Stockton seeks to bring aviation research park under its wing

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SJEDD/Artist rendering of Aviation Research and Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, NJ SJEDD/Artist rendering of Aviation Research and Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, NJ

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Aviation Research and Technology Park officials signed a memorandum of understanding with Stockton that could put the park on track to become operational in two or three years, officials said Wednesday, April 24.

The memorandum permits authorities to hold formal discussions to explore the possibility of the facility becoming an auxiliary of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, based in Galloway.

The Aviation Research and Technology Park is a nonprofit corporation formed by representatives from state and local government, academia and the private sector who are seeking to create a research facility on 58 acres owned by the William J. Hughes Technical Center Federal Aviation Administration to develop the NextGen satellite-based air-traffic control system and other aviation technology.

Officials have said that the park could generate more than 2,000 high-paying jobs when is operational.

Stockton President Herman J. Saatkamp, a member and past president of the ARTP board, has supported the project since its inception in 2006.

“The decision was a very significant event,” he said. “It sends signals to the national aviation community, sends signals to the FAA, sends signals to Washington and to the state of New Jersey that this is really ready to move forward.”

Saatkamp said the partnership benefits both facilities.

“Stockton and the park have complementary goals. The college is interested in developing aviation-related academic programs, including research projects, courses and a degree program. Stockton is also committed to furthering economic development in southern New Jersey by facilitating interaction between academic, commercial and government entities,” he said.  

The lease on the property is held by the South Jersey Economic Development District. Ownership would have to transferred back to the ARTP before Stockton could envelop it as an auxiliary operation, which would be renamed the Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park, Saatkamp said.

The decision to undergo the negotiations necessary to bring the park under the Stockton blanket could mark a change of course for the project, which has faced challenges over the years.

“It’s fairly widely known that the SJEDD and ARTP have had difficulties,” he said.

“Uncertainty is a terrible feature. No one would want to be part of something whose management and finances are not stable. The FAA said in the past year that the ARTP needed to partner with a substantial partner in order to move forward. It needed a partner who has experience and stability. We were that partner,” Saatkamp said.

He said he hopes an official agreement can be set between the two entities and approved by the FAA by the end of the summer. The first of seven planned buildings could be constructed as early as 18 months to two years from approval, he said.

“Once the agreement is ready, we can get the first building in place and continue to build the other six at an even pace,” he added.

The agreement would bring stability to the project and allow national corporations involved in aviation to feel confident in committing to taking part, according to Saatkamp.

“We have both national and international corporations that we believe will come and take up space,” he said, noting that many of the companies have visited the site for tours. Related industries include the FAA’s NextGen research, unmanned aviation services and other areas of aviation research such as predictability.

“This park is attractive because of its proximity to the William J. Hughes Technical Center, one of the pre-eminent centers of aviation research in the United States,” Saatkamp said.

The influx of corporations would have positive impact on the local economy, he said. Engineers, technical experts and others would be brought in with stable incomes that are higher than average. These individuals would need housing and would use local restaurants, stores and other services, he said.

From a wider viewpoint, the park would complement what is already a growing hub for aviation research enable the state to bring in industries that would add to the area’s reputation as a center for aviation, Saatkamp added.

In a news release issued by the college, Edward H. Salmon, president of the Aviation Research & Technology Park Inc. board of directors, was quoted as saying, “Development of the park will bring year-round technological jobs to South Jersey. This memorandum of understanding is an important step in the process of cooperation and support between Stockton and the ARTP.”

The goal is for the ARTP to develop 400,000 square feet of office space and “to attract various commercial, governmental and academic organizations to pursue research and development regarding aviation issues,” the memorandum states.

Development at the site is subject to FAA approval.

The ARTP has received an initial grant of $930,000 for operating expenses and a $3 million commitment for a loan/grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for construction of a laboratory in the first office building.

 “I am very pleased with the signing of this memorandum of understanding,” ATRP Executive Director Ronald J. Esposito said in the news release.

He said the signing “further demonstrates their belief in the park’s vision and their commitment to making the park a reality.”

A state law known as the Public College Auxiliary Organization Act permits the establishment of a college auxiliary organization, subject to the approval of the college’s board of trustees.

Once the FAA approves assigning the lease for the park’s site to ARTP, Stockton and the ARTP can enter into a more complete agreement, according to the memorandum. That agreement would spell out the goals and responsibilities for both parties, which were outlined as follows:

Stockton’s responsibilities

- Establish and lead a consortium of colleges and universities to interact with the FAA and the commercial, governmental and academic tenants in the park

- Create programs and courses related to engineering, aviations and avionics

- In partnership with ARTP, create joint programs with the FAA that may include research and new technologies, aircraft safety and other areas in which the FAA may become involved based on government needs

- Assist and advise ARTP in regard to negotiations with developers

- Provide in-kind faculty and staff support to assist ARTP with administrative and management tasks 

- Support the environment for aviation research between private industry and academic institutions

- Assist with identifying and preparing applications for funding;

- Provide financial assistance to ARTP at times, in amounts and ways to be negotiated

- Ensure required ARTP board members are available to serve

ARTP’s responsibilities

- Continue to negotiate and work with developers

- Finalize an agreement with the project’s former developer, South Jersey Economic Development District, and Environetics, the architect retained by SJEDD, to assign the architectural plans to ARTP no later than May 1

- Finalize a lease agreement with SJEDD and present to the FAA for consent by May 1

- Communicate and share information with FAA as necessary to insure its ongoing relationship with FAA

- Supervise, oversee and cooperate with the master developer to initiate and pursue to completion all aspects of the park

- Engage potential tenants for the park in cooperation with the master developer

- Pursue all tasks necessary to ensure success of the park

- Cooperate with the college in all matters and tasks in keeping with the role of an auxiliary organization to the college

- Pursue amendments of bylaws as required.

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