One of Burlington County's largest employers is in line to receive $21 million in state tax credits to help it possibly move from Lumberton to the vacant Express Scripts plant off Route 130 and Van Sciver Parkway in Willingboro.
Radwell International Inc., an electronics repair firm headquartered on the Mount Holly Bypass, applied for the tax credits through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority's Grow New Jersey Assistance Program. The authority is scheduled to vote to approve the 10-year award on Friday.
A description on the EDA's meeting agenda said the tax credits were "to encourage the applicant to make a capital investment and locate in Willingboro Township."
Dan Love, Radwell's senior vice president of business development, said Wednesday that the tax incentive would be key to helping it move forward with its plans to buy the empty Express Scripts building and refit it for Radwell's work.
"If we receive the incentive, that will close the gap, and we expect to move forward with the purchase of the Express Scripts building and relocate there," Love said.
The 320,000-square-foot building is in the Willingboro Town Center and was the largest automated mail-service pharmacy on the East Coast when Franklin-based Medco opened it in 2001.
Express Scripts acquired Medco in a 2012 merger and recently completed construction of a $60 million, 280,000-square-foot plant off Route 130.
Radwell became interested in the building after plans to purchase a second building near its Lumberton headquarters fell through.
The company sells and repairs new and used industrial electrical devices used in machinery. About 500 workers are employed in Lumberton.
In an April news statement, the company said it was pursuing expansion plans in Lumberton and was interested in creating a campus spanning two buildings on the Mount Holly Bypass in order to implement an automated inventory management system, increase its capacity and hire more employees.
In the statement, Radwell said that it planned to pursue tax incentives from the Economic Development Authority for the Lumberton expansion, but that it was also considering an expansion in Arlington, Texas, where it had acquired a small competing business.
Love said expanding in Texas would be the company's fallback if the EDA rejects its application for assistance.
"We'd love to stay in Burlington County. We currently employ about 500 people, and most are from this area," Love said. "We considered Camden and expanding in our current area, but that fell through, and then the Express Scripts building became available. It seems to be a good fit, and we've been working with officials in Burlington County and the state. We'd love to be able to stay here."
Willingboro Deputy Mayor Nathaniel Anderson said keeping Radwell in Burlington County and filling the empty space in the Town Center would benefit the company and the township.
"It would be huge for us," Anderson said, adding that township officials have had conversations with Radwell officials.
"They've expressed a lot of interest, and to make sure this happens, there are some other conversations on the table."
Medco and Willingboro entered into a 30-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement when the company began rehabilitating the former Boscov's building in 2000. The agreement called for the company to pay escalating amounts to the municipality, beginning with $310,000 the first year up to $634,000 in year 30. About 15 years remain on the agreement.
Anderson said township officials were willing to discuss revisions to the agreement to assist Radwell.
"We're willing to sit down with them, but at the same time we're not willing to take anything thrown at us. But we are willing to sit down to discuss changes, so long as there is a benefit for the township," he said.
If Radwell receives the EDA award, it would become the latest Burlington County company to benefit from the Grow New Jersey program, which was revamped in 2013 to make it more competitive with the incentive programs of other states and to provide more aid and incentives for companies to make investments in South Jersey counties like Burlington.
Earlier this year, California-based Ready Pac Foods Inc. was awarded a $27 million tax credit package to help it expand its 154,000-square-foot plant in Florence.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin, Burlington Coat Factory and Destination Maternity were also awarded multimillion-dollar tax credit packages under the program for projects in Burlington County. Express Scripts was also awarded $40 million in tax credits in 2013 to build its new plant in Florence.
The incentives have become one of the most debated issues in Trenton. Supporters claim they are needed to attract private investment and retain employers in a high-cost state like New Jersey. Critics question the incentives' effectiveness in creating jobs, and contend that the lost tax revenue would be better invested in education and infrastructure improvements that attract businesses.
New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, said keeping a company like Radwell in New Jersey is why the incentive program was revamped through legislation known as the Economic Opportunity Act.
"I am excited that we will be able to keep these jobs in New Jersey and, more importantly, Burlington County. This is exactly what we designed the Economic Opportunity Act to be able to accomplish," said Singleton, who was a sponsor of the legislation.