November 17, 1999
Board wants `Big J' to use local businesses
By CAROL COMEGNO
CAMDEN - Members of the Camden City Chamber of Commerce want to see city businesses become contractors for the battleship USS New Jersey museum if it comes to the city Waterfront.
They also hope a battleship tourist attraction would further spur development not just at the Waterfront but elsewhere here.
Chamber members expressed these feelings Tuesday night to the president of the nonprofit Home Port Alliance, a regional group that has applied to the Navy to bring the ship to Camden.
“If we get the ship, it is our intention to include city businesses when we send out competitive proposals for work,” Home Port President David McGuigan said at the chamber's monthly meeting at The Tavern on 6th Street.
He stressed the alliance is committed to its mission statement, which calls for the ship museum to help the local economy as well as educate the public about the Navy's history and the state's veterans.
McGuigan said the Home Port Alliance does not yet have a full-time paid staff but is in the process of compiling a list of city businesses for contracts in the spring NOTE:of 2000if South Jersey is awarded the ship.
However, he said a complete list has been difficult to obtain.
“We can't seem to get a complete list from anyone even the city economic development office and we want to know what's out there. We need not just the name and number of the businesses but the type of services they provide, which is essential for a bidding process when we hire contractors to refurbish and help maintain the ship,” he said.
Chamber President David R. Garrison, owner of Cartun Hardware at 36th and Federal streets, said one of the problems is that not all businesses have city licenses, mainly because of what he called a burdensome licensing process.
He estimated Camden has about 1,300 business and that “hundreds” do not have a business license.
Richard Crean, of Contractor Service at 1730 Federal St., said city businesses had a distasteful experience when the state Aquarium opened at the Waterfront because it was operated by the organization that runs the Philadelphia Zoo.
“They had their own pet vendors from Philadelphia in the beginning until the chamber got involved,” said Crean, whose company supplies equipment to contractors now involved in the Gateway beautification project along Admiral Wilson Boulevard.
Chamber Vice President Gene Lawrence said the chamber wants the battleship to help spur other business growth but does not know how that will happen yet.
McGuigan said there is an assumption that the battleship museum project and the proposed ballpark and aerial tram across to Philadelphia will generate other development.
“But developing that is really outside our jurisdiction,” he said.
The alliance is proposing a Delaware River berth for the ship between the E-Centre and the marine terminal at Beckett Street. The New Jersey Battleship Commission, a quasi-
state agency, has proposed a Bayonne site to the Navy, which has promised a decision early next year.
If is a restaurant, we would like to have local people hired and if there is a T-shirt made for the battleship, we would like a local company to do it,” Garrison said.