The Biden team is putting up a $3 million grant to develop what’s commonly called the “aviation district” around the Atlantic City International Airport in South Jersey.
Local and state officials argue the airport and surrounding area are key components to diversifying the regional economy beyond casinos and gambling, which cratered during the COVID-19 pandemic amid sweeping business closures and restrictions. Unemployment in the Atlantic City-Hammonton metropolitan area was the highest in the entire state during the pandemic, according to federal labor data.
The current aviation technology cluster is anchored by the National Aviation Research and Technology Park at Stockton University, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center.
The local agency would in turn use the funds to “grow the region’s critical aviation technology cluster” with the addition of a new office building that will provide “growing aviation companies with the office space and room for research and development they need to thrive.” ACIA officials did not immediately return requests for comment and additional information.
“This EDA investment in the Atlantic County Improvement Authority will facilitate the expansion of the region’s aviation sector to create new economic opportunities and jobs for local citizens,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
State officials have for years infused money into the airport district in an attempt to bolster the aviation tech sector in South Jersey.
“At a time when the region’s tourism and gaming industry is sluggish due to the pandemic, this investment will help revitalize the economy and expand job opportunities for families,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, said in a March 12 statement.
In 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy approved a bill creating a “Garden State Growth Zone” a mile around the airport and technical center, making businesses eligible for more lucrative state tax breaks. Growth zones are limited to the state’s poorest cities and communities, and include Atlantic City, Camden, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton.
Then in January, Murphy signed a landmark $14.5 billion economic incentive package, which creates the state’s only “aviation district,” also located within a mile of the airport and technical center, allowing for much more lucrative tax breaks.