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Subaru expected to be latest to move to Camden

This week, Camden Mayor Dana Redd told a crowd at a public event that more big news was on the horizon for the city's economic development.

This week, Camden Mayor Dana Redd told a crowd at a public event that more big news was on the horizon for the city's economic development.

Officials won't say more publicly, but two people with knowledge of the project said Wednesday that Subaru of America will soon announce its move from Cherry Hill to Camden.

Michael McHale, a spokesman for Subaru, said the company has been scouting possible sites for some time, including property in Philadelphia, but declined to say whether a decision had been made.

The company, which has 300 employees at its Route 70 headquarters and 200 in its nearby Pennsauken operations center, is looking to consolidate operations in a larger space than the 115,000-square-foot building in Cherry Hill, he said.

"We're looking to bring everyone in under one roof," McHale said. "We've outgrown the space we have now."

Cherry Hill officials have said they hoped to keep the company in town.

Bridget Palmer, a spokeswoman for the township, said Wednesday that Cherry Hill would be disappointed to see Subaru go.

"With that said, what's good for Camden is good for Cherry Hill," she said, "and if the company chooses a location outside of Cherry Hill, the best possible alternative is to keep it in South Jersey."

The announcement is expected to involve millions of dollars in tax incentives from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Trenton. The board would not comment before the meeting.

When legislators passed the Economic Opportunity Act last year, the bill contained a provision specifically designed to address Subaru: a line defining "a priority area housing the United States headquarters and related facilities of an automobile manufacturer" as a "mega project" eligible for extra tax credits on its corporate tax bill. At the time, lawmakers said they wanted to create additional incentives to keep Subaru in South Jersey.

Pennsylvania officials have also expressed interest in drawing the company there, citing Philadelphia's available tax incentives.

The Economic Opportunity Act expanded the availability of business tax incentives statewide, but it has special provisions to benefit South Jersey and Camden in particular. This year has seen three major companies agree to put down roots in the city.

Last month, it was announced that defense contractor Lockheed Martin would receive $107 million in tax credits to open a laboratory there.

In what was described as the largest tax incentive since one given to the now-closed Revel casino in Atlantic City, energy company Holtec International was awarded $260 million in tax credits, and the 76ers received $82 million in tax credits to build a practice facility on the Camden riverfront.

In return, each company is required to create or preserve at least 250 jobs in Camden and stay in the city for 15 years.

Critics say tax incentives often are ineffective and have questioned how the projects will help Camden locals. They say few city residents are likely to be qualified for the high-skilled jobs at these companies. Redd, however, has described recent projects as "catalysts for change" that are essential in moving the city forward.