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The Aviation Industry Is Key to South Jersey's Economic Growth

Op-Ed

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Date:
Location: Unknown

Tourism, gaming, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and small businesses have historically been staples of South Jersey's economy and, to a significant extent, will be keys to the region's short-term recovery and long-term economic growth. However, with the economy continuing to struggle and unemployment rising, it is imperative we look for opportunities to strengthen and expand new and emerging industries that could provide significant revenues and create local high-paying jobs. With deep roots already in South Jersey, the first industry we must look to is aviation.

I have long advocated and worked for substantial federal investment in our region's infrastructure, particularly at the Atlantic City International Airport. According to the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA), ACY currently handles more than a million passengers annually and has an overall economic impact of $464 million. Recognizing that growth of ACY could result in increased tourism to the region and an economic boon to South Jersey, I was proud to recently help secure more than $2.3 million in federal funding to expand the terminal and improve safety operations at the airport. But physical growth and structural improvements are just one part of effort.

Likewise, I support SJTA's active engagement with the airlines and consumers to promote ACY as the attractive alternative to Philadelphia for travel to the region. Not only would increasing flights to ACY reduce the ongoing congestion at this major hub, but it would further link South Jersey communities to the nation's aviation network and provide a needed economic boost to our region. Efforts to attract additional carriers and increase flights, however, must include outreach to and input from local residents and nearby defense facilities.

But ACY is not our only contribution to the aviation industry. Rather, I firmly believe South Jersey's long-term economic prosperity is tied to our region's ongoing efforts to be the nation's premier location for aviation research and development. Critical to those efforts is the FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township and the expansion of its research into the Next Generation Air Transportation System ("NextGen"). The men and women at the FAA Tech Center are diligently working on this critical project that will modernize the nation's antiquated air traffic control system. Currently, Congress is considering legislation that will provide over $13 billion in federal funding to accelerate the implementation of "NextGen".

My position on the House Aviation Subcommittee has allowed me to aggressively promote an increased public investment in the aviation sector in South Jersey. I recently secured a provision in the FAA Authorization Act of 2009 that would establish a formal Center of Excellence in the research and development of "NextGen" in cooperation with the planned Aviation Research & Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township.

The Center will bring together professionals at the FAA Tech Center with experts in the aviation industry and academia to research and develop the new technologies that will power the next generation of air travel in the United States. It also allows the FAA to provide federal funding to support such activities. The Center of Excellence will build on efforts already underway locally by Atlantic County, the Richard Stockton College, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, local industry and the FAA Tech Center to build and promote the planned Aviation Research Park.

Clearly, there is an established base for the aviation industry in South Jersey, already employing thousands of residents at the FAA Tech Center and ACY and fostering tens of millions of dollars in economic revenue to the region. Recognizing the significant economic and job creation opportunities that are possible, additional growth of the industry must be encouraged. It is my hope that ACY will continue to expand its facilities and services to meet the region's needs while also serving as a partner for testing and implementing new aviation systems being developed at the FAA Tech Center and future Aviation Research & Technology Park.


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