Dozens of Camden residents interviewed Tuesday for jobs at Holtec International as the company makes efforts to become one of the largest employers in the city.
Holtec, a company that designs equipment for power plants, held interviews at the Camden County One-Stop Career Center for labor, welding, machinist, and technician jobs. About 40 people interviewed, and they were predominantly Camden residents, said Jack Johnson, a human resources manager for Holtec.
The energy company, which won $260 million in tax credits to move from Evesham, began its transition earlier this year to its city campus, located on the Delaware River in south Camden.
Johnson said in an interview Tuesday that he was unsure how many of the applicants would receive job offers. Those who do get hired will likely start within the next month. He added that in addition to seeking employees to hire immediately, the company was looking for candidates that it can consider when positions open up in the future.
"It depends on the candidates," he said. "We're still staffing up. … If somebody has a machinery background, we'll have those opportunities. If someone has a more traditional labor background, we have those positions too."
Most of Tuesday's candidates were either unemployed or underemployed, Johnson said.
Holtec is also collaborating with Camden County College, a two-year community college, to train welders. Job-seekers learn how to weld, said Camden County freeholder Jonathan Young, and after that they may be hired by Holtec.
Later this month, the first graduates from the program will attend an open house at Holtec, Johnson said.
"Hopefully we'll be able to hire some of them," he added.
Holtec's move to Camden can be traced to the 2013 passage of the Grow New Jersey law, which promised more than $1.5 billion in tax credits to companies who move to the city. Other companies that have been attracted by the tax breaks include Subaru of America, Lockheed Martin, the Philadelphia 76ers, Conner Strong & Buckelew, and the Michaels Organization.
Critics have said the deals are too generous because they involve the relocation of high-paying jobs from other parts of South Jersey, without addressing Camden's chronic unemployment. Many of the companies relocating will also pay less in property taxes.
Among the critics is Jon Whiten of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning think tank that has long argued that the incentives will be costly to taxpayers.
"New Jersey has put nearly all of its economic development eggs in a single basket: big tax breaks for less than 1 percent of the state's businesses," he said in a March Inquirer interview.
Holtec will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September for the Camden facility, but manufacturing there has already begun, Young said. Company officials have previously said that total employment at the campus could reach 1,000 by the end of the decade.
Johnson said Tuesday that the company "really believes this will grow here," and added that Holtec is hoping to help the people of Camden.
"They're good citizens, and they want to work," Johnson said. "They just want an opportunity."