Wanted: Someone to bolster Atlantic County even as Atlantic City struggles
The newly formed Atlantic County Economic Development Alliance is hoping to find an executive director through a national search.
With Atlantic City's financial future on shaky ground (the city is just days away from running out of cash) and the possibility of gaming coming to North Jersey, the role of the new leader for the for the non-profit economic development corporation will be to implement a county-wide strategy for attracting, retaining and growing businesses and industries.
Implementing a county-wide strategy is crucial and goes beyond Atlantic City, which has been the region's economic engine for a century, according to Leo Schoffer, interim chair of the ACEDA.
"We have been, for the last 30 years, reliant to a large part on Atlantic City, and that is changing. We need to diversify our economy, we need to grow our economy, we need to become less dependent upon the Casino Industry, and certainly with the possibility of gaming coming to North Jersey, that's more true now than ever," said Schoffer.
Diversifying and broadening Atlantic County's economic base includes several possibilities, most notable the Atlantic City International Airport. The airport was identified in the 2015 Atlantic County Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan, a report compiled by national recognized firm, AngelouEconomics, from Austin, Texas.
"We need to take advantage of that opportunity, and although we have the Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park, we hope that this economic corporation can supplement that, and attract businesses that relate to that as well," Schoffer said.
He added: "There is agricultural possibilities in the western part of the county, there are educational possibilit(ies), people refer to those as meds and eds, but Stockton University is growing. We have a fine community college and education is an industry, and we believe that we can expand on that, and that can be an attraction, as well. Also, there's ecotourism to expand on the tourism and use a lot of our national resources here, that is an opportunity, as well."
Schoffer said there may be other industries that are moving and expanding that the county might now know about.
"That's part of the work of an Economic Development Corporation is to find out what industries are relocating and siting throughout the country and to determine whether or not our region is a suitable location for them and to help them or encourage them to relocate into Atlantic County," Schoffer said.
The ACEDA hopes to have an executive director in place by July 1, as well as the corporation's office up and running around that time inside the Hamilton Mall, according to Schoffer. He said the mall owners are providing 5,000 square feet for office space.
"But, ultimately are offices will hopefully be located at the first building at the Aviation Research Park in Egg Harbor Township when that building is built," Schoffer said.
Schoffer said the economic development corporation is starting out as a public-private partnership initiative between the county and the private Sector.
"The county really wants to hand this over to the private sector, and most economic development corporations are privately driven, and that is the goal here, is to have this corporation driven by the local private businesses, and that's where we're heading," he said. "Private businesses attracting private businesses, that is the concept in the long run, although we're going to continue to get financial support from the county.
"We're also going to be looking for local businesses, utilities, institutions to become, we're not calling them members, but we're calling them investors in this initiative and to become a part of it and to help make this a successful economic development corporation just for the time when we needed."
Schoffer is hopeful the actions of the ACEDA also can overshadow the negative surrounding Atlantic City in the wake of its financial struggles.
"One of our core focus items is going to be rebranding and marketing our community. You always hear the bad news, and the bad news always gets the headline, but there's a lot of positive things going on as well, and that's going to be part of the job of this executive and this corporation, is to rebrand the community and to let the nation know all the positive things that we've have to offer," Schoffer said.
The executive director job description and qualifications are available at acbiz.org. A candidate must submit a resume, cover letter, salary requirements and references by April 22 to Brett Matik at ACEDAsearch@acbiz.org.