Atlantic County Economic Alliance Works its Strategic PlanLast Edited:
More often than not, the hardest work lies not in creating a plan but in implementing it.
When it comes to economic development, the transition from planning to implementation requires an organization willing to own the plan and mobilize the resources necessary to carry it out, according to the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. In Atlantic County that agency is the Atlantic County Economic Alliance.
Less than a year in, ACEA Executive Director Lauren H. Moore, Jr. confidently reports the non-profit, public-private organization is steadily growing and actively engaged in carrying out the countywide economic development strategy and action plan to diversify our regional economy beyond its long standing reliance on hospitality and tourism.
“I came on board last June and over a relatively short period of time I have seen increased interest and cooperation among our community partners and stakeholders,” stated Moore. “It’s very encouraging to know we are now recognized as the lead for economic development in Atlantic County — locally, regionally and across the state.”
ACEA Executive Director Lauren H. Moore, Jr. reports the organization is steadily growing and actively engaged in carrying out the countywide economic development strategy and action plan to diversify the regional economy beyond its long standing reliance on hospitality and tourism.
According to Moore, the ACEA is very focused on establishing an aviation industry, one of six industries targeted in the strategic plan. Efforts are designed to build upon the assets of the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center, the nation’s premier air transportation laboratory and testing facility, the underutilized Atlantic City Airport and the developing Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park.
The ACEA has been advocating for the designation of the airport and the area within its one-mile radius as a Garden State Growth Zone with competitive tax incentives for businesses locating there. Legislation was introduced last year that passed the Assembly and Senate but was never signed by Governor Christie before he left office. The bill was recently modified based upon discussions with newly-elected Governor Phil Murphy and area representatives including Moore before being reintroduced by Atlantic County Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato on March 13, 2018 as A3676.
“The Garden State Growth Zone tax incentives will make us viable competitors in attracting businesses that can provide an economic boost through the creation of high paying, sustainable jobs,” said Moore.
Moore is also encouraged by Governor Murphy’s selection of eight Atlantic County census tracts for inclusion in the federal Opportunity Zone Program, designed to drive long-term capital investments into low-income rural and urban communities. The ACEA worked with the governor’s office to expand areas in Atlantic County to support its regional strategy. The census tracts are located in Atlantic City, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Pleasantville and Somers Point. The U.S. Treasury has 30 days to confirm the selections.
The ACEA is further working to develop an Aviation Master Plan that would expand upon the economic development strategy to enable the ACEA to apply for federal funding to support the aviation industry. The aviation master plan will identify aviation-related industries targeted for growth such as maintenance and repair operations, cargo operations, as well as research and development opportunities.
“We see opportunities and we are helping to match them with appropriate resources,” noted Moore. “That is the mission of the ACEA – to facilitate these conversations and coordinate the efforts. As simple as it sounds, this is something that had been lacking for a long time.”
One recent example of this is the work the ACEA is doing to assist Orsted, a Danish power company and world’s leader in offshore wind farm development, with its project for an ocean wind farm located about 10 miles off Atlantic City that could generate enough energy to power 1.5 million homes.
The ACEA is helping Orsted identify locations for waterside turbine assembly operations as well as sites for air freight services for its Ocean Wind project. The manufacturing of major components is expected to occur in Denmark with assembly as close as possible to its federal lease.
“We were contacted very early on to provide knowledge and information about permitting, regulations, incentive opportunities, workforce development and to help make introductions to officials and proper agencies,” said Moore. “We are pro-actively working with Orsted to expand their operations to New Jersey, and specifically bring jobs to Atlantic County.”
Another group with which the ACEA is involved is the economic revitalization committee formed by State Senator Chris Brown. Moore is one of several members who meet monthly to share updates and provide input.
“Senator Brown is a strong proponent of the aviation district and Growth Zone incentives. He fully understands their importance to our economic strategy,” Moore stated.
But while the ACEA is strongly committed to building an aviation industry, it has not forgotten the importance of tourism to Atlantic County and its significant contribution to a $42 billion statewide industry.
The ACEA recently collaborated with its Cape May County tourism partners in securing the Times Square jumbotron digital billboard to display tourism ads promoting Atlantic and Cape May counties three times an hour, April through June.
“We are very excited to promote Atlantic County to a wider audience and Times Square presents an amazing opportunity to do so with as many as 450,000 daily visitors,” said ACEA Board Chairwoman Brett Matik.”
The ACEA is still accepting investors that currently include approximately 40 private and public representatives as well as partnerships with Choose New Jersey, the World Trade Center of Philadelphia, the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, the Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce and Southern Shore Region Destination Marketing Organization.
“Together, we are building a better Atlantic County,” concluded Moore. “And it’s great to see our efforts are having an impact.”
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