The New Jersey Economic Development Task Force examine issues hindering economic development for South Jersey. New Jersey Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak (both D-1st) chair and co-chair the committee for the first district of New Jersey.The initiative has 25 members, including Van Drew the chairman of the organization, and Andrzejczak, co-chair. The other 23 members consist of local officials, business leaders and academic presidents from the First District.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cape May County has an unemployment rate of 12 percent with Cumberland and Atlantic counties with equal rates. As of June 2014, New Jersey had a statewide unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, which makes the First District virtually double the unemployment rate.
On February 23, 2017, at the committee's meeting, Sky Scape's Nate Ernst sat before the committee along with other UAS business professionals, county advocates, and New Jersey UAS research professionals to advocate for UAS technology funding to be invested into Cape May County. The hearing was a chance for New Jersey - based UAS companies to exemplify the potential benefit Cape May County has in investing in UAS technology.
A copy Nate's testimony is printed below:
February 23, 2017
Senator Jeff Van Drew
211 S. Main St. - Suite 104
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Attn: New Jersey Legislature - Economic Task Force (District 1)
I would like to thank Senator Jeff Van Drew and his colleagues from the Economic Growth Committee for their time this afternoon. My name is Nathan Ernst. Mr. Senator, you may not recall but in April of 2007 you personally attended my Eagle Scout ceremony at the Lobster House in Cape May. As it was an honor to have you in attendance at my ceremony then, it is an honor to speak before you and your colleagues this afternoon.
I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in Cape May County before I attended Monmouth University for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I graduated from Monmouth in 2014. I am the Founder and now President of a UAS service providing company - Sky Scape Industries. Sky Scape focus’ on implementing UAS technology in the infrastructure sector.
Shortly after graduating college and just before founding my company, I needed to make key planning decisions vital to my company’s initial success; one of which was my company headquarters location. Circling back to my routes, Cape May County had the potential to be a suitable location until further consideration proved to be less advantageous than other options. Currently the company operates out of Ocean County with a regular service area of 4 states.
Cape May County like many New Jersey beach towns, presents some interesting qualities that result in an atypical economic environment. Summer months boom with economic growth fueled by tourism while winter months consist mainly of a few healthcare organizations, residential contractors, and a small fishing industry that employ the relatively small year-round population that reside there. One of the factors that make Cape May County an outlier among other New Jersey shore towns is the geographical isolation due to the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean. While this makes Cape May a hotspot in the summer, returning college graduates seeking year-round employment shy away from the area since the opportunity is so limited in the winter.
While Cape May County may not be suitable for other year-round industries, the area has already shown potential to be incredibly inviting to UAS technology. As you may or may not be aware, the FAA has authorized the Cape May County airport as an approved UAS test site which is admirable in itself. If you think about it, one of the major reasons other industries struggle year round in Cape May County is exactly why UAS technology would prosper; it’s a peninsula.
If the county possessed the infrastructure and resources to encourage UAS technology, companies could conduct research and testing here very effectively. Flight testing can be conducted over water easily, virtually eliminating overhead incident risk. When regulations allow, over-population testing can be conducted in logical phases as population fluctuates throughout the calendar year. The geographical seclusion makes Cape May County private enough to conduct UAS testing safely, but close enough to major transportation arteries like Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and New York to make company logistics convenient.
Figures vary depending on the source, but I have read consistent reports that the UAS industry will be worth over two billion dollars within the next five years. I cannot think of a more suitable location to capitalize on this opportunity than Cape May County. I share a vision with my colleagues of the county being a UAS technological center where business’ of all sizes research, develop, train, and execute business operations. If the resources were available, Cape May County would become the leading UAS technology center in the country. With the presence of such companies establishing themselves in the county, the paradigm of college students leaving the county and never looking back would be broken. Instead of pursuing opportunities in hyper-competitive and oversaturated tech hubs like Boston or San Francisco, STEM and business professionals alike would flock to the new technological frontier of Cape May County. UAS business’ would thrive, the year-round economy would flourish, and career opportunities in the area would boom.
I am privileged to have had this opportunity to speak before you all today regarding my hometown and what it potentially has to offer. We are witnessing a technological revolution in the present day unlike anyone in this room has witnessed before. If the opportunity presented itself and the operational environment made sense, I would certainly move my company’s headquarters to Cape May County and bare witness to the amazing potential it has to offer to my industry.