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Is Jersey scaring Philly? Not yet Camden area still has ways to go, experts say

A view of Philadelphia from the Camden waterfront, where new projects are in the works.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

It was subtle and yet, at the same time, completely in your face.
In the backdrop of the Philadelphia skyline and its prized Navy Yard, Gov. Chris Christie and state lawmakers gathered last week at the site of a future marine terminal in Paulsboro, touting the economic benefits of establishing a new working port.

Not even an hour later, Christie and others were just up the road in Camden to announce the commitment by Holtec International, a major energy industry manufacturer, after the state awarded the firm a massive 10-year, $260 million tax credit just days earlier.

It was a busy day for state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Audubon), who for months has alluded to big projects coming to the area, one after the other. That parade seems to be underway in earnest — especially as South Jersey’s new aggressive incentive offerings are put to work.

So is it finally time for Philadelphia to start worrying about its neighbor to the east?

“They always do when New Jersey is across the river,” Norcross laughed.

But as some experts in the Keystone State point out, Camden and South Jersey still have a long way to go before they’re ready to really give Philly a run for its money.

“Philadelphia, at this point, has a lot more to offer but also a lot more to worry about than Camden,” said Villanova University economics professor David Fiorenza.

He said Philadelphia has been successful in offering its own incentives — such as tax credits for business that are certified as “sustainable” and job creation tax credits that can reach up to $5,000 per new job. That’s in addition to incentives offered by state officials in Harrisburg.

And the city still has the edge over Camden when it comes to housing and providing an atmosphere in which people live where they work, Fiorenza said.

“As Camden gets more developed, they’re going to have to start looking at more than just bringing business to town,” he said. “They’re going to have to start looking at housing.”

Prior to last year’s incentives overhaul under the Economic Opportunity Act, South Jersey struggled to compete against the Navy Yard, a former working naval shipyard on the banks of the Delaware River that has been transformed into a thriving, 1,200-acre business campus boasting some 145 companies.

Andrew George

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