By Briana Vannozzi
“This time next year Holtec will hire 300 to 400 people and they’ll be working on this facility and we’ll have about 1,000 people here working by the end of the decade,” said Holtec Technology Campus Program Director Ed Mayer.
It’s a big promise from the technology company. It designs, manufactures and installs equipment mainly for the nuclear power industry. About 200 construction workers are on site any given day. Roughly 35 are Camden residents.
“We’re working with the local board of ed and also with Camden County College to put curriculums in place so when students graduate they can come to Holtec at different skill levels and join our apprenticeship program we’re going to have. So our goal is to grow world class fabricators from the local community and have them work at Holtec,” Mayer said.
Once it’s complete, the Holtec manufacturing campus will house three main buildings with more than 600,000 square feet of space on this former shipyard site.
“So the first major phase that Holtec is going to be needing, they’re going to need folks who are able to weld, so what we’ve done is we’ve held two mini job fairs, if you will, for welders,” said Freeholder Jonathan Young.
Holtec received a $260 million tax incentive from the state to relocate here. The company gets the money after it’s up and running, with new jobs and new taxes generated. They’ve pledged to hire locally and the firm is working with the county one stop center to make it happen.
“For years and years and years there’s been a lot of big announcements, big things that are going on so you know there is some skepticism that’s going around right now. But right now if you look around, it’s happening, it’s real,” Young said.
“You know, usually jobs are like two hours away, you know working in Newark sometimes, Atlantic City. This is right around the corner right in my backyard. Been waiting for this all my life, you know what I mean? It’s finally here,” said Harold Hollingsworth of Laborer Pipe Crew Local 172.
But there are still the naysayers. Those who question the return on investment for this third largest tax break given to date.
“It’s choosing winners and losers in the marketplace. We’ve also found that it’s a really bad return on investment and the other thing is Main Street New Jersey doesn’t get these types of politically connected incentives,” said Americans for Prosperity New Jersey State Director Erica Jedynak.
“I think all you have to do is walk around site and look at the investment we’re making and the number of jobs we’re going to create and you know it’s real,” Mayer said.
If all goes according to plan, the future of Holtec will lie in the production for a small modular reactor and that could mean thousands of jobs.
“One great thing about Camden is it had a lot of infrastructure. The rail lines are close and we’re going to have a rail line that actually comes into the building to bring the raw material in and it will also allow us to bring the finished product out,” Mayer said.
“Everyday I see a change in my neighborhood. Every day I come home, and they see me another positive example, you know, working and they want to be a part of it. So the neighborhood is happy and you know it’s hopefully. It’s hope. Hope,” said Charles Little of the Laborer Tri State Local 77.