FREEHOLD, NJ – Monmouth County, in conjunction with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and its strategic partner, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) in the pilot round of the Innovation Challenge.
This grant is extremely timely, as FMERA is preparing to release a Request for Offers to Purchase (RFOTP) on the McAfee Center parcel. In keeping with FMERA’s mission to create jobs and reinvigorate the regional economy, FMERA staff believes that the highest and best use for the McAfee Center parcel is the development of a mixed-use, technology campus.
“Monmouth County is seeking to facilitate the growth of an emerging technology cluster at Fort Monmouth, which already houses the headquarters of three technology companies, currently employing over 1,000 people on the former Fort,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry, the liaison to the Division of Planning and a member of FMERA.
The County and NJIT, through its affiliate the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), seek to undertake a Cluster Readiness Assessment to identify key assets and opportunities, engage stakeholders, and target one or more technology subsectors, enabling the County and FMERA, in conjunction with NJIT and the selected tech campus developer, to craft a sustainable economic model and build a collaborative tech cluster at Fort Monmouth. The project will also help determine the feasibility of launching an accelerator as part of a tech park at Fort Monmouth.
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“We are thrilled to receive this important grant, which will help us attract more technology firms that will employ our able Monmouth County workforce while enriching the local economy,” said Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone, the liaison to the County’s economic development division.
“NJII is excited to be partnering with Monmouth County and FMERA for this effort,” said NJII Executive Director Ian Trammell. “Economic development is at the core of our mission and FMERA creates a unique opportunity for collaborative innovation. We will be proposing the best focus for attracting technology and high paying jobs to the FMERA campus.”
The McAfee Center parcel, along with the optional Tech South parcel, is a combined approximately 47 acres. The McAfee Center building features approximately 89,492 square feet in the main facility, which has eight raised-floor dry labs, an anechoic chamber and a 16-foot loading dock. The McAfee Center parcel includes nine additional buildings, three of which are in good condition for reuse. FMERA hosted a showcase in July to introduce the property to the technology and real estate marketplaces. The RFOTP is expected to be released in early 2019.
“Fort Monmouth has a rich history in technology and innovation and we are looking to carry on that legacy,” said FMERA Board Chairman Dr. Robert Lucky. “The development of a technology campus is both consistent with the Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan and complementary to the growing technology community at Fort Monmouth. We’re confident that this study will help us identify the tech sub-sector that is most appropriate for the McAfee Center.”
In July, the NJEDA launched the Innovation Challenge through a Request for Qualifications/Proposals, offering individual communities or teams of municipalities an opportunity to compete for planning awards of up to $100,000 to catalyze the growth of local ecosystems throughout New Jersey. Proposals were scored against pre-established evaluation criteria: strength of the established partnership, commitment of additional funding from partners, presence and strength of a defined collaborative stakeholder engagement process, evidence of the plan’s ability to grow the number of small businesses/attract employers, planning for solutions based on the use of new and emerging technologies, and an ability to execute the project or viability of the planning project. Applicants also received points based on their Municipal Revitalization Index ranking.
On September 13, Governor Phil Murphy announced that the NJEDA would award $100,000 to each of nine communities to advance plans to strengthen their local innovation ecosystems through the pilot round of the Innovation Challenge.
“Governor Murphy has made investing in communities and innovation two of the pillars of his plan for a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy,” NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said. “Through the Innovation Challenge, we are spurring conversations and plans among local stakeholders that will lead to the enhancement of their communities’ entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems.”
The nine communities receiving awards for their planning proposals are the City of Bridgeton, the City of New Brunswick, Passaic County, the City of Trenton, Atlantic County, the City of Atlantic City, Camden County, Union Township, and Monmouth County.