ATLANTIC CITY — The teenagers at the city’s Boys & Girls Club didn’t know the man leading their construction class, until he gave a revealing detail.

“I was in the news last week,” said developer Joseph Jingoli. “I bought the Taj Mahal with my partners the Hard Rock and Jack Morris.”

The previously silent students suddenly exchanged whispers and wide-eyed stares. Then they broke out in applause.

“That was pretty big, right?” said Jingoli, 58.

A week after he partnered with Hard Rock to buy the former Taj Mahal casino, Jingoli was in town Wednesday night to teach teens the importance of creating careers and seizing opportunities.

And while he declined to speak about his plans for the Taj, Jingoli described Atlantic City as an opportunity in itself.

“It’s a pretty tight-knit community. There’s a $2.5 billion industry still,” he said. “The other thing is, this is what the bottom looks like. So why not invest in it now?”

Jingoli expressed a desire to return to a city he once called home. In the late 1980s, Jingoli came to the city to put pipes in the ground for Atlantic Thermal Systems, he said. He then moved to Kingston Avenue in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood, where he lived for a decade from the mid 1990s to the mid-2000s.

“I was welcomed here. I felt at home. And so it’s always been that to me,” he said.

The politically connected developer is now overseeing half a billion dollars of investment on opposite ends of the Boardwalk.

Jingoli and his partners plan to spend $300 million on the purchase, renovation and rebranding of Taj into a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The project is expected to create 3,000 jobs and breathe new life into the Southeast Inlet.

Jingoli’s firm, Joseph Jingoli & Son, received a no-bid contract last year from Atlantic City Development Corp. to be general contractor and construction manager of the $206 million Gateway Project, which includes a Stockton University campus and South Jersey Gas headquarters in the city’s Chelsea section.

Jingoli’s company started a 10-week course at the city’s Boys and Girls Club on Wednesday that will teach students the basics of construction. The students will meet leaders in the construction, utilities and casino industries to give them career opportunities.

Those who complete the course will receive college financial assistance and paid internships with his firm or a subcontractor. Upon graduation, Jingoli’s company will help place them in construction jobs. Those who don’t pursue college will be introduced to members of the building trades to apply for jobs.

“The thought was, ‘If kids in cities where we build had the same opportunities as me, how different would it be?’” Jingoli said of the construction class. “What if that’s the only thing that’s wrong? What if the only thing was a bunch of young people didn’t have the same opportunities that we had?”

Jingoli’s firm has a reputation for hiring locals in cities where it has major projects. It sponsored a 12-week training program in June that educated 15 Atlantic City residents and gave them jobs building the Gateway project.

“Look at these kids. Every one of these kids would make a great employee,” he said after speaking to the class. “I think we can make a difference.”

Contact: 609-272-7215

Twitter @_Hetrick

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