Camden colleges and hospitals are touting their contributions to South Jersey as a new report from the Camden Higher Education and Health Care Taskforce tallies job counts, salary and education levels for the city.
Academic health care institutions are helping to reposition Camden as the center of a knowledge-based economy, says Louis Bezich, group leader. The list includes Cooper University Hospital, Camden County College and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
“It demonstrates, we believe, that an investment in ‘eds and meds,’ and the investment that’s been made over the last decade, generates a return on that investment,” Bezich said.
The new report touts 4.4 percent employment growth over the last decade, but the Rev. Marilyn Dixon-Hill called the gain “pitiful.” Dixon-Hill is an associate minister at the Camden Bible Tabernacle and a member of the citizen action group Camden Churches Organized for People.
She said many friends, family and neighbors — “people on the ground” — never hear about the new opportunities.
“We’re just waiting for our chance to get in. Did you ever play Double Dutch when you were a kid? The ropes are turning and you’re rocking back and forth waiting for your chance to jump in and be a part of it,” Dixon-Hill said.
She said it seems many of Camden’s jobs are not going to city residents and she wants the “eds and meds” to do a better job creating a pipeline for local people.
In Philadelphia — another “eds and meds” hub — out-of-town workers pay a wage tax for the privilege of working in the city. Camden does not require a wage tax. Bezich said the new report does not address that difference.
“It would be an a good academic study, and an economic analysis, to see the pros and cons of how many dollars would be generated from a wage tax versus the downside of driving business out of the city or as a discouragement to new businesses coming into the city,” Bezich said.
“We welcome all the activity that’s here and coming here,” said Saundra Ross Johnson, executive director of the Camden Redevelopment Agency. “All of this is exciting work and it brings in critical mass.”Johnson said she’s met with some of the new dental and medical students in Camden.
“In a very youthful, energetic and spirited way, they are bringing their particular flavor to the city and that’s exciting to see,” she said.