JCP&L Helps Promote New Jersey as a Key Business Location
For a state to effectively market its economic development attributes, many factors come into play, especially the long-established real estate axiom “location, location, location!”
Many businesses and organizations augment a state’s self-promotional efforts, with utilities playing a special role. Site Selection magazine, considered the “Bible” for economic development, recognized FirstEnergy as a “Top 20” utility in 2020 for expertise in promoting economic development in its six-state footprint.
“Because we have relationships with so many businesses, we have the unique ability to build key partnerships among local and state organizations and governments to help promote the areas where we have utilities,” said Pat Kelly, director, Economic Development, FirstEnergy. “Our goal is to work with stakeholders, including major developers and site location consultants, to effectively bring third-party investment and job creation opportunities to our states.”
One of those partnerships involves Choose New Jersey, a privately funded, 501(C)(3) nonprofit economic development organization with a mission to stimulate employment and attract capital investment to New Jersey. Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), the FirstEnergy utility that serves 1.1 million customers in the state, has been a long-time supporter of Choose New Jersey, with JCP&L President Jim Fakult serving on the board. The FirstEnergy Foundation also provides financial support, recently making a $150,000 contribution.
A main selling point for Choose New Jersey is the state’s vital location and robust infrastructure. Businesses in New Jersey can serve more than 38 million consumers within a two-hour drive and reach 33% of the United States population within a day’s drive.
“Strategically located along the Northeast corridor, New Jersey is the perfect location for companies to grow and thrive,” said Jose Lozano, President & CEO, Choose New Jersey. “Our state serves as a global gateway and provides unparalleled access to one of the world’s most affluent and concentrated consumer markets. New Jersey’s exceptional utility providers like JCP&L offer a reliable power grid to current and prospective companies, and their partnership is crucial to Choose New Jersey’s efforts.”
While New Jersey may be the fourth smallest state, it’s home to the densest population in the country. From an economic development standpoint, this presents many challenges because available space is difficult to come by.
One unique opportunity involves Fort Monmouth, a storied former U. S. Army facility situated on about 1,000 acres in Monmouth County. Named after the soldiers of the American Revolution who died nearby at the Battle of Monmouth Court House, the fort’s history dates to 1917. Fort Monmouth was the home of the U.S. Signal Corps, where military communications equipment, such as the walkie talkie, was researched and tested. The first U.S. aircraft detection radar was developed here as was early space communications that bounced electronic signals off the moon.
In 2010, the base was closed as part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and later transferred to Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) in 2014 (Phase I) and 2016 (Phase II). In 2019, FMERA transferred a substation and distribution equipment from when the Army owned the base to JCP&L, which is being used to provide power to development taking place in a 490-acre parcel located in Tinton Falls and Eatontown. JCP&L is currently working with FMERA to determine what type of electrical upgrades would be needed on the remaining 637-acre area in Oceanport and other areas of Eatontown to help make it attractive for developers.
“Sometimes the best economic development assistance we can provide is being an active liaison with our utility operations side,” said Joe Malda, consultant, Economic Development, JCP&L. “Prior to large-scale projects being built, we conduct a load study to determine how much electricity will be needed to accommodate the plans. In many cases, infrastructure enhancements, such as a new substation or power line, are needed to ensure we can provide safe and reliable service to the development site.”
“FMERA looks forward to bringing the legacy Army electrical system into the future to better serve the residents and businesses locating at Fort Monmouth,” said FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman. “We welcome JCP&L’s involvement in the redevelopment in the Fort. The fiscal benefits to Tinton Falls, Eatontown, and Oceanport, as well as the County of Monmouth, in terms of job creation and tax revenue will yield dramatic and measurable economic development results for decades to come.”
“Fort Monmouth is a one-of-a-kind redevelopment opportunity in New Jersey, and we are looking forward to the possibility of taking something old and making it new again,” said Malda. “We plan to add the Fort Monmouth project to our database of available sites and highlight the benefits of any electric enhancements. We believe this effort supports FMERA’s redevelopment and continues to bolster investment and local job creation. It’s a win for us, FMERA and the state of New Jersey.”