GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Finding ways to help business and economic development while decreasing regulatory road blocks was a key topic Friday at the Southern New Jersey Development Council’s annual Sound Off for South Jersey event.

Atlantic County legislators also discussed how Atlantic City’s future will need to rely more on nongaming activities and the frequent addition of new attractions in the resort.

About 200 business leaders from throughout southern New Jersey attended the forum to hear legislators from Atlantic, Cumberland, Camden, Burlington, Ocean and Monmouth counties speak about how they are working to further business growth and development in the region, particularly with infrastructure.

Lawmakers, including state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, and Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, also spoke about the revitalization of Atlantic City’s tourism and gaming industries and how that affects the region.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno delivered opening remarks, reminding those in attendance of the Christie administration’s focus on making it easier for economic development to occur in New Jersey, particularly by working to reduce taxes and red tape.

“This budget cycle you all have to be incredibly happy,” said Guadagno, who was acting governor because Gov. Chris Christie is away. “The discussion this year is not whether we reduce your taxes, but how.”

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, stressed the importance of government in creating and spurring economic development. But, he said, “it’s important not to create economic activity where it wouldn’t naturally occur.”

Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, and Whelan and Amodeo spoke about the ongoing effort to revitalize Atlantic City’s tourism and gaming industry, particularly in the past year as the state has taken over the city’s Tourism District. Panel members all emphasized the importance of nongaming activity as a critical component to Atlantic City’s rebirth.

Richard Stockton College President Herman Saatkamp, who moderated the panel, said the district highlights the city’s beaches and ocean, and that he’d  like to see every company with “Atlantic City” in its name move back to the city.

Whelan stressed the importance of having events and attractions for visitors.

“We used to have a saying in Atlantic City ... ocean, commotion, promotion,” Whelan said. “The goal was have stuff going on. Put on a concert at Bader Field, and if all we do is break even on it ... then that’s OK. People had a good time in Atlantic City. Hey, they want to come back.”

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