Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Returns to N.J. to Celebrate Atlantic City Store

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Returns to N.J. to Celebrate Atlantic City Store

Article excerpt

ATLANTIC CITY -- Breaking from his swing through New Hampshire to court potential voters in the presidential primary there, Governor Christie returned to New Jersey late Wednesday for one of the more mundane functions available to the country's most powerful state executive.

He opened a store.

It was not just any store. It was a Bass Pro Shops store, part of the fishing and hunting chain that has been a highly anticipated addition to Atlantic City's business district for at least two years.

As the resort town struggles to survive a serious downturn in its economy, including the loss of four casinos, the arrival of a "mega tourist destination" that is expected to employ 225 people and draw a large and loyal customer base is a significant milestone.

And for Christie, who made a high-profile commitment to the city's turnaround and is trying to reverse his own slumping fortunes in state and national polls, welcoming a new business to Atlantic City could be as important for his political future as shaking hands in a New Hampshire diner.

"The unique challenges facing Atlantic City are very much part of Chris Christie's legacy, and as he ventures into this presidential contest, he has to cultivate his legacy in such a way that it will reflect well," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. "Anytime he's able to draw attention to an optimistic future in Atlantic City, he strengthens his own political end."

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which Christie reconfigured in 2011 as part of a five-year plan to revive the resort town, contributed a $12.3 million construction loan and as much as $11 million in tax breaks to Bass Pro Shops over the next 11 years, according to the authority.

But despite creating a tourism district and gaining $250 million in investment in the city, luring back national attractions like the Miss America Pageant and convening a handful of leadership summits to outline its future, Atlantic City has shed more than 8,000 jobs and is now under the financial management of an outside team that includes the emergency manager who guided Detroit's bankruptcy. …

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