Ocean County's tourism dollars are nearing unprecedented heights - nearly $4,000,000,000 in 2011, according to state figures obtained by county Freeholder Joe Vicari. That's third in the state, behind Atlantic City and Cape May.

He notes that the strong showing took place in a year marred by the Labor Day weekend appearance of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene - and Governor Christie's iconic "Get the hell off the beach!" admonition.

As the board's tourism liaison, Vicari suggests that the strengthening tourism sector has implications for the county's overall economic improvement. "What it means, of course, is adding a lot more jobs," he says, "businesses paying taxes, putting people to work...[and] encouraging new businesses to open in Ocean County."

Much is said about the New Jersey's $38,000,000,000 tourism sector, but Vicari translates the figure into terms any homeowner can grasp immediately. "If it disappeared, each household in the state would pay an additional $1,380 to maintain government revenues," he says.

Vicari predicts that the economy will help Ocean County two ways this season: firstly, increasing its attractiveness for Jersey families offsetting the cost of gasoline by scaling back to affordable vacations close to their own homes; and secondly, providing an inviting landscape for new entrepreneurs anxious to take advantage of low real-estate values where there's high seasonal traffic.

"We're looking for a fantastic tourist season," Vicari says.