The Greater Atlantic City Chamber has sent the following letter on May 12, 2016.
The position of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce on Atlantic City’s fiscal stabilization is well documented and has remained consistent for a long period of time. We have expressed our concerns about Atlantic City’s finances (our first fiscal study was completed in 2003 and a more recent one in 2014). We have made recommendations to lower cost and provided consultants to assist in that process. Most recently, we have supported efforts to stabilize city government through the PILOT approach (with expectations that the proposed legislation would undergo modifications, as with most policy measures as they move through the legislative process).
We are now writing to you and other leaders to implore you to work together immediately to enact legislation that represents a fair and reasonable solution to Atlantic City’s fiscal situation. The situation is dire and the sense of urgency to find a resolution is at an all-time high.
As you well know, more than 10,000 people have been displaced from jobs in this region due to the closing of four casino hotels. That has resulted in Atlantic County being singled out as among the worst real estate markets in the entire nation for more than a year. Our entire regional economy is precarious, to say the least. That is not to say that there aren’t positive developments taking place. Almost all of the remaining casino properties are reporting year-over-year revenue growth, several of which are reporting substantial growth. Other economic indicators are also showing signs of strength, including hotel occupancy, restaurants and nightlife.
However, our region’s economic recovery is being seriously jeopardized by the uncertainty and attending negative publicity surrounding the city’s economic crisis. Just last week, for example, Meet AC, the city’s meeting and convention sales arm, indicated that tens of millions of dollars are at risk in future bookings as a result of the recent adverse publicity the city has received. For the current year alone, Meet AC has been forced to cut back projections by 40 percent, from 300,000 room nights to 180,000.
As Meet AC’s board chairman stated, “If we don’t show ourselves to be a vibrant, exciting city, that will hurt for years to come.” A meeting planner who recently visited Atlantic City said, ‘We all had a great experience. But since the meeting, I’ve been getting tremendous backlash, people saying, ‘I loved Atlantic City, but I’m afraid to bring a meeting there because of the city’s troubles.’
We are at a critical crossroads that will determine whether the city and the region will rebound from its current plight and once again be an economic stronghold for the state, or spiral downward, resulting in thousands more people out of work. Business needs stability and predictability to flourish. And the private sector is fearful of investing in Atlantic City’s future as long as this cloud of uncertainty looms overhead.
The circumstances that led to where we are now have been a long time in the making. What matters now is where do we go from here, how quickly, and how do we get there with the least amount of collateral damage. What we need are collaboration, compromise and enlightened solutions. And, perhaps most importantly, we need leadership that recognizes Atlantic City deserves your support and commitment.
Be assured that our Chamber is fully prepared and more than willing to work with key stakeholders to address Atlantic City’s financial issues and allow businesses to do what they do best, invest and create jobs.
Thank you for your consideration.
Joseph D. Kelly, President
Greater Atlantic City Chamber