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Introduction

Ocean City, NJ— “America’s Greatest Family Resort”

Nestled along the Jersey Shore, this coastal oasis attracts thousands of vacationers each summer. Warm, welcoming beaches outline ten square miles of recreation and commerce. A myriad of small businesses, restaurants, amusement parks, and municipalities en tertain their guests with amiable hospitality. But amidst the lights and sounds of the summer boardwalk, lies a rich community devoted to preserving its heritage.

To some, Ocean City is an annual retreat — a place to relax, unwind, and prepare for distant pursuits looming on the horizon. But for others, it is a place to call home; a nursery by the sea.

Every winter, the character of the island is tested. Hurricanes, nor’easters, and floods attempt to erode storefronts, bulkheads, and houses. Ice and snow conceal the once bustling boardwalk. It is during these months when the spirit of Ocean City shines brightest — a society conceived by the Atlantic and dedicated to the principles of family, prosperity, and environmental stewardship.

For generations, citizens of this shining city have consistently reinvested millions of dollars of summer revenue into restoring their town. Each year, thousands of gallons of sand are dredged and spread across eight square miles of dwindling shoreline.

In spite of its success, n ot all of the towns in South Jersey follow Ocean City’s idealistic example. Located just fifteen miles north, Atlantic City has a different heritage. Notorious for its illustrious casinos and exotic nightlife, this “boardwalk empire” developed a much different culture than the rest of South Jersey. Instead of promoting a well - rounded community based on subst antive pillars such as economic health, environmental responsibility, and cultural vitality; municipal leaders went “all in” in an effort to maximize returns from the casinos and resorts.

In light of the recent closings of Revel, Trump Plaza, and Showboat; thousands of people are unemployed, casinos are struggling to survive, and property value is still consistently lower than neighboring shore towns. The uprising of Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley casinos have introduced newfound competition to the gaming market, while online entities have provided an opportunity for amateur players to compete in a less intimidating environment.

The feasibility of proposed reconstruction efforts to reinvigorate the tourism industry such as sports betting, museums, amusement parks, and conventions may stimulate short - term economic relief, but will most likely fail to generate long term community development. One cannot b uild a house on a glass foundation.

I believe that the only way to “restore the shore” is to unite cultural values with

existing civic institutions in order to authenticate a new era of socioeconomic growth for Atlantic City. An era liberated from the ill usion of gains and loss, greed and fear. An era rooted in community values, committed to the betterment of one’s self, through one another.

My vision is to redefine Atlantic City from a traditionally identified gambling and resort town, into a new coastal socioeconomic center; to expand its role not just as a place to visit, but also a place to reside.

On the Issue and Importance of Path Dependency

In addressing the question of how to reinvent a political entity, city, state, etc one must tread carefully. If the mater narrative of political development has shown us anything of concrete significance : it is that the volatility of powerful institutions is very unstable and unpredictable.

In order to prevent collapse, one must carefully analyze the cultural influences and normative values of the society in question. Just as a blood transfusion requires compatible blood types from donor to recipient, an imprudent development strategy can prove to be fatal if wrongly initiated.

In regards to Atlantic City, one must take into account the path dependency, or “cultural history” of its heritage when searching for a progressive solution to its declining gaming notoriety. Reform leaders need to find a way to merge the demands of private entities, i.e. casino owners, business owners, and traditional stakeholders in the current resort identity of the city; with a growing need for sustainable enterprise.

The goal of reformists should not be one of exclusion and polarization, but one of unity and compromise. Casinos and corporations must be able to coexist— a new beginning doesn’t necessarily require a fresh start.

Atlantic City has traditionally been a city of dreamers. From when my great - grandmother attended Atlantic City High School in the late 1920s, until my parents settled in South Jersey in the midst of the jazz era in 1990; Atlantic City’s culture has always been one of glamour and hope.

In its golden years, casinos understood the importance of the “little” things, other than just blackjack ta bles and slot machines. Promoters would seek to obtain a healthy balance between gaming, entertainment, and leisure. Venues like the Trump Plaza, Caesar’s Palace, and Bally’s would showcase world- class chefs, musicians, and guest performers that would draw in thousands of tourists as well as local residents.

In an effort to maximize gaming revenue, casinos dislodged the delicate balance between entertainment, gambling, and most importantly, atmosphere. Instead of considering the larger ramifications of rep lacing free enterprise with lottery jackpots, traditional stakeholders in Atlantic City compromised long- term

community prosperity for tragic short - term gains.

As a result of recent events, thousands of people are out of work in a town where eighty percen t of the job market is affiliated with the tourism industry. A city which used to attract millions of people with its bright lights, legendary beaches, and promise of hope, is at an identity cross roads.

It is our duty, as a community, to reinvigorate, rebuild, and redefine Atlantic City; but in a way that is entirely our own. A new order that will preserve the integrity of the old, while allowing for the innovations of the new.

We must build a city in t he sand; forged by our own shovels, crafted with our own hands, and protected by our own families. So that our children, and our children’s children, will have the opportunity to live, work, and enjoy life at the Jersey Shore.

On the Demand for Urbanization: Building a City in the Sand

Philadelphia, PA: 75- 80 miles from shore towns (Ocean City, Sea Isle, Stone Harbor, Cape May) Atlantic City, NJ: 15- 40 miles from shore towns (Ocean City, Sea Isle, Stone Harbor, Cape May) ACY: Atlantic City International Airport (10- miles NW of AC) AC Expressway: stretches 60- miles from Philadelphia, PA

In regards to a need for a localized commercial center, or city, to support a growing

job market, Atlantic City will provide an opportunity for full - time residents to live

a nd work by the sea. Traditionally, full - time residents of South Jersey work hard

from Memorial Day through Labor Day, then proceed to collect unemployment over the winter. This is by no means a fair representation of the entire SJ demographic

population however

highly volatile revenue income for most of the shore towns from July to December, many residents are limited in terms of occupation selection if they desire to live at the shore year - round. Common occupations include, but are not limited to: Teacher, Doctor, Lawyer, Private Practitioner, Food Server, Small Business Owner, Real Estate Agent, Beauty & Health Specialist, Hospital Administrator, or City Official.

it encompasses the mentality of the average citizen. Given the

It appears that people decide to either work for themselves, or work as contractors, service industry employees, or other municipal occupations. Why aren’t there more jobs for young working professionals? Why is there an apparent gap between the lower and upper income classes?

I believe the answer is related to Atlantic City’s national/global influence, or lack

thereof. Based on my current knowledge and experience as a full - time resident, I can recall only two major headquarters of nationally identified organizations in South Jersey : ‘Jersey Fresh’ Farming, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Tech

Center.

Why has Atlantic City failed to attract national attention by Fortune 500 companies? Why hasn’t any corporation or innovative company established a headquarters on

the At lantic City boardwalk? If most people complain about the lack of

commercialization and having to commute to Philadelphia each day

been no relatively significant changes in economic development over the years?

why have there

GOOGLE: California

Nike: Oregon

Apple: California

MSFT: Washington

ATLANTIC CITY?

Residents of South Jersey a re faced with two options: (1) buying and using their home for vacation purposes only, choosing to live in Philadelphia or NYC most of the year. (2) Live in South Jersey full- time, but having to adjust their careers to accommodate the lack of jobs during the winter. Why can’t residents have it both ways? More specifically: why can’t the average resident be able to afford to live at the beach as well as work in an occupation that suits their talents and interests? What are some feasible industries that can fill the void for the average South Jersey resident? How can we promote the creation of jobs that will contribute to the local, national, and global economy?

On the Types of Industries Suitable for Atlantic City

As our society progresses, the ability to connect globally, interact virtually, and work as a unit from anywhere using only a laptop, revolutionizes the need for traditional anchors of political and economic development. The overarching conclusion of this discussion is that Atlantic City can benefit from its industrialized neighbor:

Philadelphia. Types of industries suitable for Atlantic City fall under the category of “second order” operations. Instead of requiring mass infrastructure to produce raw materials such as the coal, textile, and steel industries in Philadelphia, Atlantic City should focus on promoting the following industries:

(1) Insurance/Consulting

(2) Financial

(3) Technology

(4) Marine Engineering

(5) Biomedical/Biochemical Engineering / Alternative Energy Research

(7) Education

The commonality between all of the above industries is that they are able to function without the need for industrialized infrastructure. Insura nce, consulting, and technology - based companies don’t require a large plot of land in order to

operate effectively. They only require an efficient network of cellular communications, office space, a nd an attractive building in a soothing environment:

Atlantic City’s beaches and boardwalk are the perfect setting.

Another benefit of Atlantic City’s geography is the opportunity for marine engineering, alternative energy research, and biological studies . Innovative leaders in solar, wind, and tidal energy could conduct clean energy research and its compatibility to run an entire city. I intend to incorporate next - generation solar panels onto every new building, which are engineered to shift with the sun from the moment it rises over the Atlantic Ocean from the east, till the instant it sets over the wetlands to the west. This proposed example may not seem feasible from a financing perspective; however, it illustrates the opportunity for creative investmen t based on Atlantic City’s geography, as well as the technological capabilities of a twenty- first century economy.

Perhaps the most vital industry needed to stimulate Atlantic City’s redevelopment is education. All academic institutions, but specifically universities, provide community anchors to build around. Atlantic City needs to accommodate a large student population in order to trigger corporate investors. Coincidentally, a local university is already showing a need for expansion: Stockton University.

On the Identity of Atlantic City

From its conception as John Pickney’s Beach Village in the 19 th century, Absecon Island or Atlantic City, has traditionally been identified as a place to visit , but not a place to reside.

The Camden - Atlantic Railroad made it possible for middle and working class tourists in Philadelphia to travel to the beach for the relatively inexpensive fair of $1.00/round trip. As a result, many developers saw the need to create affordable hotel accommodations and value- based attractio ns to appeal to “impulse consumers”. The impact of a booming tourism economy as well as the influx of recently freed slaves in the 1860s generated a seasonal resort community, which operated on a 13- week work calendar. I nvestors from Philadelphia and New Y ork City saw Atlantic City as “America’s Playground”, spending millions on attractions, hotels, and casinos intended to provoke vacationers to buy into the illusion of the ‘high life’, even if it was only for the day.

A necessary component of running the myriad of resort amenities was the impoverished w orkforce. Poor immigrants and indentured servants made up most

of the residential demographic of Atlantic City during the 20 th century. While “alien” wealthy resort owners and entrepreneurs retreated back to their h omes in Philadelphia or NYC, many of the seasonal workers remained at the shore.

Due to the lack of municipal organization, civic infrastructure, and diversified industry, Atlantic City developed a reputation for having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country during the tourism off- season (September-- May).

My proposal is that many of the current issues facing Atlantic City today have to do with its dependent - identity. It is defined not by its residents, but by its foreign vacationers.

Similar to our country during the Colonial Era, Atlantic City has been robbed of its integrity and constrained from exercising its autonomy. Our country was founded on the principle that no nation should be subordinated to another insofar as every “peop le” deserves his or her own “state.” Colonial America refused to submit to foreign exploitation, why shouldn’t Atlantic City?

Over the course of four generations since the birth of Atlantic City, many migrants established their own culture in South Jersey. Many residents feel that the lack of occupational opportunity in Atlantic City is a result of the failure of local, state, and federal ly elected officials. “They” need to do something to create jobs in Atlantic City; “t hey” had a chance to reinvest casino revenue into sustainable community resources. “I wonder how they are going to respond to recent resort bankruptcies.”

The fact of the matter is that “we”, as residents of South Jersey, as well as the nation as a whole, need to play a more active role in the redevelopment of our city. “We” need to make our voices heard so that “they” incentivize development that is consistent with our way of life. Atlantic City needs to be defined by the people who reside in it not only by the people who visit it. The true character of this city has yet to be unearthed. But nothing will change without a collective redevelopment campaign generated by the people of South Jersey.

Marketing Campaign

Marketing Campaign The “DO AC” campaign was directed towards the goal of promoting events, entertainment, food,
Marketing Campaign The “DO AC” campaign was directed towards the goal of promoting events, entertainment, food,

The “DO AC” campaign was directed towards the goal of promoting events, entertainment, food, and gaming in Atlantic City in the years surrounding Hurricane Sandy (2011). It was conceptualized as a way to draw in visitors from Philadelphia and neighboring s hore towns to experience all that Atlantic City had to offer. While it was successful at accomplishing its mission, the campaign further legitimized the identity of Atlantic City as a tourist attraction. Something to “Do”, as in a place to visit not a plac e to live.

My proposal, the “BE AC” campaign, is designed to reshape the way local residents and vacationers view the purpose of Atlantic City. Instead of promoting it as a resort town -- externalizing its identity-- I intend to challenge residents of South Jersey, as well as the nation as a whole, to view Atlantic City as its own independent socioeconomic center-- internalizing its identity. One that showcases the resorts as a supplement to, but not a foundation for, its identity.

Social Media Campa ign

We must build a city in the sand; forged by our own shovels, crafted with our own hands, and protected by our own families. So that our children, and our children’s children, will have the opportunity to live, work, and enjoy life at the Jersey Shore.

My proposal for a social media campaign is to feature local residents of South Jersey demonstrating their commitment to a more active role in the redevelopment of Atlantic City. This will involve viral imaging trends featuring individuals, families, pets, mascots, statues, etc holding a beach shovel and pail in each hand. Platforms will be directed towards Facebook, but other mediums could serve the same function. Captions will read #wearesj (We are South Jersey), or #BE- AC (Be Atlantic City).

Again, t he purpose of this media campaign is to facilitate an open discussion amongst the people of South Jersey, as well as the nation as a whole, about the future of Atlantic City and the need for sustainable redevelopment. Social media platforms provide the best grassroots marketing exposure and will encourage widespread participation and ingenuity. By featuring residents holding a shovel and pail, participants will feel as though they are part of a collective body of stakeholders. Thereby, putting pressure on current politicians and key figures leading the redevelopment effort to find suitable investors, e.g. universities, commercial corporations, and companies willing to create new jobs.

effort to find suitable investors, e.g. universities, commercial corporations, and companies willing to create new jobs.