AC leaders: Aviation Park would be just the latest economic development win for area

The 58-acre National Aviation Research and Technology Park that is expected to finally become a reality in the Atlantic City area by the end of the summer would be just the latest symbol of economic growth in the area.

The narrative emerging from Atlantic County leaders is that the area has diversified its economy — a lesson learned from the quick fall from “flush” to “flushed out” after several casinos shuttered within a year from 2013-2014.

Since then, there has been major physical expansions of South Jersey Industries — which will be moving into a new headquarters in the city this fall — and Stockton University, which is opening its new Atlantic City campus in time for fall classes.

Offshore wind projects, which also have been languishing for the past few years, finally got the green light from Murphy’s administration, too.

The area’s first distillery, Little Water, also has opened.

Other grassroots efforts have popped up or are in the works, and the effect can be seen in the real estate: Housing prices are finally rising again.

Lauren Moore, the head of the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo feel the area’s economic future is bright.

“It’s all about diversifying our economy,” Moore said. “We know how it went when we relied on tourism and solely on casinos. Then we lost 20,000 jobs and things changed. But now housing prices are coming up.”

Mazzeo agree, saying the National Aviation Research and Technology Park is closer than it has ever been.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the previous incentive bill in his last days.

Mazzeo said he and the Atlantic County delegation did not give up, meeting with Gov. Phil Murphy’s team to figure out how to get the bill over the finish line.

“We’re in a much better position right now because a lot of things people hung in there,” Mazzeo said. “If you talk 5 years ago, it was dead in the water, and now it has come back to where it’s 80 percent there.

“We’re near the goal line and just have to push it through.”

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