ATLANTIC CITY — With gamblers patronizing two reopened casinos and students attending classes next door at the newly opened Stockton University campus, South Jersey Gas showed off its contribution to the revitalization of the resort Wednesday, celebrating the opening of its new headquarters with board members, business leaders, elected officials, employees, project partners and others.

“It’s not the first ribbon cutting here in Atlantic City this year, and that’s a little point, but a really important point,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during the ribbon-cutting. “It’s just the latest in a string of celebrations that all point to one irrefutable fact: Atlantic City is back.”

The 200 South Jersey Gas employees who will be in the resort daily will contribute to the city’s economy, Murphy said.

Employees were already at work at desks in the rates and regulatory department on the building’s fourth floor. More than one speaker pondered how anyone would be able to do any work in the state-of-the-art building with window views of the Atlantic Ocean and the northern and southern parts of the city.

The South Jersey Gas building is part of the Atlantic City Gateway Project, a $210 million, public-private redevelopment initiative on 270,000 square feet of land in the Lower Chelsea neighborhood. The project includes the Stockton campus and an 879-space parking garage with 7,000 square feet of retail space.

Four years ago, casinos were closing, and it seemed like everyone was moving out of the city, said Michael J. Renna, president and CEO of Folsom-based SJI, the parent company of South Jersey Gas.

“There was not a lot of optimism and hope, but we saw an opportunity to come back home. This is our home. We started here. Our origins were in Atlantic City,” Renna said. “When there was the opportunity to come here and partner with Stockton on being a part of Atlantic City’s rebirth, we jumped at that opportunity.”

Stockton, SJI and the Atlantic City Development Corp. stepped up at a time when everyone else was running out of the resort, Mayor Frank Gilliam said.

“It gives me great pride and honor to say these are true partners,” Gilliam said. “We are on our way back. A whole lot more needs to be done, but with partners like this, the sky’s the limit.”

As an example of the partnership, SJI loaned ACDevco the money to buy the property where the project was built.

Since the opening took place before Thanksgiving, South Jersey Gas made a $25,000 donation to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch.

Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said that 20 months ago, the land where the South Jersey Gas and Stockton buildings now stand were vacant lots that represented a barren area of the city where people had no hope that anything would change.

“Today reflects the best of folks working together, putting aside the personal agendas, putting aside their specific agendas to work in collaboration and in cooperation to make something very significant happen in an important area,” Kesselman said.

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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