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Quality Vacation On The New Jersey Shore
Business and Government Partner to Improve the Environment
It was supposed to be just another day at the beach for
It was the summer of 88 when the Scanlan family (Phil, his wife and
four kids, ages 11-19) descended on the Jersey shore for a weeklong vacation.
Seven days of sun, fun, sand and tans along a small stretch of the 126 miles
that comprise the New Jersey Shoreline. But this was one vacation everybody
was happy to see end. The first two days were filled with rain. A break
in the weather on day three led to a day at the beach. And then on days
four through seven there was sign. Not a sign from some divine being but
a sign stuck in the sandy beach, THIS BEACH IS CLOSED DUE TO POLLUTION.
That sign ended a family vacation but began a quality-based environmental
improvement project that transformed the Jersey Shoreline.
When it Rains it Pours
Tourism is the second largest industry in the state of New Jersey with the
Jersey Shore being the top attraction. Each year over 16 million visitors
contribute over $15 billion in revenue to any of the 90 shore municipalities.
Times havent always been prosperous for the Jersey Shore. In 1987
and 88 the shore reached a crisis level. Pollution was
running rampant syringes and other medical waste washed ashore, old
collapsing piers scattered debris across the tides and oil spills and off-shore
dumping all added to the deteriorating water quality.
When it rains in New Jersey it pours. Sewage and drainpipes had reached
such a poor level of upkeep that heavy rain led to heavy sewage and drainage
overflow into the ocean waters. These and other pollutant sources caused
over 855 beach-block closing days throughout 1988 (one beach-block equals
the distance between lifeguard stations along the beach). The deteriorating
water affected more than beach goers. From June 1987 to March 1988 over
740 dead dolphins washed ashore in New Jersey.
The NJ Shore Cleanup Initiative: Case Study in Quality Practice (Rutgers
University, 2/98) cites a 22 percent drop in tourism numbers and a drop
of $800 million in revenue from 1987 to 1988. The Jersey Shore had become
unsafe for humans, deadly for marine life and a waning source of revenue.
An Environmentally-friendly Quality Approach
In 1989 several states had developed quality programs similar to the Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award Program. A group of individuals, sponsored
by major corporations throughout New Jersey, decided the state could benefit
from a similar program. Quality New Jersey (QNJ) was formed.
AT&T happened to be the largest corporation in New Jersey in terms
of employment and we had been perceived as a quality leader, states
Scanlan, AT&Ts quality office vice president, about the start-up
of QNJ and its corporate sponsors. The governor was involved. It was
a state network to move quality forward.
At its first meetings QNJ designed focus groups to identify problems throughout
the state and design quality approaches to solve these problems. QNJs
focus groups included business, industry, health care, education and environment.
Scanlan assumed the helm of the environmental focus group whose ultimate
goal would be to restore the Jersey Shore.
In 89 there was an election for governor in New Jersey and one
of the major newspapers ran a survey to find out what people thought were
the biggest problems in New Jersey. The problems these respondents
identified would be key issues for the campaign. The results indicated that
the environment, particularly the Jersey Shore and its closings, was a big
deal, Scanlan recalls from QNJs initial days. We should do what
customers care about. We ought to fix the shore, Scanlan concluded.
The challenge was to take the proven quality approach from AT&T and
apply it to a community problem. I actually believe the quality approach
is an approach that you can use to solve almost every major problem because
it is basically premised on you start with a problem, you get your
cause, you address your causes and then you prevent, eliminate or reduce
the problem, Scanlan states.
However, key differences existed between the quality approach in business
and the quality approach in a community setting. Ocean water quality fell
under the control of three different levels of government federal,
state and local. Among these three levels of government there were no clear
process owners and no single source was held accountable for the water quality.
They all manage themselves separately and make their own decisions.
They typically dont act as a coordinated aligned team, sums
up Scanlan. To resolve the water quality at the Jersey Shore would require
a successful partnership of business and government.
I would treat government as any other business leader that Im
going to help to be their quality mentor or coach, Scanlan
states. QNJ also had to convince government agencies that a quality approach
was worthwhile, and had the capability to solve statewide issues. The
approach we took was, look, Im willing to put in some of my time and
effort, basically either free or on loan from AT&T, continues
Scanlan. So the issue was, hey, government, do you want to take advantage
of this and use some talent that exists in a company?
AT&T stood to gain from the business-government partnership as well.
Theres a benefit to the people who work at AT&T. If youre
going to have a lot of people in a place, youd like to have an attractive
place, Scanlan states concerning AT&Ts role. Were
here. Were a business. We have talent and knowledge. We should share.
We should give something back to the community.
The Power of the Middle Manager
In late 1989 the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) became
a key component in the shore cleanup process. Dave Rosenblatt, a DEP representative
began attending QNJ meetings. The partnership of the DEP and the QNJ led
to information sharing. The DEP shared data concerning ocean water quality,
water testing, pollution sources, etc. The QNJ team supplied the DEP with
information about basic quality practices of pinpointing problems, addressing
causes, identifying process owners, improving measurement, etc.
With Rosenblatts involvement several key steps were achieved. For
example, the measurement unit for beach closings was identified as beach-block-days
of closure. Formerly beach closings were measured by the number of days
closed (a varying distance). The beach-block measurement provided a standardized
measurement that could be applied statewide and would result in more accurate
and comparable data.
QNJ also identified, or recruited, process owners for improving ocean water
quality. The EPA (federal government) was responsible for controlling off-shore
dumping, oil spills and large-scale pollutants. The DEP (state government)
was best suited for measuring the ocean water quality. The shore municipalities
(local government) were ultimately responsible for maintaining shore conditions
and drainage system infrastructure.
With process owners identified and new measurement systems in place, the
shore cleanup project was ready to implement improvements. At this point
QNJs role shifted. QNJ did not have the authority to implement strategies
and improvements. QNJ could not order a municipality to repair leaks in
its drainage system, but this did not stop QNJ from actively shaping the
future of the Jersey Shore. QNJ established communication between process
owners, shared best practices, provided leadership support and developed
recognition programs that honored Jerseys top municipalities. With
the aid of QNJ improvement methods pollution has halted and water quality
And the Winner Is
In 1991, the Jersey Shore was beginning to show signs of improvement. It
was also the first year for the QNJ Shore Quality Awards. Based on the Malcolm
Baldrige criteria, the shore quality awards were given to the counties or
municipalities displaying the best pollution prevention and water quality
results. Since 1991 the Shore Quality Awards have been presented in partnership
with the N.J. Department of Commerce and the DEP.
You have to recognize, award and motivate people at the end of each
year so they want to do another year, Scanlan states about the Shore
Quality Awards. The people need somebody to pat them on the back and
say good job. I remember the first award I gave to Lester Jowoski
(Monmouth County New Jersey Health Official). Heres a big, burly,
six-foot guy that had just been out that morning until five oclock
catching people dumping oil barrels. He came up and I gave him his plaque,
Scanlan continues. He was angry, tired and dirty. I just said a few
nice things about him recognized him for the major improvements he
had made. I give him this award and a tear came to his eye. It was a $25
plaque. He said it was the first time he had ever received recognition for
what he had done.
After several years of continued success QNJ hit a major roadblock in their
efforts to improve the Jersey Shore. State budget cuts in 1992 led to the
removal of Rosenblatt from his assignment with QNJ. Rosenblatt had been
a highly influential player, a bridge between government and business, in
QNJs mission. During the following year the number of beach-block
closings, as well as closed shell fishing areas, rose for the first time
since QNJ was founded.
But the following year Rosenblatt was reassigned to his work with QNJ thanks
in part to the new fund-raising initiative. Following the decline in water
quality in 92 the state of New Jersey began the Shore to Please
programNew Jersey drivers were given the option of purchasing either
traditional license plates or new specialty plates whose proceeds benefited
environmental cleanup efforts. The Shore to Please license plates
provided a dedicated source of funding to QNJ and allowed its participants
to return their focus to improving water quality.
The Bottom Line
Since its start in 1989 QNJ has helped the Jersey Shore show continuous
improvement, both in water quality and tourism dollars. The environmental
focus group has expanded their attention to include all of New Jerseys
water quality issues. QNJ is introducing other states and cities to the
quality approach it took and its successes. By using a quality approach
QNJ was able to transcend multiple layers of government and achieve goals
and objectives that had been almost inconceivable less than a decade ago.
As a true testament to the success of the project Phil Scanlan, along with
his family, selected the Jersey Shore as their 1997 summer vacation spot.