces piles of yellow legal pads by setting up timelines, chronologies, key facts, witness lists, and lists of contacts. Everything spreads out in order — and far more legibly than hastily scratched notes. All of these tools, plus several more, come into play in prepping one’s attorney for the electronic courtroom.

“The paralegal doesn’t really have to be a geek,” says Mulkeen. “Most of these pieces of software are so intuitive that they are easily learned.” For this reason he has established the litigation specialist course for paralegals who know what needs to be done, and the information technologist course for the true geek who wants to keep the system up and running.

Final rewards. Paralegals are now being asked to handle the entire information flow for either a single lawyer or the entire firm. Right now, jobs are going begging for want of individuals with the right technical skills. A technically trained paralegal can now command $100,000 a year from a top firm, with salaries reaching a high as $150,000 for large firms in major cities. This new salary jump, not surprisingly, is bringing a wealth of men into what was once a predominantly female field.

“It’s a sheer case of supply and demand,” Mulkeen says. “In a few years every secretary will have this electronic ability down pat, but now the door is open.”

— Bart Jackson

Monday, April 16

Spirituality Leads To Effective Leadership

Most people who teach seminars on leadership are concerned more with the “what” of leadership — actions and strategies that lead to success — than with the “who” — what it takes, as a human being, to be an effective leader. As president and chief executive officer of Family Hope Services, which serves at-risk youth in the Minneapolis suburbs, pastor, professor, and spiritual coach Tim Geoffrion spends a lot of time thinking about the nature of his relationship to his team, and how he can best help them to work with their teenage clients.

“When I think about being a leader,” says Geoffrion, “I’m thinking about not only what I do, but who am I when I do it?” He believes that cultivating spirituality is essential to effective leadership. The essential question, he says, is “how do I become transformed as a person, so that when I apply leadership strategies there will be certain quality to my work, not just based on techniques, but on who I am.”

For Geoffrion the answers to the “what” questions flow out of leaders’ visions of who they want to be. The consequence of personal spiritual work, he believes, is a transformation in leaders’ perception of what happens in the workplace and their responses. Following quality personal work, he says, “I become a deeper person so that in my interactions with others, in the workplace, in life in general, there will be a quality to my personhood that would not be there otherwise.”

Geoffrion leads a workshop on “Spiritual Depth in Life and Leadership” on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, April 16, 17, and 18, at the Princeton Theological Seminary in Erdman Hall’s Art Studio. Cost: $285 for the program only, and $455 with lunch and lodging. For more information, call 609-497-7990.

Geoffrion’s interest in the spiritual side of life began while he was still in high school outside of Chicago. He loved the volunteer work he did at his church, teaching children and leading a boy’s club. “I was very drawn to God and felt fulfilled when helping other people in church,” he says.

At Wheaton College in Illinois he continued to work as a youth leader and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor of arts. He chose to major in psychology, which he saw as a tool to help him work better with people.

Geoffrion’s first job post-college was as a church’s director of youth ministries, but he soon decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary. While there he worked in the Philadelphia prison system as a chaplain, an experience that affected some of his eventual life choices. “That is probably when I began to be drawn to suffering people, people in particularly difficult circumstances,” he says. “A lot of my ministry has included working with hurting people, abused and neglected people — as well as your ‘normal’ churchgoer.” He also served as assistant pastor at the Beverly Presbyterian Church, south of Burlington, extending his seminary time to four years to accommodate the church work.

After receiving his master of divinity degree in 1984, he and his wife, whom he met at the seminary, were co-pastors at a church outside of Chicago for a year. But then he decided to attend the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he earned a master of theology degree and then a doctorate in New Testament studies. He stayed within the academic realm for several years, teaching a year at the Lutheran School of Technology and then moving to Minnesota, where he served as an adjunct at Catholic and Lutheran seminaries as well as at Baptist and Methodist colleges.

But he did not follow a path toward full-time teaching, because, he says, “I really wanted to be out where the action was.” Toward that end he became the vice president of programs at Family Hope Services, whose five facilities served teens who were falling through the cracks — in trouble at home, school, or with the police. Where possible, the agency also involved parents. After five years he became the social service organization’s executive director.

“My 10 years there involved a lot of administration and spiritual leadership of the staff,” he says, estimating that the numbers of people under him varied from 25 to 40 at one time, with numbers fluctuating because of summer interns and such.

His personal goal was to strengthen the team, and that, he says, “was part of what motivated me to go deeper into learning about spiritual leadership.” He wondered how he could equip his staff to be more effective in working with the kids and realized that their effectiveness depended on their “depth and spiritual maturity.”

The first step to becoming an effective leader, as Geoffrion sees it, is to develop a vision for integrating one’s spiritual life with leadership. He also recommends that a leader develop a specific spiritual discipline. “Where you are coming from will affect how you view spirituality,” says Geoffrion, explaining that he is influenced by teachings in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. As a result, he trusts in a God who is essentially good and loving, “in spite of the many questions in life that can’t be answered.”

The result of a new spiritual alignment is a change in leadership, both in style and substance, he says, leaving the leader with several enhanced abilities:

Listening effectively to others. “You start to listen for and appreciate the contribution of every member of the team more,” says Geoffrion. “If a person believes that the Holy Spirit speaks and works through every team member, then listening just makes sense — especially for an autocratic leader who may just want to tell other people what to do.”

Being graceful and loving. “We live in a perfection-oriented culture,” he says, “and many of us don’t know how to be graceful with ourselves. We don’t know what it looks like or feels like.” At the core of the Christian message, he explains, is a gospel of faith in unmerited favor — God’s loving us and accepting us as we are and forgiving us when we need forgiveness.

“The more we can let ourselves experience that grace of God, the more that we are equipped for being agents of grace to others. It affects how others will trust me, how they will feel like I respect them,” he says. “They can have a sense of confidence that I am for them, not against them.”

One example he cites is the performance evaluation. By having a sense of grace, he believes leaders can separate out the performance from their regard for the person.

Developing sensitivity to others. This involves greater sensitivity to what Geoffrion calls “a spiritual flow that might be happening in the workplace.” When a leader is dealing with a staff conflict or a strategic planning conflict, sometimes spiritual principles may allow the leader “to look beneath the surface of what might be happening and become more attuned to other dynamics.”

The same sensitivity can help a leader who is searching for a way forward to recreate a corporate culture, and change how people relate to each other and how they feel about work.

Being successful as a leader, according to Geoffrion, who is also a spiritual life coach and has written a book titled “The Spirit-Led Leader,” takes a special perception of the value of other human beings. Many managers are missing that “sixth sense” about people, and perhaps an enacted spirituality can transform workplaces from competitive, stress-filled environments to spaces that offer enhanced quality of life.

— Michele Alperin

Summit Looks At Pharma Sales

America’s drug habit is immense, and growing. In 2005 U.S. residents gulped down over $203 billion in prescription pharmaceuticals. The question of who is going to pay for all these medications remains in flux. While the hunt goes on for new safe medicines in the laboratories of pharmaceutical companies, an equally desperate search for new presentations continues in their marketing departments — and varies depending upon who is doing the actual paying.

It is tough enough to present any product line in a competitive market, but to make that pitch to a unknown individual or institution is a truly daunting challenge. In hopes of profiling buyers and publicizing successful techniques, the Strategic Research Institute is holding its annual “Pharmaceutical Marketing and Sales Summit” on Monday and Tuesday, April 16 and 17, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick. A host of speakers will address topics ranging from patient adherence to E-learning and the Medicare Modernization Act.

The seminar “Future Trends in the Access of Drugs” held on Monday at 2 p.m. includes speakers Susan Weidle, senior director of commercial payer marketing for Centocor in Horsham, Pennsylvania; Ramesh Arjunji, director of commercial analytics for Endo Pharmaceuticals; and Michael Rogers, senior director of marketing for Ortho Biotech. This panel covers future pricing necessities, buyers, and required market responses.

From her early days at Temple University as a marketing major, Weidle had narrowed her focus on the pharmaceutical industry. “I didn’t just want to market, I wanted to market drugs,” she recalls. “Despite all the bad press, here was a field that really touched people with good — and filled a most essential need.”

Upon graduation she joined Ortho Pharmaceuticals in Raritan, where over the next 22 years she worked up to division manager and headed several branding teams. Her last five years have been spent marketing Centocor’s newest line of biotech medicines, mostly dealing with rheumatoid arthritis.

Whether it’s the latest in AIDs cocktails or an old anti-seizure standby, there are only three sources capable of paying for prescription medications: the individual patient, the government, and insurance provided by an employer. Weidle says that each of these three is going to be paying more in the future. This appears clear in light of the fact that America’s $203 billion prescription drug tab in 2005 marks an increase of more than four times the $40 billion in l990, and it shows no signs of decreasing.

Co-pay woes. “Probably the most significant trend we see is an increasing burden of payment on the individual patient,” says Weidle. This accompanies some very cold hard facts. With approximately 40 to 45 million Americans without healthcare insurance, many patients will not — or cannot — pay these higher prices. In effect, they will make the life-limiting choice to deny themselves needed medications.

Those who can pay their required share of pharmaceutical needs will become even more selective. “Americans like choices,” says Weidle, “and they are making those selections based not only on price, but on drug effectiveness, ease of application, and comparative side effects.”

Companies targeting the individual as prime, or major, payer, will have to prove themselves in these areas. This is not as easy as it once was.

Throughout her 27 years in the field, Weidle has noted a growing drug awareness in the nation. Consumers are more educated because it is now easier to become educated. In her own field of chronic diseases, a host of advocacy and support groups — each with its own informative web page — lobbies hard with the manufacturer and the other buyers such as government and insurance companies. Little tweaks in packaging no longer cut it with today’s consumer.

Government aid. The government is the largest payer of individual prescription drugs, picking up more than one half of America’s bill. Much of this is done through intermediaries such as Part D of the Medicare Modernization Act. Yet as big a chunk as the federal government already pays, it may have to dig a little deeper in years to come.

As Baby Boomers shift age demographics, our nation becomes older and thus more likely to take more prescription medicines per individual. Secondly, with 45 million uninsured, both federal and state governments are already being hard pressed to invent new programs that take up the slack. The cry here is not so much for more cash into the old programs, but for new ones that fill specific gaps.

For government at any level, it’s all about money. Pharmaceutical marketers realize that while the consumer may be ingesting the pill, government is opening its wallet and demanding cost effective quality. To win acceptance from federal agencies, says Weidle, each new drug must be priced well, therapeutically competitive, and sustainable for continued use. The government favors a medicine that could be prescribed nationwide for long periods of time with a remarkable cost-for-value savings.

Weidle recalls an antibiotic she marketed that got patients out of hospitals and into outpatient treatment notably sooner. “This is the kind of cost saving we will need to have in the future,” she says. “The days of ‘if you make it they will buy it’ are long over.”

Exploding options. Close behind government in payment for pharmaceuticals come employers and labor unions, typically through insurance plans. Recently, with the proliferation of consumer-driven healthcare and a host of other plans, it may seem as if this medicinal capitalism is spreading like a blanket to cover every need. But Weidle thinks otherwise.

She points to the very quiet, but strong, trend of major healthcare insurers merging and consolidating. This past March Pennsylvania’s “two Blues,” Highmark Blue Shield and Independence Blue Cross, united both halves of that state, and already the state legislature fears that the variety of plans is dwindling.

Employers want quality of life improvement for the user, but they also want increased productivity and any feature that limits disability payments.

With so many labor unions self-insuring on a major scale, they cannot be ignored, says Weidle. What’s more, they have great power to accept or nix the use of certain medications.

These prescription payers are as tight fisted as the government, but in different ways. Self-insurers are enticed not by a sustainable drug that can be prescribed safely forever, but rather by a new drug that cuts previous dosages in half. They are far more concerned with real world use patterns than with clinical trial results. They seek the average patient’s outcome, based on dosage and time.

“In short,” says Weidle, “all the payers for drugs are demanding more evidence and fewer claims.” In a world where generics and knockoffs may begin competing within weeks after a new brand comes to the shelf, the drug had better be able to prove its price and value.

— Bart Jackson

Tuesday, April 17

It Isn’t Goofy To Emulate Disney

The Disney magic — we’ve heard the phrase. We’ve probably experienced the feeling on visits to Disney World, where employees are unfailingly cheerful, flowers are never wilted, and multiple modes of transportation operate like clockwork. How does Disney make magic work seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for hundreds of thousands of guests to the hotels, theme parks, and restaurants of Disney World?

New Jersey businesspeople will have an opportunity to learn about the business behind the magic at a one day seminar at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “The Keys to Disney Excellence” is taught by executives from the Disney Institute who have years of experience in learning the Disney magic formulas for success, says Bruce Jones, program director for the institute.

The day-long seminar takes place on Tuesday, April 17, at 7:30 a.m. at the Rothman Center on the Fairleigh Dickinson campus at 140 University Plaza in Hackensack. Cost: $425. Registration is online at www.disneynj.com. For more information call 877-544-2384.

The Keys to Excellence program is appropriate for employees and executives of any size business, “from leaders in Fortune 100 companies and mid-sized organizations to small businesses,” says Jones. The program focuses on the “four keys” to Disney’s excellence: leadership, management, customer service, and loyalty.

It may seem unusual for a corporation to teach its own techniques for management to other companies, but Disney has turned teaching the “Disney magic” into another profit-making arm of the international corporation.

“The idea was born 20 years ago as people came to Walt Disney World, saw how it was run, and wanted to know more about how Disney does it,” says Jones. The Disney University was created and classes were held at the Walt Disney World parks. As word spread about the unique programs at the Disney University, demand grew and, says Jones, “we answered the call of our guests who said it is not always practical to come to Disney and to bring all of their employees with them.” In 1995 the Disney Institute took the program on the road.

Jones has 19 years of experience with Walt Disney World, including 12 years with the Disney Institute. “With a background in operations and hospitality management, Disney might seem like the logical place for me,” he says. But it took some convincing to get him there.

Jones graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and went to work at a restaurant in the Orlando area. His brother, Gary, was actually the first member of the family to go to work at Disney World.

“In the early ‘80s there had been takeover rumors about Disney. It didn’t seem to me like a great place to go to work,” he says. His brother, however, went to work for the company in 1986 and convinced him to take a second look. Both have been Disney employees ever since. Gary is still employed as a chef at Disney World.

The focus on excellence is the answer to the success of Disney World, says Jones. The four “keys” combine to create a “chain of excellence.”

Leadership. Leaders, says Jones, lead not through their words, but through their actions. “That is an underlying principle of the program,” he says. “Our competitive advantage is our people.” Disney trains its leaders to communicate a compelling vision and to build the involvement of everyone involved, from the lowest ranked employee on up.

Management. “Every company has a corporate culture. That culture can either be by design or by default,” says Jones. In other words, if the company’s leaders and management do not communicate the culture they want, the employees will develop a culture of their own — and it might not be a culture that enhances the company’s reputation. For the best results, it is important to integrate corporate culture into the selection, training, and care of employees.

Customer service. This is the area that has made Disney’s reputation. It involves focusing attention on the tiniest details in every aspect of Walt Disney World, from the design of the buildings to the costumes of the “cast members” (all Disney World employees are called cast members), to the way in which employees treat the guests.

As an example, Jones mentions a mosaic in the passageway of Cinderella’s castle. Made up of thousands of tiny tiles, it depicts the story of Cinderella. In one of the final pictures Cinderella is receiving the glass slipper from the prince. Her step-sisters are shown in the background, one with a face red with rage, the other’s green with envy.

“This is the kind of detail that people don’t notice the first time they look at the mosaic, and maybe not even the second time. They notice it only after they’ve looked at the mosaic several times. But they would notice immediately if it wasn’t there,” says Jones.

That sums up the Disney philosophy of service. People don’t necessarily notice good service, but they always notice bad service. “If you don’t pay attention to detail it will chip away at the foundation of your company. You can’t let it slide,” says Jones.

Loyalty. Customer loyalty is the reward for getting all of the other keys right, says Jones. “Customer loyalty, the intent to return, is the number one metric that drives results at Disney World.”

At Disney World, the cast members learn about two types of events that bring out customer loyalty. One is called, Magical Moments, the other, Take Five.

Magical Moments are planned and budgeted events designed to “draw guests in,” says Jones. One example is bringing a child onstage to put on Indiana Jones’ jacket during the “Indiana Jones Adventure” at MGM Studios. “It engages the customers, not just the child and his family, but everyone in the audience. It creates a memorable moment.”

Take Five moments are unplanned. “If a street sweeper stops his job to help a family find the next ride or replace an ice cream cone that a small child has dropped, we celebrate it,” says Jones. “Where other companies might criticize the employee for leaving his post, we recreate the incident and take a picture.”

Each “key” in Disney’s program builds on the one before it. Says Jones: “Our leadership creates our management style, which leads to great customer service, which leads to customer loyalty. It all starts with excellence.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Wednesday, April 18

NJ Sprawl Pits Hearts Against Minds

When it comes to their land, New Jersey residents are a bit schizophrenic. Be they immigrant or native son, everyone cherishes that American ideal of his own free standing house on his own property. Yet in the same breath, all of us decry the suburban sprawl that inevitably results from this scheme. Sitting securely in our own estates, we passionately vote down any new single-home construction.

This belief that my estate is a birth right and yours is unsightly sprawl led to a hodgepodge of state and local laws that has left the entire real estate industry spinning. Untangling the mess is the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education’s “2007 Real Estate Conference” on Wednesday, April 18, at 9:30 a.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Cost: $265. Visit www.njicle.com.

This panel includes moderator Barbara Casey, partner with Voorhees-based Ballard Sphar Andrews & Ingersoll, and Peter Falvo, partner with Ansell, Zaro, Grimm & Aaron in Ocean County. Falvo specifically addresses land use trends and the plight of the developer under current laws.

Born and raised in Long Branch, Falvo attended Saint Anselm College, earning his bachelor’s degree in history and economics in l964. After taking his law degree at Suffolk University, he returned immediately to the Asbury Park area and joined a small firm.

From the beginning Falvo took on real estate as a specialty. Within a few years, he set up his own practice in Long Branch, later taking on partner Charles Morgan. From there on, the firm went through several evolutions leading to Ansell, Zaro Grimm & Aaron, which is still based near the Jersey shore.

“New Jersey is the most regulated, and thus the highest cost housing market in the nation,” says Falvo. “It’s taking developers a year to get a building approval, and the buyer pays for that.” Additionally, developers increasingly must factor into their costs the jobs they pitch to municipalities and that, after much expense, are rejected.

He cites the recent case of Marpro vs. Mount Laurel, in which a builder spent over a year garnering permits for a new project, only to have the Department of Environmental Protection inform him a few weeks later that the area was an undevelopable wetland. Had he been told this upfront, hundreds of hours of costly wrangling could have been avoided. “While there may not be a lot of good news for developers in the old methods,” says Falvo, “there are new trends that will encourage building to go on.”

Legal end run. If Falvo could wave his wand, he would abolish the current Regional Contribution Agreement as it applies to the famed Mount Laurel decision. In l975, and again in l983, the New Jersey Supreme Court declared that municipalities are legally bound to affirmatively zone proportionally appropriate low and moderate income housing. This led to the Fair Housing Act, which established certain quotas for each town.

It’s a good law, which enables a teacher or fireman in, say, Colts Neck, to find a dwelling in town he can afford, says Falvo. But the Regional Contribution Agreement allows Colts Neck to send up to half of its low income housing responsibility to neighboring towns by contributing a $25,000 per unit avoidance price.

For developers in the receiving towns, this means that they suddenly may be hit with an increase of low income units to be added to their initial projects. Instead of the 70 major homes, with profit offsets the required 10 low income units, the ante goes up to 15 low income units. The developer now requires a population density variance to add another 10 major homes to put the venture in the black.

Hardselling smart. Virtually everyone agrees in theory that Smart Growth is the Garden State’s best plan. The concept of building higher density towns and neighborhoods with more surrounding open space is winning overwhelming favor with legislators, builders, planners, and municipal leaders. Unfortunately, this last group thinks the plan is excellent — for other communities.

“Every town wants the ratables and convenience services, but when it comes to actually increasing density in their own town, there’s a great ‘not in my backyard’ hue and cry,” says Falvo. Despite this local resistance to the state’s Smart Growth plan, he believes that high density with open space will win acceptance in the end. “The days of vast new housing developments in New Jersey are coming to a close. Voting people everywhere are endorsing a no-sprawl platform.”

Urban gentrification. Here is one of the best avenues for developers of all sorts. In 2008 the Premium Outlet Malls will open their many doors in a once blighted area in Tinton Falls. The section was one that town leaders had been desperate to rebuild for years. One firm after another tried, and each time the Department of Transportation nixed the plan. The DOT would not allow a left turn lane to be made on Route 66. For want of a left turn, the blighted land lay fallow.

Then in 2003 Falvo’s firm joined the effort and suggested an overpass. The DOT was appeased and all went forward — for a while. The Shark River Cleanup Coalition, fearing that the new mall would dump on the floodplain, had that segment of the Shark River declared a C-1 Waterway, which banned any waste or runoff within 300 feet of the river. Falvo’s firm met with the coalition and forged an agreement. They also worked out agreements with Neptune and surrounding towns to show that this was a regionally accepted plan.

Falvo recounts all of these hurdles to show that even with full popular accord, land use projects will always face a string of long, hard battles. Developing is not for the faint of heart or short of funds.

On the other hand, there is money to be made, even in this period of real estate adjustment. Having just come off a time of unprecedented growth, and a market rife with speculators, prices have flattened. But Falvo says that in time the present inventory will sell off and stronger growth will again cycle in.

The two things that will hasten this growth are a little more faith and a little less emotion. “We need to have faith in the actual economy — not the statistics and predictions of pundits — but the real amount of money that is out there,” he says. “And we need municipalities and developers to sit down rationally, without prejudice.”

— Bart Jackson

New Multimedia Programs

Raritan Valley Community College will begin offering new certificate programs in multimedia communications and digital video production in the fall. Each progam can be completed in two semesters.

The multimedia certificate includes courses in communications, two-dimensional design and graphic arts, web page development, interactive multimedia, and video production. Students who complete the program are prepared to create and prepare multimedia presentations in a variety of media using text, graphics, sound, video, and animation software.

Job possibilities include E-learning developer, interactive art director, software engineer, training and development specialist, and online producer.

For more information about the multimedia certificate course contact John Sullivan at 908-526-1200, ext. 8237. For more information about the digital video production certificate course contact Richard Tuert at 908-526-1200, ext. 8429.

Grant Awarded

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has awarded two grants totaling $260,000 to the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. The Project for Municipal Excellence received $105,000 and the Watershed Institute received the remainder.

For more than seven years the Watershed Association’s Project for Municipal Excellence has been working at the local level to tackle environmental challenges by helping towns draft and implement ordinances to protect municipal drinking wells, manage stormwater, protect forests, amend zoning plans, implement septic system education programs, and respond to development proposals.

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