The sweatshirt test: Can renaming itself ‘Cape May Township’ cure Lower’s woes?

    On paper, the name “Lower Township” seems to make perfect sense — it’s the southernmost part of Cape May County, bordering its also aptly-named neighbors to the north, called Middle Township and Upper Township.

    It’s one of New Jersey’s original incorporated townships, officially named in 1798 but actually called Lower Township for decades before that, since about 1723. If you’ve been to the Cape May area at all, you’ve likely spent time in Lower Township, though you may not have realized it: Lower includes the glittering Diamond Beach area, the busy Cape May Airport, the stirring evening “Taps” ceremony at Sunset Beach, and low-key bayfront neighborhoods like North Cape May and Villas.

    But it also has high unemployment, spotty commercial success and a serious identity problem, one that some now say can only be solved by a re-naming, to Cape May Township. The Cape May County Herald reported this week that a task force designated to spur economic development in the township was suggesting a name change:

    Another suggestion for aiding economic development came from Committee Member Ernie Utsch, owner of Utsch’s Marina. “The brand names that are instantly recognizable get people’s attention and that’s one of the things that we in Lower Township need to address,” Utsch said. “We need to be recognized.” 

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Utsch pointed out that Cape May Point, Cape May Winery, Cape May Fishing Fleet, and Cape May Brewery are all located in Lower Township.

    [Committee member Rick] Weber agreed with Utsch’s assessment of brand recognition. “I use it,” Weber admitted. “I don’t call myself a Lower Township marina because it won’t sell; and that is not a fault of Lower Township, this is a great place. It’s the fault of whoever chose two really lousy words to put together to call us.”

    “Ultimately the test is—is it something I can see across the front of a sweatshirt?” Weber asked. “And no, that one’s not it.”

    With the ‘Cape May’ name already prominent throughout Lower Township, Utsch suggested council embrace it. “So I bring a difficult suggestion, and that’s all it is, to the members of Township Council, and it’s about changing the way we do our business, it’s about changing the way we are recognized,” Utsch said. “I think Township Council needs to look at a name change, possibly changing from Lower Township to Cape May Township.”

    The suggestion was one of many, but it’s bound to have the most resonance among residents and business owners, many of whom already use “Cape May” in their business names for recognition.

    What do you think? Would you be more likely to visit a “Cape May Township” than any of its current monikers? If you live or own property in Lower Township, do you think a name change would improve your property value? Tell us in the comments.



    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal