The ability of a nationally recognized research institution to drive a local economy is well documented, but one of New Jersey's business advocates is tempering her support for the higher education restructuring.
Maxine Ballen, president and CEO of the New Jersey Technology Council, said she supports a more equal distribution of educational assets through the state, but hopes the plans being put forth don't "throw the baby away with the bathwater."
The technology council is located in Mount Laurel, and Ballen said South Jersey has been treated like a "second-class citizen" for many years. But she's not certain that the current plans to reorganize the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, all three Rutgers University locations and Rowan University is the way to get South Jersey the resources the area needs.
"I have very mixed feelings about the project," Ballen said. "On one hand I understand why they're interested in having a world-class research facility in South Jersey, and I'm all about making sure each part of the state receives equal attention … but I also understand the concern on the part of the Rutgers board, and faculty, and alumni about their university going away and being eroded and cannibalized."
"I'm usually very definitive, but I think with this one, there's real cause for confusion and might I add concern on both parts," Ballen said.
Ballen said she hopes, if a reorganization plan does move forward, that the valuable history of Rutgers-Camden is balanced against the increased visibility a research institution would bring to the area.
"I think it could certainly help raise the economic metrics to a new level, because we'll see more people wanting to move in here, and we'll see all of the ancillary benefits that go along with that," Ballen said. "I think it will only be to the betterment of South Jersey."