For Gopal, ensuring local impact of Netflix Studio Fort Monmouth was personal mission

State senator, whose mother used to work on base, has firsthand knowledge of impact base has on local community

You can talk about the numbers: Nearly a billion dollars of investment, thousands of jobs (during and after the building) and a hard-to-quantify impact on surrounding businesses.

For state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.) the potential of the Netflix campus that is coming to Fort Monmouth is more than that. It’s personal.

Gopal knows the impact business at the fort has on the community, because he lived it.

“My mom was a doctor on the fort for years, throughout the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s,” he said. “I used to come here all the time.”

Gopal, speaking after a ceremony Friday where the state took another step toward bringing Netflix to the area, said he remembers what happened when the Base Realignment and Closure commission decided the military was going to leave Fort Monmouth in 2005.

“I saw the immediate impact,” he said. “It was devastating. Every small business on Main Street — from the barbershop to the pizza shop — was impacted. Many of them shut down. And we saw the school population drop, too.”

That’s why, when Netflix began negotiating on what will be a state-of-the-art facility with 12 production stages, Gopal made sure the people of Monmouth County came first.

“We said, ‘We’re going to go to bat for you, but this has to be really local,” he said. “You cannot call 1-800-Flowers, you cannot use international hotels, everything has to be localized. And they have been great. They even have committed to using a local workforce, first.”

Gopal and the state found a willing partner in Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

And for good reason. Sarandos was born in New Jersey (at Monmouth Medical Center). His parents grew up here.

“We have incredible memories and our family roots are right here in New Jersey,” he said. “It’s definitely coming home indeed.”

Sarandos acknowledges there still is work to be done — the event Friday marked just another in a series of steps — but he confirmed that he’s all in, crediting the efforts of Gopal, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.

Netflix has committed to $848 million in capital investments to develop a state-of-the art production facility on the 292-acre parcel that spans both Oceanport and Eatontown, becoming the largest project in both scale and investment in Fort Monmouth’s history. This project will add to over 30 additional redevelopment projects that have already commenced since the military shuttered Fort Monmouth over a decade ago. The production facility is estimated to create thousands of largely union jobs — including more than 3,500 construction-related jobs and over 1,500 permanent production jobs.

In addition to the construction of 12 soundstages — comprising over 500,000 square feet of new development — current structures also will be redeveloped for other purposes such as studio backlots and office space, and a myriad of additional uses in support of production activities. If adopted, the proposed amendment to the Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan will also permit the creation of new, affordable housing units to serve the community.

Since the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority authorized the Purchase and Sale and Redevelopment Agreement with Netflix for the property in December 2022, Netflix has continued working to obtain the additional approvals necessary to make this project a reality.

“It really does take a village, everywhere you go — and we definitely have found that here in New Jersey,” Sarandos said. “I’m extremely proud of our investment in New Jersey. And I’m thrilled to be to deepen our relationship with this community. Through this project, Netflix Studio Fort Monmouth will drive significant economic growth and create meaningful job opportunities for the people of New Jersey, while boosting this vibrant production ecosystem right here in the home of the modern film industry.

“Our goal for this studio is to benefit everybody in the area, and to produce world-class high quality TV series and films. I hope one day you will see ‘Filmed in New Jersey’ on your favorite Netflix show.”