Fort Monmouth gets $100,000 to lure high-tech employers

Michael L. Diamond and Susanne Cervenka | Asbury Park Press

Fort Monmouth will get $100,000 to help build a 50-acre campus that can attract high-tech companies, the Murphy administration said Thursday.

The former Army post has its eye on building office space geared toward entrepreneurs who might have the next big thing, but need help — from lawyers, accountants, investors, each other — to make it happen.

Monmouth County was one of nine communities statewide to receive $100,000 each as part of the Innovation Challenge that’s being managed by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Gov. Phil Murphy has been trying to build what he refers to as an innovation ecosystem. The strategy is designed to attract smaller companies that have the potential to grow faster than their larger counterparts.

The goal: to help the Garden State pick up the pace of job growth after lagging the nation for the better part of two decades.

“I think the biggest benefit is, it’s going to bring a lot of ‘solo-preneurs’ out of the woodwork and put them into environments that are going to be conducive to collaborating, sharing ideas, sharing innovations and helping each other grow,” said T.J. Pingatore, founder of the Upstart Garden, a Red Bank-based small business hub.

He said he plans to apply for an Innovation Challenge grant to create a collaborative office in Red Bank.

The money in the most recent round comes from the New Jersey EDA, an independent state agency. Other projects receiving approval included:

  • New Brunswick. The city will work with Rutgers University to design a “lab of the future” for startup companies.
  • Bridgeton. The Cumberland County city will create a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot food-testing laboratory.
  • Atlantic County. It will work with schools to train workers for the aviation industry.

Monmouth County applied for the Fort Monmouth grant with the New Jersey Institute of Technology; the New Jersey Innovation Institute; and the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, the agency redeveloping the post.

Fort Monmouth closed in 2011 and its redevelopment has lagged its closest competitor, Bell Works, the giant former Bell Labs site in Holmdel.

But it appears to be making strides. FMERA recently announced plans to develop the McAfee Complex in Oceanport, a high-tech campus that features an 89,000-square-foot building that features a loading dock, dry labs and a soundproof, anechoic chamber.

Additionally, the historic red brick homes that once housed the ranking officers at Fort Monmouth are up for sale.

“If you look at what’s happening it’s really quite remarkable how we have evolved from that fateful day when they put the shackles on the gate Fort Monmouth,” Freeholder Lillian Burry, who is a member of the FMERA board, said.

“We are going to do everything we can from the county perspective to assist in the programs.”


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