Atlantic County could emerge as a big winner with the recent passage of the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020.
We saw how devastating the COVID pandemic has been to the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors. In fact, our county leads the entire nation in proportional percentage of employment loss due to COVID, a fact that we at the Atlantic County Economic Alliance (ACEA) shared with state officials and policymakers as we petitioned for economic relief and support in the months leading up to the passage of the historic legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 7.
With over 50% of employment in Atlantic County directly and indirectly dependent on these sectors, the need to create jobs in new industries is obvious and urgent. That’s the case we’ve been making to state and federal officials since the ACEA was established as a private-sector-directed, nonprofit economic development corporation in 2017. We are thrilled to see, with the passage of the Economic Recovery Act of 2020, that officials in Trenton have been listening.
While the bill will provide economic support for businesses across the entire state, it includes some provisions that are unique to Atlantic County, proving that the ACEA’s advocacy efforts have been effective.
Among the most notable programs created by the Act is the New Jersey Aspire Program, which creates the state’s only “Aviation District” around Atlantic City International Airport, the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center, and the National Aviation Research and Technology Park. The Aspire Program provides up to $1.1 billion in tax credits for redevelopment projects over six years.
Another program with strong potential to help us diversify our economy is the Emerge Program. Emerge is primarily a business attraction tool that was designed to encourage job creation while supporting certain large-scale retention projects. The Emerge Program provides tax credit incentives to employers who invest in eligible locations and create new jobs. Enhanced benefits are available for business expansion projects in our Aviation District.
Other programs within the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act provide incentives to establish new supermarkets in food desert communities, help certain local businesses severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and support brownfields redevelopment. Many of these programs have potential to stimulate a wide range of economic activity and encourage further growth of our Aviation District, which is a meaningful step toward fulfilling our mission of diversifying the economy in Atlantic County.
We believe these incentives will help us to continue our progress in focusing on job creation in life sciences, manufacturing, offshore wind, entrepreneurial services, food and agriculture, along with a special emphasis on aviation thanks to the existence of the new Aviation District.
One bright spot in the local economy is the development of the National Aviation Research and Technology Park. It’s gratifying to see that progress recognized with the Aviation District designation, and we look forward to building on that progress with the incentives provided by the Economic Recovery Act of 2020.
Lauren Moore, of Bordentown, is the president of the Atlantic County Economic Alliance. The alliance is a private-sector-directed, nonprofit economic development corporation that was established in 2017 for business attraction, retention, and marketing efforts in Atlantic County. The ACEA’s core areas of focus are building a robust business retention program, marketing competitive assets to drive industry diversification, relationship building to attract new companies, and creating partnerships to recruit, retain and promote a qualified workforce. Visit aceanj.com or call 609-245-0019 for more information.