|Holtec construction site on the waterfront in South Camden, NJ|
Officials at Holtec, the company moving its headquarters and manufacturing facilities
to Camden, hope to help change the city's
economic landscape, bringing jobs to a place
long starved for them.
Phaedra Trethan reports for the Courier-Post:
Ray Jones grew up in Camden; he’s a Camden High School graduate and says, proudly, “I’m a Camden guy.” Though he lives in Sicklerville now, the president of We See You Security still has “Camden in my heart.”
He’s heard the bad things about his hometown — the violence, the poverty, the decay. Still, Jones said, “I can tell you the good things about Camden, too.”
Asked about those good things, the 55-year-old pointed to Camden's people.
“I came from here, I went to school here; I have a master’s degree, and I did all these things when I was a Camden resident. I’m still here every day,” said Jones, the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey police captain.
"And the young people who are here now deserve the same chances I had.”
Jones says he believes Holtec is committed to offering Camden workers good jobs, and the training they need to compete for those jobs. He’s not alone.
Walt Dixon is a co-owner of Contractor Service, a Federal Street company that supplies construction materials and equipment to contractors. They are working with Joseph Jignoli & Son Inc., the primary contractor on the Holtec project, one he calls “by far the biggest job we’ve had in 26 years in Camden.”
Dixon’s business is relatively small, employing 17 people (many of them city residents), but he’s already seen the benefits of Holtec’s investment in Camden. He’s hoping to hire more people in the near future, a result of the six-figure windfall Contractor Service has seen from Holtec.
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“It’s important to get the idea out there that this is not going to be the Camden of the past,” he said. “Buildings don’t make a city — people make a city. Quality jobs can help, but it comes down to education.”
Like Jones, he believes it’s about providing training and opportunity, but also about commitment from the workers.
“We don’t need college graduates; we need people who can come in to work every day and have a good attitude. Our business is about building relationships.”
Holtec, he said, is holding up its end: “They want to hire local people and do business locally. And that’s great.”
Robert Lee of Jingoli & Son said his company has made a point of approaching Camden institutions, from local unions to the mayor’s office, to ensure as many city residents as possible are employed on the 52-acre site. Nearly 200 people, from laborers to pile drivers to welders to truck drivers, are working on the project.
“We call the union halls and make sure that we get Camden residents before they send anyone to us,” Lee said. “We go to the community leaders and ask for individuals who are willing to work, to show up on time. We went to City Hall to get a list that the mayor’s office has of individuals who are ready and willing to work on a construction site.
“It ended up turning out great,” he said, noting Jingoli has 30 Camden residents working on the site and is using city vendors like We See You and Contractor Service.
Taariq Ayers is a pile driver and pre-apprentice who came to Jingoli through his masjid in Camden. The 21-year-old Woodrow Wilson graduate said he’s getting on-the-job training and calls his work “a great opportunity.”
Jones, of We See You, said Holtec and Jingoli began their community outreach “a year before the shovels hit the ground,” and he knew he could help provide the Camden residents they wanted to hire