A long-standing plan to build a hotel and conference center near the Atlantic City International Airport is moving closer to reality.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the airport, awarded a contract to a Ventnor firm yesterday to develop the facility in Egg Harbor Township.

Argus Development Corp. is to build it on a 13 1/2-acre site that will be leased from the Federal Aviation Administration.

SJTA officials said Argus has up to 2 1/2 years to complete the project. It's expected to include up to 150 hotel rooms, 6,000 square feet of conference space and possibly a restaurant and stores.

No cost estimate was given.