One thing we do know is that we cannot wait for Washington to come up with the magical solution. If we are to bring ourselves out of this downturn we have to do it through the creation of jobs. Getting people back to work is the key to stimulating our economy. By THOMAS A. ARNONE It has been three years since the U.S. economy nose-dived, taking jobs and consumer confidence with it. Yet despite all efforts to stimulate prosperity, the country is still reluctant to bounce back and return to happier times of healthy growth. To bolster that effort here at home, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders have launched a program called “Grow Monmouth,” a long-term communitywide initiative to ensure the economic health of Monmouth County. In recent weeks, representatives from the Monmouth County Department of Economic Development and I have met with businesses, academia, utility companies and business organizations to talk about the program and how they can become partners in this effort. Elected representatives from all 53 municipalities have been invited to attend meetings scheduled for Oct. 20 and Oct. 25 to discuss how the Grow Monmouth initiative can assist them with their economic development efforts. As part of Grow Monmouth, the county is currently developing an economic opportunity mapping tool. This is a Geographic Information System (GIS) tool that will identify various information within the municipalities. This information can help municipalities and businesses determine the most favorable locations for economic growth. Information in the GIS layering will include zoning, environmental constraints, utilities, roadways and transportation. It’s no secret that what our economy needs right now is jobs. In order to create jobs, our businesses need all the help they can get. County government’s role is to facilitate job creation and business expansion. The objective of these meetings is to gather input from a variety of key sectors and develop a strategic plan that will outline goals and the means to achieving them. The county is also establishing an Advisory Committee to provide input to the plan. Grow Monmouth will also provide assistance to businesses to help maximize their potential for growth. A business-building toolkit has been developed. The toolkit includes resources for competitive business information research, business to business and consumer mailing lists, survey capability, and Web site optimization. ***ITALS Thomas A. Arnone is a Monmouth County freeholder This initiative has three objectives: retain and grow businesses in Monmouth County; retain and create jobs in Monmouth County, and to encourage the attraction of new businesses to Monmouth County.