The Atlantic County Economic Alliance (ACEA) was awarded more than $1.6 million to accelerate aviation technology development in the southern New Jersey region. The federal government, through the U.S. Economic Development Administration i6 Challenge program, will provide a $750,000 grant over three years with the balance of matching funds provided by Atlantic and Cape May counties and a host of other government, academic and private sector partners.
“This is a game-changing moment in our efforts to develop an Aviation Innovation Hub based around the FAA’s Technical Center, Atlantic City International Airport, and our newly opened aviation research office park,” said Brett Matik, chairwoman of the ACEA board of trustees. “We continue to advance our Economic Development strategy and this grant clearly supports the effort to diversify our economy.”
County Executive Dennis Levinson was equally thrilled by the news from Washington, D.C. “Our efforts to diversify the economy are being recognized and validated by industry and academia but also now by the federal government,” said Levinson.
According to the county executive, the competition for the award was fierce. A total of 183 applications were submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration with only 26 projects awarded funding. Other recipients include Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, Purdue University, and the Mayo Clinic.
“We are proud to be ranked among such prestigious institutions,” remarked Levinson. “This shows the strength and depth of our commitment to attract new, high-paying jobs to Atlantic County.”
“The South Jersey region has the airspace assets and the talent to lead the northeast corridor in aviation development and innovation,” stated ACEA Executive Director Lauren H. Moore, Jr.
Cape May County has been working for five years to develop a national presence with its drone program, according to Freeholder Will Morey. “The synergies with Atlantic County, as it emerges as a leader in general aviation, are already significant, and will ultimately result in new jobs and a major boost to our economy,” he added.
Moore thanked the U.S. EDA and the many partners involved in preparing the detailed grant application, including the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), the country’s leading organization to support aerospace research.
“The NIA will play a significant role in implementing the grant. It will serve to advise and participate in activities that will attract and enhance businesses into clusters matched to the strengths and capabilities of Atlantic and Cape May counties as well as other areas in the region,” he explained.
ACEA will lead the grant implementation process along with the NIA and other key partners such as Atlantic County government, Cape May County government, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the National Aviation Research and Technology Park, the New Jersey Innovation Institute, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Rowan University, Atlantic Cape Community College, South Jersey Transportation Authority, and aviation-related businesses.
Under the grant, partner organizations will create a Smart Airport and Aviation Partnership (SAAP). The SAAP will develop and service small business incubators and accelerators, among other activities, that should attract startup companies.
The ACEA estimates the resources from this grant will be leveraged to generate $10-20 million in investment in Atlantic County and the southern New Jersey region while potentially creating many new permanent jobs.
“This is a huge win for the ACEA, Atlantic and Cape May counties, and the entire aviation community in southern New Jersey,” remarked Dr. Douglas Stanley, president of the NIA. “We cannot overstate the significance of this award and we look forward to developing New Jersey’s new Aviation Innovation Hub right outside the gates of the FAA.”
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