I am pleased to report that despite some of our area’s challenges, there are significant opportunities. Atlantic County is well-positioned to advance our area and capitalize on those opportunities. In fact, we are already doing it.
Atlantic County government has been able to stabilize our finances and taxes. As a December 2016 report from Moody’s Investors Service noted, “Despite the financial issues and uncertainty plaguing Atlantic City, the county has maintained structural balances and demonstrated strong governance.” It further stated, “The county’s contingency planning has primarily turned on the uncertainty in Atlantic City. In doing so, the county has attempted to balance its financial needs with avoiding overtaxing its other municipalities.”
One of the most exciting developments is the implementation of an aggressive, comprehensive approach to economic development that is a fundamental break from how it was done in the past. We have put together a broad-based coalition to outline economic goals and priorities and we are letting the private sector take leadership.
We now have a countywide economic development strategy and action plan that identifies five strategic industries best suited for Atlantic County: gaming, tourism and hospitality; aviation; light manufacturing; life sciences; and entrepreneurship.
We have also established an independent economic development corporation, the Atlantic County Economic Alliance. The ACEA is exclusively focused on attracting and retaining businesses and promoting all of Atlantic County as a place to live and work. The ACEA is up and running with offices located at Hamilton Mall to serve as “single point of entry” for economic development assistance.
Most recently, representatives of the county and the ACEA met with two major aviation companies that are looking to expand and/or locate in Atlantic County. The ACEA has also been involved in retaining area businesses that once considered relocating. In just one year’s time, the ACEA is actively doing what it was established to do.
Years of conservative fiscal management is allowing the county to put our debt capacity to good use by supporting the Stockton Gateway Project in Atlantic City and the first building of the Aviation Research and Technology Park, two projects identified as critical to revitalizing the local economy.
Upon completion in August 2018, the Stockton Gateway Project will bring 1,800 students and 200 South Jersey Gas employees to Atlantic City helping to transform it and be a catalyst for additional development.
The Aviation Research and Technology Park will build on the work being done at the FAA Technical Center and New Jersey’s designation as one of six FAA test regions for unmanned air vehicles. The park will attract high-paid skilled workers with disposable income to spend in our area. To further complement this project, we are working to develop an Aviation Maintenance Training Institute to address the economic potential of aircraft maintenance and cargo handling operations at the Atlantic City Airport. All of which will contribute to making Atlantic County home to a strong aviation industry.
Atlantic County is not unlike numerous other communities around the country that faced economic challenges. But with a new vision and strategy we are ready to advance in promising directions.