Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd on Friday announced the creation of a committee that would look for ways to connect the city's small businesses with the large corporations that have begun to move into town.
The committee will be made up of members of city government and the business community and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, which is partnering with the city with the goal of attracting small businesses to Camden and helping them grow.
“Small businesses are truly the backbone and lifeline of our city,” Redd told an audience of more than 100 people at a Chamber of Commerce forum Friday morning at Camden’s Adventure Aquarium.
Redd said the committee would aim to help those businesses network with the large companies that have begun moving into the city in recent years, drawn by generous state tax incentives.
“These businesses bring with them jobs and opportunities,” she said. “And they will need goods and services from our businesses.”
The “Committed to Camden” committee will aim to have its first meeting in June, said Vince Basara, a spokesman for the city. No decisions have yet been made as to who will represent City Hall or the business community in the group, he said, but he said city representatives will be contacting each of Camden’s small business owners in the months to come.
Since the 2013 passage of the Grow New Jersey law, which rewards companies that invest in struggling cities, the state Economic Development Authority has approved more than $1.5 billion in tax credits to businesses that have agreed to move to Camden.
Many city residents and members of the business community have bemoaned the fact that the incentives have been pledged to multimillion-dollar companies that are unlikely to offer many permanent jobs for Camden residents, while small employers in Camden have no access to such assistance.
Much of the committee’s initial focus will be on helping business owners acquire state licenses, certifications, or other regulatory approvals that may be needed in order for them to collaborate with some of those companies, Basara said. The city has a number of contractors, equipment suppliers, food-service providers, and similar vendors who could benefit from the city’s new daytime residents, he said. In the future, he said, the committee would also look at ways to attract new small businesses to Camden. The committee’s partnership with the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce may also help small business owners expand their client base beyond Camden, he said.
“I think there’s an argument in the past that we haven’t done enough to support these businesses, and we realize that,” he said. “We could provide more support, and this is our opportunity to do that.”