ATLANTIC CITY — Stockton University’s new Atlantic City campus doesn’t have any students yet, but it does have a lot of construction dirt, which gets into the office trailers, which need to be cleaned.
That’s where Tariq Edwards, of TLC Cleaning in Atlantic City, comes in, currently once a week. He’s hired two people so far and will hire more as needed.
Kyle Jackson, managing director of Triton Security & Investigations in Atlantic City, has hired five employees to work on the job site and expects to need 20 to 25 more as the project grows.
“We are hiring and helping residents to become security guards,” he said.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Glou-cester, Salem, Cumberland, and Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, toured the Gateway site Wednesday with Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman, Michael J. Renna, CEO of South Jersey Industries, Chris Paladino, of Atlantic City Development Corp., and project construction manager Joseph Jingoli, of Joseph Jingoli & Son Inc.
The $220 million Gateway project, they said, is a turning point for the struggling city, and change will happen store by store, and block by block.
“I think Atlantic City is coming back,” Jingoli said. “This is what the bottom looks like now. But I’m seeing it start to happen.”
Jingoli used to live not far away on Kingston Avenue and said he remembers “the old Atlantic City.”
Kesselman stood on the Boardwalk and imagined the site in two or three years, with more than 500 students living in beachfront housing and attending classes on the site of the old Atlantic City High School. He called the $178 million campus an anchor for redevelopment and a more diverse economy.
“We want this to be a seven-day-a-week, year-round campus,” he said. “We want it to be just as busy in the summer as it is during the academic year.”
The project also includes a parking garage, retail spaces and offices for South Jersey Industries.
Jingoli and local groups are developing job-training programs that include the Competitive Edge project to train local residents. Working with Friends in Action in Atlantic City, the program had its first 15 graduates last summer.
A few are already working, including Le-Rae Davis, who has an administrative job, and Karl Callaway, who is doing site work.
Davis said she used to be a food server at Resorts and heard about the program through her church. Callaway said Anthony Brower of Friends in Action got him involved in the program.
Brower said he was a union carpenter on a Jingoli project in Newark and saw the company’s efforts to provide local jobs, so he feels confident the company will do the same here.
Robert Lee, community outreach coordinator for Jingoli, said the company doesn’t have a specific number of local hires in mind but will hire as many people as it can.
Jingoli said the construction trades training programs are not just for the Gateway project. They are an effort to build a new generation of employees with good careers in construction trades.
“This project may be done in two years, but there will be other jobs,” Jingoli said.
A construction trades program is being developed for Atlantic City High School. Sweeney said that, as a union member himself, he knows the trade unions sometimes have a hard time reaching students about construction careers. The Gateway project can be a marketing tool.
“Guidance counselors tend to want all students to go to college,” he said.
Meryle Asaro and Bob Angelo, who live a few blocks away, stopped to talk to Kesselman and said they are thrilled with the project.
“When we saw the backhoes starting, we clapped,” Asaro said.
Angelo, an Atlantic City native and retired faculty member at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, said he has seen the impact of projects Paladino developed in New Brunswick and is excited about the local project.
“It will be amazing to be here in five years,” he said.