By REP. FRANK A. LOBIONDO
One year ago, I discussed how it was imperative that our region look for opportunities to strengthen and expand new and emerging industries that could provide significant revenues and create local, high-paying jobs. While tourism, gaming, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and small businesses will always have a measurable role to play, there needs to be more diversification of our workforce to ensure South Jersey’s short-term recovery and long-term economic growth.
Back then, I singled out the aviation industry as having deep roots already in the region. There have been significant advancements that will make the aviation sector a key part of our local economy for decades to come.
In the past 12 months, we have seen considerable investment made at the Atlantic City International Airport. With an overall economic impact of $464 million, the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) has moved aggressively to promote greater tourism to the region. It has actively engaged the airlines, consumers and local residents to market ACY as the attractive alternative to Philadelphia, securing Canadian-based West Jet to complement existing air services provided by Spirit Airlines and AirTran. And it has continued to partner with me and state officials to secure critical funding for projects including expanding the terminal and improving safety operations. It is clear ACY continues to move forward with each passing year.
Likewise, we have seen tangible progress in establishing the premier location for aviation research and development in conjunction with the FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township.
The men and women of the FAA Tech Center are charged with modernizing the nation’s antiquated air traffic control system while improving safety and security of aviation travel. Dubbed the Next Generation Air Transportation System (“NextGen”), Congress is considering legislation that would provide more than $13 billion in federal funding to accelerate its implementation.
In October, we broke ground on the infrastructure for the long-planned NextGen Aviation Research and Technology Park (www.nextgenaviationpark.org) on the grounds of the FAA Tech Center, which will enable private firms to enter into agreements with the FAA to engage in research projects and access state-of-the-art federal laboratories. It will create an estimated 2,000 local high-wage positions while serving as a force multiplier for job creation in support services and local businesses. Unquestionably, this is a win-win arrangement for our region, the state of New Jersey, and all persons who travel via the aviation network.
The growth of the aviation industry, however, is not limited to 2009. In the first weeks of 2010, we have already heard that Boeing, a leader in aviation, will be locating some of its post-production work to upgrade Chinook helicopters for the U.S. Army at the Millville Airport. Bringing 100 new jobs to the community, the modifications planned for the helicopters over the next four years are critical for keeping our troops safe in Afghanistan.
I strongly felt it was important for South Jersey to have a greater support role in providing for our men and women in uniform and worked with Boeing, the secretary of the Army and the Delaware River and Bay Authority, who operates the airport, to ensure these modifications are completed locally.
Clearly there is an established base for the aviation industry in South Jersey, already employing thousands of residents at the FAA Tech Center and ACY and fostering tens of millions of dollars in economic revenue to the region. Additional growth of the industry must be encouraged and should be supported at all levels of government.
I will continue to work with local, state and federal entities to identify additional partnerships with private business that can promote significant economic and job creation opportunities in our area.
Source: SHORE NEWS TODAY