An analysis by the state’s Economic Development Authority of 25 projects wooed to Camden County with corporate tax breaks found that only 26 percent went to county residents and only 2 percent to Camden City residents, EDA Chairman Kevin Quinn said Sept. 12.
County officials disputed the findings.
The EDA examined a total of 1,098 jobs, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. But it is not clear which companies the EDA looked at and the total number of tax breaks they won under the controversial and now-expired Grow New Jersey program. Overall, New Jersey residents were hired for 76 percent of the construction jobs, Quinn said.
The scope of the data provided to the EDA is limited, Quinn cautioned. The study relies on reports that construction contractors working on EDA projects must submit – known as certified payroll reports – which include the zip codes of those on the payroll for the construction projects. The data was derived from payroll reports at the midpoint of the 25 construction projects, Quinn said.
Quinn said that the EDA lacks the authority to force companies to turn over data about their hiring demographics, such as whether the people employed were local hires. Nonetheless, officials asked several Grow NJ recipients to hand over that data voluntarily.
Gov. Phil Murphy claimed that the report offered a measure of vindication for his administration’s approach to the tax incentive issue.
“These numbers speak to what we have said all along – that any incentive program must contain assurances that awards will benefit not just large companies, but also local residents and the communities in which they live,” Murphy said. “The EDA is working to compile similar numbers for the permanent jobs provided by GROW NJ recipients. I’m hopeful the companies will provide that data as soon as possible so we can better determine what benefits local residents have received from our significant investments.”
At least double the amount of tax breaks were awarded to companies moving into Camden County, according to EDA data.
Camden County spokesperson Daniel Keashen rejected the EDA’s report, saying that the agency left out an unknown the number of union construction workers, and offered a limited and inaccurate assessment of who has been employed in Camden because of the tax break program.
“We have about 194 residents that have participated in construction projects across the city” out of the 1,098 jobs, Keashen said. He argued that “construction is just one phase of job creation in the city,” and said that there were local efforts such as by the Union Organization for Social Services to train and certify 40 residents for trade work.
“They’re not including all of those union iron workers, carpenters, laborers, they’re leaving some of those unions out, which ones we don’t know,” he added. “Basically what they’re saying is ‘this is a snapshot at this moment in time.'”
According to media reports and a task force Gov. Phil Murphy convened to scrutinize Grow NJ, $1.1 billion of the $1.6 billion of incentives that went to companies for moving to the city of Camden were won by companies with close ties to South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross.
Proponents of the Grow NJ – including local officials and top Democratic lawmakers – have defended the infusion of tax break dollars to Norcross-tied companies, arguing that it has allowed Camden residents to reap local benefits for its residents.
But those living in the city contend that they have seen little economic benefit from companies moving to Camden. Most of the jobs have simply gone to those living outside the city, who spend little if any time in Camden after work contributing to the local economy, residents and activists contend.
This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. EDT on Sept. 12, 2019 to add a comment from Gov. Phil Murphy.