This is good news.
East Camden is getting a new Fine Fare supermarket, a chain that focuses mainly on Hispanic customers. It will be only the third supermarket of any size in the city. It will bring $3 million in investment – before the store even opens – and 45 permanent jobs.
What’s also good about it is the role Mayor Dana Redd’s government is playing. Here’s what is interesting:
Getting the project together has already taken a year, according to the businessmen.
They were aided by Camden officials, particularly Vincent Basara, Mayor Dana Redd’s business ombudsman.
The city helped get them through the application and permit process, said Basara.
The city persuaded the two to install energy-efficient lights and refrigeration. That qualified them for a $25,000 grant dedicated to upgrading their façade, said Basara.
The city is also moving to take down two abandoned properties, long off the tax rolls, in the rear. That should allow the business to expand the parking lot, said Basara.
The city has unfulfilled hopes of bringing in a major grocery – 50,000 square feet – to the downtown area.
Often times cities focus just on the big projects – like that downtown supermarket. They are hard to pull off, they require a ton of money, and they often fail.
It’s good to see Camden also making things work on the smaller stuff – in a neighborhood location (not downtown), 15,000 square feet (not 50,000 square feet), and so on. That small stuff adds up – with 45 jobs here and 45 jobs there. And it’s much more likely to stick over time because it starts from someone who sees an opportunity, not a preconceived notion that it would be great to have a downtown supermarket.
Not to say that big plans aren’t important – often they really are. Imagine Hudson County without the PATH train or Atlantic City without the boardwalk. But cities often make the mistake of thinking that only big things make a difference. And often it’s the small things that do when they add up, and government has an important, if not flashy, role to play.
Well done, Mayor Redd.