TRENTON — A proposal that would help the region’s ailing boat building firms move to building windmills cleared the state Senate by a 37-0 vote Thursday — but with no sponsors in the Assembly, the bill is in limbo.
“When it comes to wind energy, our state’s boat manufacturers are uniquely positioned to easily make the jump to manufacturing wind-energy harvesting equipment and wind turbines,” said Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic. “People aren’t buying recreational watercraft like they used to, but there will always be demand for cheap, renewable energy.”
There are more than 30 companies that build boats in New Jersey, with about half of them in Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic or southern Burlington or southern Ocean County.
Last fall, several of them met with Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, and officials from the Board of Public Utilities and local governments. The boat companies complained about the effect of the general economic slowdown on their bottom lines.
Boating companies included Egg Harbor City’s Egg Harbor Yacht Co. and Ocean Yacht, as well as Upper Township’s Yank Marine, and Viking Yacht of New Gretna. Other companies included Cape May’s Fisherman’s Energy, which is planning a several hundred million dollar wind energy project off Atlantic City, and the Mahogany Co. of Mays Landing, which makes high-end composites.
In January, Whelan introduced the bill, qualifying New Jersey boat manufacturers to apply to the Edison Innovation Clean Energy Manufacturing Fund and opening the door for millions in low-interest loans.
This fund has two programs. As much as $300,000 is available as a grant for assessment, design and permits. Another $3 million is available as a 10-year, two-percent interest loan for site improvements, facility construction and equipment purchases.
Ira Trocki, owner of Egg Harbor Yachts, said Thursday the proposal was helpful, but the bigger problem is getting larger manufacturers to work with local companies.
“They could loan me a million dollars today and that wouldn’t create one job,” Trocki said. “What they have to do is to get these companies — I hate to say force them — but get them to use New Jersey companies.”
Another, similar proposal from Whelan would require the state Business Action Center to assist boat manufacturers in converting to or expanding their wind-energy business as well as developing business partnerships with wind energy equipment manufacturers.
That bill remains in committee.
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