aviation park
The NIEC Display Area that contains several research labs. ( Press of Atlantic City / Danny Drake)

ATLANTIC CITY - The impact of the Next Generation Aviation and Technology Park will stretch beyond the grounds of the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center, spawning nearby conferences and bringing more business travelers to the region, a project official told members of the Atlantic City Hotel and Lodging Association on Thursday.

Dennis Culnan, director of business administration for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, gave a presentation to about 100 local business people at Resorts Casino Hotel regarding the status of the aviation park and what it will mean for the local economy.

"This project will create 2,000 high-level jobs. That means you're going to have folks coming to this region with disposable incomes. They'll be raising their children, buying homes and going out in the local area," Culnan said. "Companies that locate here will have conferences, and that will fill up hotels midweek and during the off-season."

Howard Bacharach, executive director of the lodging group, said he is encouraged to hear about the park's progress.

"This is a development that is going to bring more people to the area. It can only benefit our industry," Bacharach said.

The Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, refers to a host of technologies meant to make air travel safer, quicker and more efficient. It will upgrade the current decades-old radar-based system to a satellite-based system. Much of the work for the upgrades is based out of the tech center in Egg Harbor Township, the FAA's primary research and development site.

The project is supported by the $300 million aviation park soon to be constructed on the grounds of the tech center. Officials hope to have the first of seven buildings at the park completed by April 2012. The first building will contain a lab for the FAA as well as research space for other tenants.

Culnan spoke to the group Thursday in place of aviation park Executive Director Ron Esposito, who was meeting with a potential tenant. Culnan, who typically spends part of each week working with Esposito on the project, would not release the name of the potential tenant but said the party develops technology for unmanned aircraft.

"What we're talking about is easily the most promising development for the region since the advent of the gaming industry," Culnan said. "This area can become the Silicon Valley of aviation technology development."

Separate plans have been approved in Hamilton Township for a spinoff development dubbed the NextGen International Aviation Center for Excellence on the Atlantic City Race Course property. That development, which does not yet have a timeline for construction, would include a hotel that officials have also said would be a prime gathering spot for related conferences.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan


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