New Jersey airport reaches out to business aviation operators

 - June 5, 2007, 6:31 AM

Local airports frequently attract negative attention. Ocean County, N.J. officials are trying to fend off this perception by emphasizing the local airport’s potential to help industry develop, thereby reducing the tax burden for residents. Ocean County officials envision county-owned R.J. Miller Airpark (MJX) in Tom’s River, N.J., developing into a major business aviation center, serving the area between New York and Philadelphia. On May 1, that goal moved closer to reality as airport officials cut the ribbon on a new 20,000-sq-ft hangar, large enough to hold two GVs and several smaller jets.

The county freeholders and the chamber of commerce are enthusiastic about the airport’s potential to attract new industry to the area. Currently, the county’s chief industry is tourism, which brings $3.2 billion to the county annually. Ocean County ranks third in the state behind Atlantic County (Atlantic City) and Cape May County, according to Freeholder Joseph Vicari, who oversees the airport.

Ocean County is also the site of the second largest industrial park in the state, the Lakewood Industrial Park. The site, located in a federal free trade zone and
a state urban enterprise zone, employs more than 12,000 people.

R.J. Miller Airpark attracts about 20 jet flights a week bringing in executives who do business in the county. The field has a 5,949-foot runway, and the airport management has received FAA funding and approval to build a 3,950-foot crosswind runway. There are also plans to build a $2.2 million terminal with a restaurant on the second floor.

Tim Boyd, co-owner of Ocean Aire, the airport operator, is optimistic about the airport’s future since the two major business aviation airports in the New York metropolitan area are saturated and the business aircraft fleet is expanding at an accelerated pace. “It’s virtually impossible to find hangar space in the greater New York metropolitan area,” he said.

“We have plenty of space here. In addition to our new hangar, we have plenty of land to build additional hangars. We are currently in discussions with several operators for space in the new hangar, and we are close to signing a lease with an operator of two Gulfstreams. There is another hangar on the field large enough to accommodate business jets, but it is currently full, housing a jet and three helicopters.

“We are able to offer a lot of advantages to the business aircraft operator,” said Boyd. “Since the airport is surrounded by pinelands, which are protected from development, we have no potential noise problems. Also, our traffic is controlled by McGuire Air Force Base and not the New York Tracon, so we have few problems with delays.”

Vicari believes that the airport is a strong selling point in the county’s effort to attract new business to create jobs and reduce taxes.

“The county also offers a lot of advantages,” said Boyd. “We have affordable housing, a good school system, a low crime rate and excellent recreational facilities, including some of the best beaches in the state.

“We see a booming business aviation facility here in a few years,” he concluded.