Friday, April 27, 2018
City Hall, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19107

Testimony by: Yvette Núñez, Vice President of Civic Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia

Good Morning, Chairman Domb, Chairman Jones and members of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development & the Homeless and the Committee on Commerce & Economic Development. I am Yvette Núñez, Vice President of Civic Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on Resolution 180360. We are happy to provide comment on strategies the City can use to grow its tax base and expand opportunities for all Philadelphians.

We believe the City must become more competitive with its tax policy, improve our education system, support workforce development strategies, retain top talent, and attract new companies to the City in an effort to grow the city’s tax base.

The Chamber’s mission is to attract, retain and grow jobs for the city and region. We follow principles of economic competitiveness to guide our public policy. We believe that government at all levels must operate in an efficient way to maximize the services that it provides. Our City should strive to provide efficient services with the lowest possible tax rates. Taxes should be broad-based and not target a particular industry segment and need to be shared equitably between business and citizens. To foster this atmosphere, it is important that government policies enhance our competitiveness rather than deter business attraction and growth, and handcuff job and wealth creation.

There is absolutely no doubt that Philadelphia has the assets to be a world-class city, with its strong line-up of private sector employers and the deep research talents of our incomparable eds and meds sector. The pace of construction growth and economic development happening today across the City is truly historic. But Philadelphia cannot hope to move up in the field of competing cities and regions as long as it is held back by a tax structure that negatively impacts the cost of doing business and by policies that interfere with and restrict business operations and growth through the legislative process. We are rapidly developing an image and reputation as a city that is not friendly or open to business due to the number of taxes and regulations imposed on businesses of all sizes. We must do more to change that perception, and become known instead as a City and community that welcomes new businesses and helps existing businesses to grow and prosper, creating new jobs for our residents.

Today, there are close to 27,000 private enterprises in the City of Philadelphia, providing close to 607,000 jobs for residents throughout the region. Their contributions in wage taxes to the City exceed $1.5 billion annually. In total, corporations and private enterprises provide some $2.4 billion in revenue to the city, the bulk of which come from wage, earnings, and net profit taxes. The Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT) alone provides some $490 million in revenue to the city. BIRT has no suburban counterpart and adds a 20% to 30% premium to doing business in the city.

We cannot keep taxing new and existing businesses if our collective goal is to grow our tax base. When we lower taxes, we’ll welcome new businesses and this will result in a larger tax base. The City must adopt more competitive tax policies that can lead to job growth for all Philadelphians, as more must be done to reduce the 26% poverty rate. Additionally, we must continue to improve our education system, work with key leaders on workforce development initiatives, find ways to continue retaining talent within the city, and continue to attract new companies to the City that create new jobs and grows the tax base, ultimately benefiting the City and our residents.

In order for Philadelphia to continue thriving, we must focus on ensuring there is economic growth at the neighborhood level. Through our Roadmap for Growth Action Team, the Chamber seeks to work with City Council to build opportunities for business creation and growth, revitalize neighborhood economies, develop a trained and educated workforce and leverage our infrastructure. We have built a coalition of businesses, non-profits, civic and neighborhood organizations that care about Philadelphia’s economy and residents’ quality of life.

This year, the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth initiative is working with Chamber members and the Kenney administration on critical issues facing our most vulnerable populations. We are building a pipeline of employers willing to hire from the homeless population, convening partners to identify employment solutions for panhandlers, and taking our members’ entrepreneurship expertise into neighborhoods across the City.

The Chamber engages in and supports a number of programs and initiatives designed to improve educational outcomes for all kids in Philadelphia. We worked closely with the School District of Philadelphia on many fronts, from advocating for reoccurring revenue in Harrisburg to being involved in a statewide coalition to modernize education funding in the Commonwealth. Through our membership, the Chamber has led engagement strategies across the PreK-12 continuum through the following initiatives:

  • Read to Me: a year-long program that supports early childhood literacy.
  • Read by 4th: a city-wide effort to double the number of children reading at grade level.
  • Future Ready Career Pathways: a program that engages middle schoolers in future career opportunities.
  • Youth Workforce Development: a campaign that supports the work of the Philadelphia Youth Network.
  • The Hub at PA CareerLink West: along with the City, Philadelphia Youth Network, Drexel, School District and Philadelphia Works the Chamber partners on this initiative to connect youth and young adults in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone with employment and education opportunities.

Additionally, the Chamber is working to leverage the region’s assets to further enhance Greater Philadelphia as a premier talent hub. We are doing this through our Education & Talent Action Team (ETAT) and other initiatives that focus on creating clear pathways for the alignment between individuals and employers. Talent in Greater Philadelphia is abundant, diverse, and imaginative, yet we often hear that employers struggle to find and retain their younger workforce. Our Chamber is working to change that narrative.

Earlier this year, the Chamber released “10 Ways to Retain Young Talent”, which highlights 10 employment attributes that mid-career professionals consider when leaving or remaining with an employer:

  • Access to Leaders
  • Career Pathways
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Creative Benefits
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership Development
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Location
  • Mentorship
  • Peer-to-Peer Relationships

This was an 18-month data gathering process to better understand the personal, professional, and civic motivators of mid-career professionals. We encourage companies to begin to explore strategies they can implement to retain young talent (ages 25-39), as retention is crucial to expanding Philadelphia’s tax base.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and offer testimony on this topic. We welcome the opportunity to partner with City Council on ways in which we can retain, grow, and attract businesses and jobs, further expanding the city’s tax base thereby providing additional resources for our schools and neighborhoods.