Atlantic County aviation hub fully leased, ready to expand

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — New tenants met at a ribbon cutting for the first building at the National Aviation Research and Technology Park on Wednesday and discussed how the high-tech facility will make networking easier.

“This is a great opportunity to bring companies together, to exchange ideas,” said General Dynamics Information Technology Senior Vice President Paul Nedzbala. His company has leased the entire third floor and most of the second floor of the three-story building for five years.

The building is located next to Atlantic City International Airport and the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center.

Nedzbala plans to bring in smaller companies to learn about how to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration, which will have one of its laboratories in the building.

The executives joined a huge throng of elected officials, including Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, military folks, aviation industry workers, educators and media to celebrate the official opening of the first of seven planned buildings.

Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said about 300 people had RSVP’d that they would attend.

“I feel like we have set the table for our guests to start networking,” said Shelley Yak, director of the Tech Center, who was also one of the partners in development of the park. The FAA provided the land free of charge, and the Atlantic County Improvement Authority financed, constructed and operates the $20 million building.

Murphy said the project shows how the state will lead in the new economy, and Sweeney said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson’s leadership in championing the construction of the park made all the difference.

“It’s just like I wrote it,” joked Levinson after all the praise.

Nedzbala particularly likes the high-speed data connection from the building directly to the main FAA campus, and a high-tech auditorium for meetings and educational events.

GDIT is a federal government contractor supporting FAA projects related to the tech center, ranging from air traffic flow management to airport lighting to drone research, said Vice President John Ludecke. It has about 150 workers in South Jersey, some of whom work on the FAA grounds. Most will work in the new building, Ludecke said.

The company recently got an assignment from the FAA to research ways to use unmanned aerial vehicles for averting bird strikes on airplanes, said Vice President Mariano Alicea. He said he works out of both Washington, D.C., and Egg Harbor Township.

Tenants have started to move in. But GDIT won’t be there until November, when its current lease at Decadon Drive in the township ends.

Other tenants are Thunderbolt Software, the FAA’s LIFT Lab, the NARTP office and the Atlantic County Institute of Technology’s aviation program.

The NARTP is a nonprofit arm of Stockton University, intended to promote research, development and commercialization of aviation technology, according to the county.

Wednesday capped a decades-long quest to develop an aviation hub near the Tech Center and the airport. The effort was led by a large number of people in Atlantic County, including Levinson and his chief of staff Howard Kyle. All got their thanks in the ceremony Wednesday, prompting speakers to joke about the long list of names.

“This has been a long time coming. For a while it was pie-in-the-sky,” said Levinson. “Now we are here to cut a ribbon. But we are really here to start a new industry.”

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