OCEAN CITY — With just 95,000 year-round residents, Cape May County brought in $6.3 billion in tourism revenues in 2016.
In addition to traditional Jersey Shore moneymakers such as the beaches and boardwalks, Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton highlighted emerging industries such as breweries, wineries, distilleries, Cape May oysters and drones
Thornton, who spoke to dozens of local business owners gathered at the Port-O-Call on Thursday, said the county is developing its own facility for drone start-ups, expected to open in May.
Thornton was the guest speaker at the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting, where he talked about the big tourism impact of “little Cape May County.”
He said the county generated $547 million in sales tax revenue for the state last year.
Cape May County is a diverse region that includes towns on the beach, mainland and bay. It has 210 miles of road and 27 bridges. Thornton said there were challenges in maintaining the infrastructure that allows all of the tourism to take place.
“Honestly, these bridges were built back in the 1930s, and it’s very difficult to maintain them today. And it’s very costly,” Thornton said.
Most recently, the Townsends Inlet bridge between Sea Isle City and Avalon closed April 4 for emergency repairs after a crack was found in one of the supporting piers. The Stone Harbor bridge at 96th Street was closed down for a month last fall for emergency repairs. The bridge will undergo more permanent repairs this spring.
Meanwhile, the 34th Street bridge into Ocean City is in the midst of a two-year, $6.5 million redecking project.