Subaru seeks New Jersey tax credits to help move its US headquarters to Camden

Energy Associated Press

Subaru announced plans Friday to move its U.S. headquarters to Camden, just four miles from its current home in Cherry Hill, and said it is seeking tax breaks intended to lure jobs to the impoverished city.

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The move by the fast-growing division of the Japanese carmaker would be a coup for a city that is employing new methods to try to improve its schools, reduce crime and attract business in an attempt at resurgence.

"They're definitely welcome," Arthur Barclay, a Camden city councilman, said earlier this week. "There's more jobs, hopefully, for our city residents, and just to put us on the map."

Subaru has not said how much it is seeking in tax breaks; that was expected to be made public later Friday.

The move would continue a bonanza of state tax breaks for businesses that have agreed to move into Camden with incentives offered in a state law adopted last year. In 2014, the state has awarded $500 million in future business tax credits for moves to the city.

Statewide, the breaks total up to $1.8 billion — the most in any year and more than the total the state awarded from 1996 through 2009.

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That law, the Economic Opportunity Act, which was adopted with bipartisan support in the Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, had two incentives aimed specifically at the U.S. headquarters of car companies. One offered extra incentives for them to retain at least 400 employees in the same town where they had been before. Another offers bonuses for them to move into priority areas, including Camden.

Those enticements were written in as officials knew Subaru was considering moving, saying it had outgrown its current headquarters. The company considered locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Bridget Palmer, a spokeswoman for Cherry Hill Township, said earlier this week that the municipality did not want to lose Subaru. But she said "if it's good for Camden, it's good for Cherry Hill."

The move would be the biggest reversal yet of a generations-long migration of residents and businesses from Camden, the nation's most impoverished city, to its well-off suburbs, the most populous of which is Cherry Hill.

Subaru says it is planning to consolidate more than 500 workers in a new building as part of an office park being developed by Camden's biggest company, Campbell Soup. It hopes to make the move in about two years.

This week, Subaru announced U.S. sales through November had already broken the company's annual sales record, something it's achieved six straight years.

The office park was announced several years ago, but no other firms have moved in yet. Part of the reason for the delay was Campbell's litigation over its plan to knock down a stately former Sears store on the site. It was finally razed last year.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is expected to consider the tax credits for Subaru at its meeting on Tuesday.

Other companies that have received tax breaks for moves to Camden include Holtec International, a nuclear power plant components maker that plans to bring manufacturing, engineering and other jobs to the city; Lockheed Martin, which plans to put researchers there; and the Philadelphia 76ers, which plan to move their offices and practice facility there.

Under the program, the businesses must invest a promised amount of money and bring jobs to Camden before they receive the credits, which are generally awarded over 10 years.

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