Questions from Steve Adubato

For Virginia S. Bauer of Red Bank, CEO and Secretary of the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth & Tourism Commission.

What’s the biggest misconception about state tourism?
It is the second largest industry in the state, with beautiful beaches and places to see, yet we have this mindset that we don’t have to do anything about it and people are just going to come.

How do we rank in terms of public investment for tourism?
Our marketing budget is $12.7 million. Pennsylvania has a $33 million budget, New York State has about $40 million, and Las Vegas has close to $75 million. I have been very aggressive lobbying the state to get more money. We must do more to compete more effectively.
What aspect of the tourism initiative is the most challenging?
Considering the budget constraints we’ve had, we have creatively looked to partner with the private enterprises and regions in the state that are tourism-focused and say collectively, “Let’s do this together.” The tourism industry up until this point was very fragmented.

It seems like the Shore is broken up into a lot of little pieces. How do you market it?
We encouraged the three Shore regions to act cooperatively so that New Jersey can compete more effectively and aggressively in attracting more visitors to tour 127 miles of beaches. The result is the Jersey Shore Alliance. This provides [alliance members] with triple the buying power for their media campaigns.

How does Atlantic City fit into this?
Atlantic City is a huge tourist destination that is burgeoning with development. What is occurring is a lot of investment and renovation of the casinos and hotels, such as the Quarter at Tropicana. They are also working to bring other sports venues and attractions there. Atlantic City has marketed itself on its own, but we are trying to pull everyone together.

What about sports? Is that tourism?
Sports are very important. We have the Meadowlands, Giants Stadium, and…we have some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. Monmouth Park Racetrack is hosting the Breeder’s Cup in 2007. For New Jersey to be able to host an event of this magnitude at Monmouth Park is wonderful, as it is such a historic horse-racing venue.

How does tourism most impact the state economy?
It is the second largest industry in New Jersey, bringing in $32 billion in revenue. It employs 430,000 people in the state. There is still enormous potential for this industry to grow. If we can increase this budget to $35 million per year, the return conservatively is 10 to 1. I think our legislators are recognizing that.

I keep hearing about ecotourism. What is it and why should we care about it?
Ecotourism brings people to a natural environment. For example, I bet you weren’t aware that in the Meadowlands there are great bird-watching opportunities.

Steve Adubato is an Emmy–winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and host of One-on-One With Steve Adubato on the Comcast Network.

Read more Jersey Celebrities, Jersey Living articles.

Questions From Steve Adubato

For Dennis Benigno of Clifton, executive director, Coalition for Brain Injury Research

What is the Coalition for Brain Injury Research?
The Brain Injury Research Act went into effect in January 2004. New Jersey became the first state in the nation to provide a continuing funding source for basic-science brain injury research. The research is funded by a $1 surcharge on all traffic violations in the state and will generate approximately $4 million annually. Research grants will be reviewed and awarded on a yearly basis.

Why was the coalition created?
The main focus of the organization is to support the search for a brain injury cure. Neuroscientists within the state now have a commitment of resources to conduct brain-cell regeneration research.

How did you get involved with the commission?
In 1984 my son was struck by an automobile, which resulted in a severe brain injury. The accident left him totally disabled. He is now 37 years old, and we still continue his care at home. After years of rehabilitation we realized the only hope he and others had for improvement was a cure. To achieve that goal, we formed the Coalition for Brain Injury Research. The coalition was instrumental in passage of the Brain Injury Research Act. Emotionally, it was quite an overwhelming experience. As the executive director of the NJCBIR, I have been given the opportunity to help not only my son, but thousands, perhaps millions, of others in similar situations.

How many people suffer from brain injuries?
In the United States an estimated 5.3 million people suffer the debilitating effects of brain injuries. Nationally, approximately 1.4 million new cases occur each year; 50,000 die; and another 90,000 experience the onset of lifelong disabilities. Traumatic brain injury has a higher rate of occurrence than most major disorders. To help focus attention on the magnitude of this problem, March is recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Why hasn’t research focused on finding a cure?
When someone suffers a brain injury, they are no longer able to articulate their needs, and the families are so consumed with the resulting devastation and hopelessness that the primary concern is caring for the individual. Secondly, the medical community has never approached brain injury as a curable disorder.

Is a cure a realistic goal?
Absolutely. New technologies and recent advances in the neurosciences have shown that the brain does have the capacity to heal and, with help, may one day be able to repair itself.

What types of research show the most promise?
Stem-cell research, gene therapies, nerve-growth drugs, tissue transplants, etc. I am not a scientist, but I understand that these approaches have the potential to achieve the goal of developing a cure. The economic cost as a result of brain injuries is estimated to be $48 billion annually.

What is New Jersey doing with regard to brain injury research?
Some very basic science, including stem-cell research and understanding brain-cell death, is under way in labs at UMDNJ, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers and Princeton universities, and the Coriell Institute. They can be considered the first steps in the long road to neuron repair.

Steve Adubato is an Emmy-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and host of One-on-One With Steve Adubato on the Comcast Network.

Read more Jersey Celebrities, Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown