With billions invested in Camden, business leaders confident of city's future

Mike Dougherty
January 02, 2019 - 4:00 am
Construction continues on the Camden waterfront.

Jim Walsh

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CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — For some, the growing economy and burgeoning businesses have been a long time coming for the city of Camden.

The city has reduced crime and improved graduation rates over the past five years. Business is improving the course for the city — one that was once considered one of the most dangerous places in the country.

"Camden is at an inflection point," said Kris Kolluri, CEO of Cooper's Ferry Partnership, the engine behind a lot of the economic development in Camden. He has been working for years to attract businesses, improve infrastructure and put the city back on the map for investment. 

"This city has the capacity to grow in population and to welcome visitors and residents alike to be participants in the growth of the city," he added.

Subaru, American Water, Holtec and other companies have recently made Camden their headquarters, investing more than $2.3 billion in the city.

Last year, Camden had 3 million visitors, Kolluri noted, and tens of millions of dollars are being spent on improvements to continue to grow that number.

"If you look at Hoboken and Jersey City circa 1980 to 1985, you would see what you see here on the Camden waterfront," he added. "We believe with every fiber of our being that this city has the bones, has the will and has the capacity to succeed in ways that others may not have."

With all of these new businesses setting up shop, Kolluri believes there will be even more opportunities going forward.

"Cooper's Ferry has been here for 34 years. We believe in the people. We believe in the residents and their hopes and dreams," he said. "Our expectation is to make sure inclusive prosperity means inclusive prosperity."

Freeholder Lou Cappelli said the county college system will be a big part of helping residents land middle-class jobs to share the success. It is currently designing "specialized training programs" around the needs of businesses to build a skilled labor force.

But part of having a thriving city means having thriving residents, and that has not been the case for Camden natives in the past.

About 30 percent of the city's population is under 18. He hopes with expanding opportunities in education, they will be able to contribute to the local economy going forward.

"It's important that the residents who get jobs in the city stay in the city because we need to build the middle class in that city," he said.

Cappelli noted most of the crime still taking place in the city — in one way or another — is related to poverty. Both Cappelli and Kolluri agree that the recent reduction in crime along with spending millions on public parks makes the city even more attractive for future investment.

The next step: They hope to see is more bars, restaurants and hotels opening up.

"The foundation and fundamentals of the city are secure, and now our expectation is we intend to build on it," Kolluri said.

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This is part two of a three-part series in which KYW Newsradio's Mike Dougherty takes an in-depth look at what has changed in the city of Camden.