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NJ Business Beat discusses Esports Innovation Center

Over the past year the state has provided millions of dollars in grants to try to help businesses that have lost revenue due to pandemic related restrictions. At the same time, New Jersey is looking to the future, trying to invest in industries that will provide jobs for residents and growth opportunities for companies. with that in mind, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority is supporting the creation of innovation centers at two of the state's universities.

One at New Jersey City University that we'll talk about in a moment, the other is at Stockton University, and that one will focus on growing the esports industry. I talked with Scott Huston, Stockton's Chief Information Officer about the future of competitive video gaming in the states.

Rhonda Schaffler: Big news for esports fans with this innovation center. tell me about the partnership now between Stockton and the NJEDA.

Scott Huston: Stockton University is lucky to have this great partnership with the NJEDA. We had an idea for an esports innovation center. We thought there was no better place than Atlantic City to place this and we have a beautiful campus on the board walk in Atlantic City. So we hope to position this 501c3 innovation on our campus in Atlantic City.

Rhonda Schaffler: What will the center be going?

Scott Huston: Workforce development will be huge. We see there's a lot of jobs coming out of esports in a lot of different fields between business marketing, communication, technology, and events management. There's really a lot of different opportunities out there. and we're hoping to spur some jobs out of this movement.

Rhonda Schaffler: I heard that hack-a-thons will be happening and so that's exciting too.

Scott Huston: Sure, the esports market is not just video games. There's a following behind it. It spurs out to other things like hack-a-thons, programming competitions. Stockton started their program two years ago now and we blossomed to over 300 students participating in the program but not all are just doing the gaming. There's different sides to esports and the different possibilities so we attract a bunch of different students.

Rhonda Schaffler: In the innovation center, the EDA pointed out that some companies are making investments in New Jersey in regards to esports, what has brought them to new jersey up to this point?

Scott Huston: I think New Jersey is a great place for this. obviously we have Atlantic City, one of the national gaming centers of the world, so I think there's a lot available there. We've had a lot of collegiate teams that have become very popular in esports. We've hosted successful events in Atlantic City.

Rhonda Schaffler: What's the time line for this? When does the center get up and running?

Scott Huston: Our plan is by the fall to be fully up and running, have a director in place, scheduling some events and getting some other members on board to form out what the mission of the innovation center will be. What kind of events we want to start with and what kind of thought leadership we can put together for New Jersey moving forward in the esports area.

Rhonda Schaffler: We're going to track your progress. Thanks for filling us in today, appreciate it.

Scott Huston: I appreciate you having us on and I look forward to this becoming special for New Jersey.

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