Helmy: State must act quickly to maintain hold on offshore wind manufacturing sector

Chief of staff: Take ‘aggressive and appropriate’ action now or risk losing billion-dollar industry and thousands of jobs that come with it

George Helmy gave a strong shoutout of support for the offshore wind industry Tuesday during a Meet the Policymakers event held by the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey at Ramblewood Country Club in Mount Laurel.

Helmy, Gov. Phil Murphy’s chief of staff, pointedly said that wind energy is coming — and that the state needs to do whatever is necessary to maintain its position as the state where the monopiles and turbines will be built.

Act now, or lose the billion-dollar industry to another state, Helmy essentially said.

“The turbines are coming up — whether they’re in (20)27 or (20)37, I have no idea — but the turbines are going to go up because states are going to need to diversify their energy portfolio,” he said. “It’s whether we’re going to be first mover to get the jobs.

“The East Coast is not going to have two turbine plants. So, we’re either going to take aggressive and appropriate action now to make sure we’re properly situated for the jobs — or we’ll get the energy, but not the jobs.”

New Jersey long appeared to be the frontrunner in the competition, highlighted by a December 2020 announcement of a major investment in a monopile manufacturing facility in Salem County.

But economic pressures (caused by the pandemic) and efforts by other states have put that in question. A report released Monday by the Sweeney Center for Public Policy at Rowan University said as much — noting tax credit issues.

Helmy, who gave credit to former state Senate President Steve Sweeney and former Senate Executive Director Kevin Drennan, said ensuring the state maintains the top spot in this industry is a key priority for the Murphy administration during budget negotiations.

“This is another area where we’ve always talked about as being progressive and pro-growth,” Helmy said. “New Jersey stands at the cusp of being uniquely situated to get a big piece of the economic development that will come from offshore wind.

“We have developed two ports that are ready to go to take on a lot of manufacturing; one is already building the monopiles. Another one can be used for turbines or nacelles.”

The rising costs related to these facilities is an issue that Helmy feels needs to be addressed.

“We are laser-focused on making sure that we have, through the Legislature, the tools required to bring those industries to South Jersey,” he said.