The Economic Opportunity Act has been good to Camden. The 2013 law that revamped New Jersey’s economic development incentive programs attracted corporate headquarters for Subaru and American Water and was instrumental in spurring Camden’s revitalization over the last five years.
The programs created by the law—Grow NJ and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth (ERG)—have since lapsed after coming under fire by the Murphy administration, which suggests they were overly generous and have not benefited the public enough to justify their costs. Gov. Murphy has his own five-program plan for incentives, but the Legislature has not acted on his proposals.
On Monday, former Camden Mayor Dana Redd, now the CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors, and the CEOs of Subaru and American Water appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies to explain that Camden’s resurgence relied heavily on the ability to attract quality companies to the city, which has benefited residents and the states with investments and jobs.
“None of the companies that have come to Camden needed to come to Camden,” Redd said.
Tom Doll, president and CEO of Subaru of America, Inc., and Susan Story, president and CEO of American Water Works, said their respective headquarters would likely be located in Pennsylvania today were it not for the incentives they received. The companies have spent or invested $140 million and $165 million in Camden, respectively, since receiving them.They said they have programs in place to ensure that Camden residents have access to their jobs and Camden businesses get at least some of their contracts.
The state is going on 13 weeks without its two major incentive programs, and NJBIA remains concerned about the impact the standoff on incentive programs will have on New Jersey’s economy. The Legislature passed a bill to temporarily extend Grow NJ and ERG, which NJBIA supported, until lawmakers and the governor could come to an agreement on new programs. Murphy vetoed it.
Story said American Water was looking to locate its headquarters in several states, including New Jersey, and Doll said he was getting a lot of pressure from his superiors in Japan to move Subaru’s headquarters to Indiana, which not only has a considerably lower cost of doing business but also is home to the company’s main American manufacturing facility.
Both said they wanted to stay in New Jersey to minimize the disruption to their employees, but that without incentives, that probably would not have been economically possible.
The committee is charged with developing a new economic incentive plan to replace and hopefully improve upon Grow NJ and ERG. NJBIA is supportive of many of the changes that are discussed, and agrees that increased transparency and record-keeping should be part of the programs going forward. But make no mistake, New Jersey needs incentive programs.