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NJ officials worry that they could lose Subaru HQ

Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) -- Officials in Cherry Hill, N.J. are fretting that Subaru of America could move its headquarters out of town as the fast-growing car company tries to reconfigure its office space.

The car company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese firm Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., has been looking for a few months into consolidating the workers who are now located at two separate offices along Route 70, said company spokesman Michael McHale. The company may leave Cherry Hill, he said, but it intends to stay in the area where it has had its U.S. headquarters since 1986.

The main building, in a prime piece of land next to the Cooper River, he said, already has more than 300 workers and does not have much room for more.

"We are fairly tight here," he said. "Business is booming."

The company, which produces all-wheel-drive cars, is still relatively small but fast growing. It topped sales of 300,000 vehicles for the first time last year and has roughly doubled its sales over the past five years.

In Cherry Hill, which has more than 70,000 people, making it southern New Jersey's biggest suburb, Subaru is a decent-sized employer and taxpayer.

But in an area full of shopping centers and office complexes, its property tax bill — $442,000 for property assessed at $6.1 million — is not among the 20 largest.

Still, township spokeswoman Bridget Palmer said, it's an important neighbor.

"It's a big name. It's an international brand. They have been a major sponsor for township programs," she said. "We will work hard to keep them here."

She said the township has suggested the company work with the state Economic Development Authority to look for tax breaks that might sweeten the pot. She also said that there could be other sites in the town that could accommodate the company.

McHale declined to discuss tax incentives, but said the main reason the company is looking at other locations is for its own operational purposes.

McHale also cautioned that the company is not certain to relocate. "We're looking tentatively," he said. "As soon as you open the classified ads, everyone thinks you're leaving."


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