Access to mass transportation and a growing, diverse labor pool are helping Camden compete for new and expanded corporate facilities in New Jersey, according to southern New Jersey corporate real estate experts.
“Although Camden the city has its problems, it’s well located to service the greater Philadelphia area through transportation, given its access to lesser highways, railways and ports,” said Alfred Schwacke, senior vice president of Grubb & Ellis Co.‘s Philadelphia office services group.
In Site Selection Magazine, the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area ranked seventh in the nation among metro areas with populations over 1 million for securing 113 corporate real estate projects in 2011. To qualify as a new and expanded corporate facility, a project had to create at least 50 full-time regular jobs, involve at least 20,000 square feet or cost at least $1 million for construction, land and building. The Camden market did not rank in the top 10 in 2010, while the New York, Newark, Edison metro area has ranked fifth for two years in a row.
Schwacke said Camden County has the potential to lure enough corporate tenants to match or outrank Newark and Edison in 2012, citing the county’s equal participation in the Economic Development Authority’s Urban Transit Hub tax credit program, yet lower cost of living and less congested transportation system.
“Being in the greater Philadelphia metro area helps, because corporations can take advantage of New Jersey’s economic development incentives but still have access to Philadelphia, Delaware and even New York,” Schwacke said. “Within the state, South Jersey has the same advantages as North Jersey, but it’s cheaper. Even from an employee’s standpoint, in Camden, companies can gain a whole range of them with varying skill sets and salary levels from a full 360 degrees.”
While real estate expansion in the health care and defense industries has been steady in Camden County, a wider variety of industries has begun to take interest in the region, said Anne Klein, Grubb & Ellis Co.‘s Marlton office services senior vice president.
“Camden County now has high-speed data centers connected to New York City, so we’re seeing expansion in several industries, like engineering and software, which really helps a small market like ours,” Klein said. “Even law firms are looking to locate here.”
According to Schwacke, rising oil prices have accounted for Houston’s top-tier rankings in Site Selection since the recession.
“Houston is tied to oil, and oil has been the flavor of month for a while,” Schwacke said.
Klein said Camden County is starting to “see a turn with the economic upswing,” since several of her corporate clients had sought out properties in Houston, but are now seeking mixed-use office space in southern New Jersey.