Utility and road work at the Next Generation Aviation Research and Technology Park has begun in Egg Harbor Township at a 55-acre site supporters say could one day house thousands of technical jobs and spark the region’s economy.
The site work should be complete by late September, making way for a projected seven new office buildings and laboratories focused on transforming the nation’s air-traffic control program into a satellite-based system. NextGen computer programs are expected to upgrade aviation technology and make travel more efficient.
A formal request for research park tenants and other academic partners will go out this month, said Herman Saatkamp, president of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, one of the institutions leading the project. Organizers hope to have the first building completed and occupied by next year, he added.
More than 200 area business people and government leaders learned of the project’s progress at a sold-out update breakfast sponsored by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce on Monday at Blue Heron Pines Country Club in Galloway Township.
Besides Stockton, the park also is a collaboration of the South Jersey Economic Development District, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and several other state and local government agencies. The NextGen project has about $13.3 million in public and bank financing to do the groundwork and start construction of the first office building.
Ground was broken for the park in October. It will be located off Delilah Road by the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center and the Atlantic City International Airport.
Project organizers hope to turn the research center into an “economic multiplier” that will result in new jobs and businesses in nearby communities. Supporters estimate the park will create about 2,000 engineering and technology jobs. Steps are also being taken to create an air traffic control school with Atlantic Cape Community College, said Gordon Dahl, president of the South Jersey Economic Development District.
Trib Singh, the CEO of Hi-Tec Systems Inc., was impressed with the progress the NextGen project is making, and said he may apply to become a tenant. Hi-Tec Systems Inc. is an Egg Harbor Township-based aviation security and technology company that has worked on projects with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Administration.
Singh said being a part of the research park would help his company “embrace the new era of aviation as it grows and we’d like to be in the ’next generation’ of things to come.”
Roger Tees, executive director of Pleasantville’s Urban Enterprise Zone, said he went to the breakfast to find out more about the project and how his city can take advantage of future business opportunities.
Tees said he was glad to learn more specifics about the park’s construction calendar because it gave him a time frame on making plans to promote Pleasantville’s products and services.
“It’s nice to know there is financing in place and a schedule in place to get this thing built,” Tees said. “It was the best news we could hear in these economic circumstances.”
Bill Schu, the Hamilton Mall general manager, said the research park could be a new way to diversify
“It looks like it’s a good economic driver for the area, not only jobs generated by the tech park but ancillary jobs to support it,” Schu said.
The NextGen aviation park could also benefit from projects to expand services at Atlantic City International Airport. The South Jersey Transportation Authority plans to create a new train and bus service and highway connection to the airport.
The SJTA budgeted $300,000 to design a train station along Wrangleboro Road that would connect to the Philadelphia rail line, said Bart Mueller, the SJTA executive director. The project is being done with New Jersey Transit, along with another study to see if more trains could be brought to the route.
If the rail station comes though, the SJTA would expand its shuttle bus service to go the airport, Mueller said. The authority also plans to spend $3 million to design a new roadway that would link the Atlantic City Expressway directly to the airport.
“The key to this is to have multi-mobile transportation to start,” Mueller said.