Legislature passes new A.C. Airport bill after conditional veto

The Senate and Assembly passed a new version of a bill to designate the one-mile radius around the Atlantic City Airport as a Garden State Growth Zone to bolster the anticipated growth of an aviation technology and research hub in South Jersey.

The bill originally sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk was conditionally vetoed a month ago, and Thursday’s vote confirmed changes from the governor.

Murphy wanted to ensure the growth zone expires when the incentives window sunsets in July 2019, as well as ensure any open space protected under the Pinelands Protection Act is not disturbed by the growth.

In addition, Murphy pushed back on an attempt to include independent contractors as part of the minimum employees required for Grow New Jersey benefits.

The final version of the bill includes clarification on the first wo points, but the independent contractors remains.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) previously told ROI-NJ the growth of the aviation industry will not be possible without contractors.

“I think people have to have an understanding of how the aviation business works. When projects come about, they have to hire subcontractors,” Mazzeo said. “That’s why we put in the stipulation that they have to stay in New Jersey, so it benefits our economy.”

In a statement following the vote, Sen. Chris Brown (R-Linwood) said, “With these tax incentives, Atlantic County will compete with the rest of the world; diversifying our local economy and creating good-paying jobs four our middle-class families.”

Mazzeo and Assemblyman John Armato (D-Northfield) said the passage of the bill signals a new chapter for the region.

“Now, Atlantic City Airport has the opportunity to become the aviation hub of South Jersey,” Mazzeo said.

“It’s proximity to education institutions such as the (National) Aviation Research and Technology Park, creates enormous potential for development of new aviation technology and putting Atlantic Coutny and the state on the forefront of the industry.”

The aviation tech park has seen interest from outside companies in recent months, and management of the research portion is being transferred from Stockton University to New Jersey Innovation Institute. Potential plans also include Atlantic City Airport becoming a smart airport and test site for a number of aviation tech projects.

Armato said the growth zone designation should attract highly-skilled jobs to the area.

“Innovation, aviation educational research and economic development, there’s great potential for growth in the western part of Atlantic County and surrounding areas,” he said.

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Clifton) agreed.

“There’s an opportunity here to bridge aviation with education while building up Atlantic City Airport,” he said.

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