Spotlight On: Thomas Cook, Executive Director & CEO, Delaware River & Bay Authority – DRBA

Spotlight On: Thomas Cook, Executive Director & CEO, Delaware River & Bay Authority – DRBA

2022-07-27T13:44:52-04:00July 27th, 2022|South Jersey, Spotlight On, Transportation|

2 min read July 2022 The Delaware River & Bay Authority (DRBA) oversees transportation connections on land, water and in the air that serve the traveling public. In an interview with Invest:, Executive Director and CEO Thomas Cook discussed developments in the market, the current standing of the DRBA, its role in creating economic development in the region and the advantages of doing business in South Jersey.

What developments have shaped the current market?

The pandemic has been a challenge not only for the DRBA but for the Northeast region and the transportation facilities in that area. When the pandemic hit, we had just had a record year in 2019 with over 18 million transactions on the bridge. This trend continued during January and February. On March 13, 2020, I called my senior team together and asked for a 10% budget cut by that coming Friday. Once we got to Wednesday, I said it needed to be a 20% cut. The uncertainty of that time period was unbelievable but it allowed us to look at our operation and find ways to be more efficient. We implemented a hiring freeze and evaluated any vacancies. Ultimately, that shift allowed us to become better and more efficient in how we do business.

What would you say is the current standing of the DRBA?

We are in the process of receiving a grant for the Delaware Memorial Bridge to install electric vehicle charging stations at our headquarters in New Castle. The Bridge is a vital transportation link connecting the Northeast Corridor – 36 million vehicles use it annually. Electric vehicles will continue to gain market share and we have to adapt to that and provide alternatives. Partnering with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, EV charging stations are up and operational at our Cape May and Lewes terminal locations. We’re also focused on creating a green energy master plan – exploring solar and wind potential at our airport locations and ferry terminals.  

Additionally, we are in the process of planning for the future of our ferry system in Cape May and Lewes. The current fleet is starting to near the end of their useful life. We’ve been working to develop a master plan that will incorporate alternative energy sources for new ferry vessels and, hopefully, we’ll be able to fund this next generation of our vessels with the federal infrastructure bill. The specific regulations are expected to come at the end of the summer; but as we look to plan for the next 50 years, we are exploring electric engines for our fleet which means we must have charging capabilities on both sides of the bay. We have to prepare for that and put the proper infrastructure in place so that we can serve our citizens in the greenest and most efficient manner.

What is your involvement in fostering economic opportunities in the region?

A large part of our mission is to connect people and places in the heart of the Northeast Corridor with our vision of being an innovative leader in transportation and a catalyst for partner growth and prosperity in New Jersey. Not only do we operate the bridge and the ferries, but we also manage an airport network. At the Millville and Cape May airports, we’re focused on creating the foundation that allows small businesses to set up, start and grow.

A great example is the Cape May Brewery. It started with two college kids who grew their business from our incubator. Now, it is the second-largest craft brewery in New Jersey. We provide these facilities to allow small businesses to start and grow. We normally lease units of 1,500 square feet per business but they can take more than one location. In Millville, we are getting ready to build another new multitenant building. We have been able to lure in Jet East, a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility that works on Citation jets that customers lease out. They are looking to employ at least 200 people in good-paying jobs in the area, which demonstrates our role in creating economic development.

What are the key advantages of doing business in the South Jersey region?

It starts with the quality of the workforce. Obviously, we not only have a presence, but we employ people at the bridge and ferries. We have a great team right now. Three permanent captains are females. Two of them started in the food service industry on the ferry and worked their way up, went to school, studied and became full-time captains. The third grew up in Cape May. The three of them are success stories that highlight the workforce in the region. We have a great working relationship with the counties, the chambers of commerce and the business community. Businesses that come into the community are welcomed by other businesses and local leaders.

For more information, visit: opens in a new windowhttps://www.drba.net/