Visiting shops in downtown Toms River that sustained and survived Superstorm Sandy damage, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno carried the message that state programs established with federal recovery money have ready cash to promote growth.

(L-R): Helen Harris, Cookie Cab Proprietor; Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno; Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher; Business Improvement District Executive Director Jody Allesandrine (Townsquare Media)

With Mayor Tom Kelaher and members of the New Jersey Business Action Center in tow, she kicked of a series of visits to commerce districts in the state's nine counties hardest hit by the hurricane.

"The complaint has been that we focus too much on the damage...right on the barrier islands," she remarked. "Today's walk, and many of the walks I'll be doing over the next couple of days, are going to focus on interior. These towns are open for business. They need your business."

The Cookie Cab was her first stop, where owners Helen Harris and Kim Rado transformed the space adjoining their bistro into an intimate cinema showcase. She strode on to a thriving shoe store and a doughnut shop that's a runaway success.

"Anybody can come and spend a couple of hours in a nice, cool theater and then go out and have a piece of pastry," Guadagno enthused. "We're trying to draw attention to that...The idea is simply to show that Toms River itself, the shopping district, the courthouse district, is open for business."

The path from recovery to growth, she continued, is through the grants and loans that are still available.  "Even if they didn't sustain damage, if you want to grow your business, there's more than $5,000,000 available to you if you're in an impacted county."

Guadagno pointed out that the unique growth opportunity is not simply a way to move beyond the superstorm, but to reinforce the entire state's financial underpinnings.

"Come to the Business Action Center, look at the loans, see if there's something you might want to have done...now you have a chance to do it. Zero-interest loans up to $5,000,000...we want you to grow your company now and grow it here in New Jersey."

Get more details at New Jersey's Business Action Center web page.