George Norcross could be next in line for a Camden tax break

 George Norcross, a powerful South Jersey Democrat and chairman of the board of Cooper University Health Care, is hoping to move his bi-state insurance company to a new site in Camden (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

George Norcross, a powerful South Jersey Democrat and chairman of the board of Cooper University Health Care, is hoping to move his bi-state insurance company to a new site in Camden (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

South Jersey businessman George Norcross is hoping to secure a major tax break to move his insurance company to a new site in Camden.

Considered one of the most influential Democrats in state politics, Norcross plans to relocate his company, Conner, Strong, and Buckelew, to an 18-story office building that would be constructed on the Camden waterfront, with a parking deck and an “outdoor piazza” with views of the Philadelphia skyline.

Two others companies with an ownership stake in the building, NFI and The Michaels Organization, would also relocate there under the plan.

Norcross applied for a $86 million, 10-year tax incentive through the controversial Grow N.J. program, which is run by the state Economic Development Authority and rewards companies that keep or create jobs in the state.

Combined with the applications from NFI and the Michaels Organization, the total amount in tax breaks being sought by the project is $245 million.

“If our applications are approved by the EDA, we will each be investing tens of millions of dollars and aligning the futures of our companies with the future of Camden,” Norcross said in a statement.

The EDA will consider the applications in a regular meeting Thursday.

Norcross, chairman of the board of Cooper University Health Care, is no stranger to the Grow N.J. program, which has provided more than $1 billion in tax breaks over the past few years to companies setting up shop in Camden.

When his brother, now-Congressman Donald Norcross, was a state Senator, he helped pass the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, which beefed up the tax break program.

Conner, Strong, and Buckelew would be moving jobs from its two current headquarters in Marlton, N.J., and Philadelphia, Pa.

It is unclear if any of the three companies would be creating new jobs in Camden.

Jon Whiten, vice president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank that has been critical of the Grow N.J. program, said it is unclear whether granting this tax break would benefit the residents of Camden — or just enrich the applicants.

“If the goal is really to help turn Camden around in the long-run, there should’ve been more provisions like a local hiring requirement that were put into place here,” said Whiten.

Since the Grow N.J. program was updated in 2013, the EDA has promised more than $4 billion in tax breaks to more than 200 companies.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the value of the tax break that Norcross’s company is requesting. His company is only applying for an $86 million tax break. The total amount sought in incentives by all three companies is $245 million.

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