Lease Signing Advances Key NextGen-Related Venture
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) William J. Hughes Technical Center has entered into a lease and memorandum of understanding with the South Jersey Economic Development District to build an Aviation Research and Technology Park adjacent to the Technical Center, near Atlantic City, N.J. The lease transfers control of 55 acres of Technical Center property for construction of the complex. The agreement was signed on October 31.
Aviation partnerships are a key component of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). These include FAA partnerships with: industry; federal agencies; state, local, and foreign governments; academia and associations. The FAA has entered many partnership agreements to accelerate deployment of NextGen. The most recent agreement enables creation of the Aviation Research and Technology Park, near the Technical Center.
The park, which will be built at no direct cost to the FAA, will be a high-technology, integrated, dynamic aviation facility that provides the infrastructure for national and international leadership in aviation research and technologies. The park will offer a central location for the FAA’s partners to perform research, development, testing, integration and verification of the technologies, concepts and procedures required by NextGen. It will support the FAA’s mission and build on the Technical Center’s role, leading the testing and prototype development of the systems to make the NextGen vision a reality.
The Technical Center “campus” also serves as home to many entities, including: the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Laboratory, the Federal Air Marshal Service’s training facility, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, the New Jersey National Guard 177th Air Wing and the Atlantic City International Airport. The Technical Center’s multi-modal location gives research park partners access to research laboratories and testing facilities that will support all facets of NextGen.
A collaborative effort by local, county, state and federal agencies, academia and private sector interests developed the concept for the park. The group pooled its resources, supplemented by non-FAA grants, and engaged a nationally-recognized consulting team to undertake an independent market/feasibility study.
The study looked at the potential demand for a research park and the economic implication of siting a park near the Technical Center. The proposed site is a 55-acre parcel owned by the Federal government. The year-long effort led to the following conclusions:
- It is feasible to establish an Aviation Research and Technology Park on the 55-acre site proposed by the FAA.
- The site has many advantages, including access to the Federal laboratory facilities at the Technical Center.
- The park has the capacity to accommodate 400,000 square feet of technology- oriented space.
- More than 2,000 new, high-skill jobs might be created at build-out adding to the existing labor force of 3,000 at or in support of the Technical Center.
- The first building will be about 44,500 square feet, at a cost nearly $10 million. Initial infrastructure costs associated with park development are estimated at $8 million. Given these estimates, private sector investment at build-out might reach $80 to $100 million.
- Many interviews conducted across all disciplines indicated expectations for the park are realistic.
- Collaboration and agreement among stakeholders already exists, assuring the swift execution of thoughtful business strategies.
The Aviation Research and Technology Park, Inc. was created as a non-profit corporation and includes representatives of state and local government agencies, academia, and the private sector. With several direct participants and even more stakeholders in this project, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the South Jersey Economic Development District were co-applicants on a $2.5 million grant from the U. S. Economic Development Administration to build the infrastructure of the research park.
The South Jersey Economic Development Division received the grant and secured a $5 million bank loan to develop the infrastructure required for the research park. As lessee of the 55 acres from the FAA, the economic development division prepared an aggressive schedule with construction scheduled to begin in April 2009 and completion planned for April 2011.
The lease authorizes construction and maintenance of the facilities, and the creation and operation of the Aviation Research and Technology Park, a research institution to perform aviation research and development; aviation security and safety; research, development, and testing of air traffic control systems; and research and development for airports and airport operations. The memorandum of agreement supplements the terms and conditions of the lease and clarifies use of the land.
The Technical Center’s research, development, test and evaluation processes have advanced greatly over the past several years. The environment is more accommodating to the private sector’s use of laboratory facilities for research endeavors outside the direct responsibilities of the FAA. Private firms may enter into agreements with the FAA to engage in a broad spectrum of research projects, with access to state-of-the-art federal laboratories. This has the potential to save significant time and expense in bringing new products to market and reducing the time to deliver NextGen components.
The Aviation Research and Technology Park will complement Florida’s NextGen demonstration capabilities at Daytona International Airport. Advanced NextGen technologies developed and tested at the Technical Center will be demonstrated in an operational environment at Daytona, then returned to the Technical Center for integration with the current NAS and other components of NextGen.
Aviation’s future requires collaboration with industry, government agencies, academia, and associations to help build the skill sets of a well-educated and -trained workforce. The Aviation Research and Technology Park at the William J. Hughes Technical Center will provide the mechanism to encourage collaboration, and attract and retain the brightest minds to work to achieve the full NextGen plan.