During a decade of managing the Camden Economic Recovery Board, the state Economic Development Authority has used more than $165 million in funding to spur nearly seven times that amount in total investment in the city.
But the funding is nearing its end. EDA officials say only about $10 million remains from the allocation, which has been used to finance everything from storefront renovations on Haddon Avenue to a 70,000-square-foot expansion of the New Jersey Aquarium.
“We are definitely on the downward slope,” said Timothy J. Lizura, the EDA’s president and chief operating officer. Still, he said, “Just because (ERB) funding is ending doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be any less committed to the city. In fact, we may spend more time down there trying to figure out creative solutions to challenges.”
The EDA subsidiary was created by state law in 2002, authorizing the EDA to sell $175 million in bonds to fund revitalization projects in the ailing city. The program has assisted about 110 projects since the EDA began taking applications in 2003.
The ERB’s highest-profile beneficiaries in recent years have included Rowan University. The school was awarded $9 million in 2011 for the construction of its Cooper Medical School, which totaled $138 million in costs and opened last year to great fanfare.
But smaller ERB programs like the Business Lease Incentive also have been popular. The program has helped lure users like Drexel University, in Philadelphia, to buildings like the EDA’s Waterfront Technology Center, thanks to nearly $460,000 in total grants to date, according to authority figures.
And while ERB funding will soon be gone, Lizura pointed to several other incentives that have or could benefit Camden, including the Urban Transit Hub tax credit and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program. That’s not to mention funding sources beyond the EDA.
“I’m not too terribly worried about not having tools,” Lizura said. “Certainly we’d love to have more private investment in the city, and we’re working toward trying to get that to happen.”
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