New Jersey officials on Thursday approved $260 million in tax credits for an Evesham-based power-plant supplier to build a manufacturing plant on the Camden waterfront.
The deal for Holtec International, said to be one of the largest tax-credit awards ever granted by the state, is expected to create 235 jobs and retain 160, said the state Economic Development Authority.
Erin Gold, an authority spokeswoman, said it was the state's understanding that the 160 jobs would be relocated from Evesham, where the company has its headquarters. Holtec also has a base in Jupiter, Fla.
In Camden, where some were questioning Thursday how many jobs would go to city residents, the firm plans to build a manufacturing facility and design center to make components for a small nuclear reactor it has been developing, according to a project summary provided by the authority.
Holtec's founder, Krishna P. Singh, told the authority that without the tax credits, the company would build in Charleston, S.C., state officials said.
In a statement, Holtec said company officials would review the tax-credit package Friday for final acceptance, calling the deal "a great opportunity to make Camden a prominent industrial center in the Northeast."
Joy Russell, vice president of corporate business development for Holtec, said Thursday that she could not comment further on the plans, including how the Evesham site would be affected.
Evesham Mayor Randy Brown said Thursday, "We don't have any manufacturing in our town for Holtec. They have been a fabulous corporate partner, and I expect that to continue. Dr. Singh and I are meeting next week."
Holtec plans to spend $260 million on constructing the plant, projected to occupy 600,000 square feet, according to the project summary.
The company, which supplies parts to power plants and equipment for storing spent nuclear fuel, is among U.S. companies developing small modular nuclear reactors. It intends to use the Camden facility to build parts for a reactor, though nuclear fuel will not be kept on-site, according to the summary.
Holtec also plans to expand its "current line of nuclear products, heat-exchange equipment, and other weldments for delivery to the company's customers worldwide," according to the summary.
Workers at the Camden site will perform a range of jobs, with a median wage of $86,265, state officials said.
Construction is also expected to require 1,400 jobs, state officials said.
Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd, who attended the board meeting, said that city officials were working with another state department on a workforce-development program and that Gov. Christie would join her in making an announcement next week that would "go into further detail about the jobs and the intention of local hires."
"It's a great day for Camden, regardless of some of the naysayers out there," Redd told reporters after the meeting. "We're working really hard to stand Camden up, to create job opportunities for our Camden residents, and this is just a part of our efforts to move Camden forward."
A spokesman for Christie said the governor "will have more to say soon about Holtec and its positive impact in terms of jobs and economic development in Camden."
The award is the latest big tax-credit deal for a Camden project.
The authority in June approved $82 million in tax credits for the 76ers to build a training facility in the city - drawing criticism over the size of the credit, and concern for whether Camden residents would benefit.
Similar questions surfaced Thursday.
New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning think tank, described the amount of credit per job - $658,228 - as "a sky-high number that has never been seen before in New Jersey." The award is the third-largest ever granted by the state, according to the group.
Bob Bryant, a member of Camden Churches Organized for People, who went to the authority meeting in Trenton, asked the board about the rationale of trading $260 million in credits for 235 new jobs, and what the state was doing to reduce unemployment in Camden.
"Why so much for so little?" Bryant asked.
Board Chairman Al Koeppe said the $260 million credit - spread over 10 years - was based on standards set by law, calculated with a formula that "comes right out of legislation."
He also told Bryant that it was "a little bit outside of the scope of our obligation" to say what the authority was doing to address the city's unemployment, explaining that "the EDA is a bank."
The Holtec deal is projected to net the state $155,520 over the course of 35 years - a smaller profit than what projects not in Camden must produce to get credits.
Projects elsewhere must produce a benefit equal to 110 percent of the cost of the credits to the state over 20 or 30 years, depending on the circumstances.
In Camden, projects just have to break even and over 35 years - special conditions included in a 2013 law that expanded the state's economic-incentive programs, including to small businesses.
The company has to build the facility and hire employees before it can receive credits.
The credits - which are contingent on Holtec's keeping the required number of employees at the plant - can be applied to the company's corporate tax bill, or sold to other companies.
Projects that are awarded incentives must be constructed within three years, but companies are allowed to request two six-month extensions. Given the size of the project, state officials said, Holtec requested the extensions up front.
Word of the project inspired a mix of hope and skepticism among some in Camden, where high unemployment persists.
Mike Hagan, 60, a house painter who lives on North 32d Street, said jobs in the city were "a good thing - that's a great thing."
Then he wondered, "Jobs for whom?"
"If history has taught us one thing, it's to be suspicious," he said, asking how many jobs would be filled by city residents. "I want it to be a good thing."
BY THE NUMBERS
Value of tax breaks awarded to Holtec.
Number of jobs to be created or retained.
Cost of tax breaks per job.
Median wage of jobs at the plant.
Median household income in Camden.
SOURCES: Holtec, New Jersey