Redd and others talk positive on Camden

Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd is flanked by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and State Sen. Donald Norcross. Guadagno said the state was marketing Camden hard. Norcross said announcements were expected on big projects.
Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd is flanked by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and State Sen. Donald Norcross. Guadagno said the state was marketing Camden hard. Norcross said announcements were expected on big projects. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 14, 2014

CAMDEN Mayor Dana L. Redd declared the city open for business and on the right track Wednesday, and urged businesses to invest in its rebirth.

Redd, serving a second term as mayor of the city of about 79,000 people, delivered her State of the City address Wednesday during the Cooper's Ferry Partnership's annual meeting, during which the nonprofit development agency also highlighted its work in the past year.

"The message I have for you is, it is Camden's time," Redd told the audience at the Adventure Aquarium. "Give it up for Camden."

Redd said Camden must stabilize its neighborhoods, improve public education, provide more access to housing, and continue to improve public safety.

Camden has perennially been ranked as one of the most violent cities in the country. Last year, it disbanded its municipal police force in favor of a new unit run by Camden County.

"It's the best decision I've made as mayor," Redd said.

Redd also praised the state takeover of the city's failing public schools last year, saying "our children must come first." Construction is slated to begin next year on two Renaissance schools. Six schools will be renovated.

"For our youth to stay in school and excel, they must be given opportunities that set them up for success and not failure," Redd said.

More than 400 people attended the gathering, including former Gov. James J. Florio, City Council and school board members, and business leaders from across the region.

"The mayor is on the right track," said Ali Sloan-El, a longtime city activist. "If she stands firm, Camden is on its way."

The meeting had the aura of an elegant pep rally for the beleaguered city. Guests ate waiter-served hors d'oeuvres in a glass-enclosed room with a panoramic view of the Delaware River.

"The city is on the way up," said county Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. "The rebirth of the city is about to happen."

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was among those who praised the Economic Opportunity Act, signed into law last year by Gov. Christie, as the key to Camden's turnaround. It provided $175 million for economic development projects in Camden and allows companies to seek tax credits to create jobs.

Guadagno said the state had begun to aggressively market Camden and had approached more than 6,600 businesses. Its pitch begins with: "Can I interest you in a piece of property in Camden?"

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), introduced by Redd as "soon to be congressman," said announcements were expected for two major projects in the city within six months. No details were disclosed. Norcross is seeking the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews.

"Camden really is open for business," Norcross said. "This time, it's real."

During the event, the Camden Hero award was presented to Paul and Alma Cain of the Salvation Army, who are overseeing construction of a community center. Camden resident Carol Lindsey was named ambassador of the year for the Camden Special Services District.


mburney@phillynews.com

856-779-3814 @mlburney

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