By Briana Vannozzi
It seems everyone wants a piece of Camden lately. First the Philadelphia 76ers announced they’d bring a practice facility and offices to the tune of $82 million approved by the state last month and today the state’s Economic Development Authority approved $260 million in tax incentives for Holtec International, an Evesham-based manufacturing company in the energy industry.
It’s the third largest tax subsidy ever awarded by the state, behind only Revel Casino in Atlantic City and the American Dream Meadowlands project, formerly known as Xanadu.
Holtec would create 250 new jobs as part of the requirement, retain 160 already here and build a 600,000-square-foot complex on the South Jersey port property.
The company has offices in nearby Marlton, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Ukraine and India.
One member of the public spoke up during today’s vote with the question on many critic’s minds — $260 million for 250 jobs?
“Why so much for so little?” he asked. “You know from much of that is dictated by the legislation itself.”
The funding comes from a state law adopted last year to boost development and spur jobs in Camden. The Economic Opportunity Act gives firms moving to the city corporate business tax credits over the course of 10 years, equal to the amount of their investment.
“The company has to make all the investment first and then every year we certify the employment is at the location and then we certify that they can take $26 million against corporate business taxes if they chose,” said EDA President and COO Tim Lizura.
But at today’s meeting, both EDA and Camden officials were reluctant to give any specifics on just how much of a boost this will provide.
“Today was simply about getting through the process of approvals and so again we will reach out to you invite you to that press conference and also go into further detail about the jobs and the intention of local hires,” said Camden Mayor Dana Redd.
Questions about connections between Holtec’s founder Kris Singh and Democratic power broker George Norcross also went unanswered. Singh is a member of the board at Cooper University Hospital where Norcross is chairman. Norcross is a director at Holtec.
Critics were quick to sound off.
“It’s an inefficient use of very scarce tax dollars and it means we are probably going to be left holding the bag and if the company chooses to leave after 15 years the loss to the tax payers will be close to $150 million,” said NJ Policy Perspective President Gordon MacInnes.
Holtec says it is gratified by the decision and is reviewing the grant. A formal announcement is expected to be made in Camden on Monday.