Can Camden’s ‘Eds and Meds’ help lift all of South Jersey?

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

At the New Jersey Business and Industry Association event, keynote speaker Louis Bezich explained Camden lost half of its manufacturing jobs and most of its middle class between 1950 and 1970. The key to rebuilding was in the city’s anchor institutions — Camden’s higher education and health care facilities.

“We made the case that if the state was going to invest any money, that it would get the biggest bang for its buck and would get a great return on investment if there was some investment in eds and meds,” said keynote speaker Louis Bezich, the senior vice president for strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care.

He says one of the critical first steps in the evolution of eds and meds was a 2002 economic stimulus package that laid the groundwork to get Camden to where it is now.

“Eds and meds, number one, are a magnet for both economic growth in terms of the number of people we employ, in terms of our capital and operating budgets, in terms of the business we throw off to Camden businesses, and of course all the people we employ. In addition to that, we literally bring people to Camden whether they come here for their education or they come here for their health care,” Bezich said.

Nine anchor institutions, including CAMcare, Camden County College and Cooper University Health Care for a task force. Together they have a more than $2 billion economic impact on Camden alone, according to the NJBIA. The institutions provide nearly 55 percent of the jobs in the city with the help of other agencies, according to the Camden Higher Education and Health Care Task Force.

“I would argue, as one who’s studied public policy, that it’s totally appropriate and in many ways necessary for the government to work with the private sector to revitalize a city,” Bezich said.

Former Mayor Dana Redd says education and medical institutions are creating a bio hub not just for Camden but all of South Jersey.

“We are currently in the third phase of our eds and meds evolution. Currently under construction is the Joint Health Sciences Center, which is a project of Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden board of governors. And we are looking to open our facility with all our academic partners in mid 2019 and we also have under construction, or in consideration, if you will, Rutgers is looking at building a new business school along the corridor, so we’re filling the gap, if you will, in the city of Camden,” Redd said.

Rep. Donald Norcross says South Jersey will also be fueled by the opportunity zones program which gives tax breaks to companies who invest in certain communities over a period of time.