Transforming Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods

On November 6, 2018, the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team hosted its second With Growth & Prosperity for All conference. On Election Day, over one hundred attendees got up early, voted, and headed over to the American Bible Society to learn about how different industries across Philadelphia are coming together to transform and uplift our neighborhoods.

Setting the Stage

Kicking off the day, our President & CEO Rob Wonderling and Vice President of Civic Affairs Yvette Núñez welcomed business, neighborhood, and nonprofit leaders to a half-day content-packed program, followed by Roadmap for Growth Action Team Co-Chair David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast, who set the stage for how much progress the business community has made through the Chamber’s civic- and growth-minded initiative. Afterward, Mayor Jim Kenney addressed the attendees by outlining the importance of neighborhoods, commercial corridors, and collaboration between the business community and local government.

On behalf of the Roadmap for Growth Steering Committee and Action Team, I want to thank the Chamber for creating the Roadmap for Growth process, as well as all of our speakers, Chamber leaders, and members of the audience for participating in this process and joining us today.

This is important thought leadership around how we can cultivate and grow prosperous neighborhoods and collectively contribute to the success of our great city.

The Roadmap for Growth is intended to provide a forum for leaders across various sectors to listen, learn, and then act upon ideas that can drive opportunity in Philadelphia.

Through the Roadmap for Growth, the Chamber has expanded its approach to lead inclusive conversations in neighborhoods like Kensington, Mayfair, and Germantown.

As the Roadmap for Growth Action Team enters its third year, we look forward to encouraging more action, working with all of you who represent diverse neighborhoods and stakeholders to drive progress…for all Philadelphians.

We have our work cut out for us.

The Census Bureau recently released a report, which found that household median income has dropped 4 percent in Philadelphia, while poverty remains stagnant at 25.7 percent. Deep poverty, however, has worsened, going from 12 percent to 14 percent.

And, while we have experienced important gains in private sector job growth over the last several years — and we must recognize the efforts of folks like Commerce Director Harold Epps and John Grady at PIDC, Philadelphia has not kept pace with the rate of employment growth in America’s 26 largest cities.

Since 2009, the largest cities have been outperforming the national economy and adding private sector jobs at an average of 2.3% per year, compared to only 1.4% in Philadelphia.

So, Philadelphia remains the poorest of America’s ten largest cities.

While there are multiple factors that might help in solving the intractable problem of poverty, for example, quality pre-k through 12-grade education — in Philadelphia, in my view, we have not sufficiently focused our attention on the significance of job growth as the ultimate antidote to poverty.

It is my strong belief that we will not make a real dent in our poverty problem without significantly impacting the growth of job opportunities for all Philadelphians.

This requires an obsession — in City Hall, in boardrooms, in neighborhood associations — to understand the barriers to job creation and to remove them — and not to exacerbate them.

This focus is important to aspiring entrepreneurs from any of our great universities, as well as the immigrants in search of the American dream.

It is important to the two-person business looking to grow to a 10-person business and the 10-person business looking to grow to a 50-person business.

And yes, we should want the 200-person business to stay in Philadelphia and grow to a 2,000-person business.

Amazon’s search for its second headquarters captured everyone’s attention. The possibility of 50,000 new jobs is incredibly enticing.

But even if Philadelphia is not chosen by Amazon, we should be just as excited and focused about creating 50,000 jobs organically by making our city attractive for new businesses and for existing businesses to expand.

As business, nonprofit, and government leaders, we all must share an understanding that we can be pro-jobs and pro-business — in fact, we must be, because it is businesses that create jobs.

Comcast is a company with deep roots in Philadelphia.

We aspire for other companies, with visionary founders like our own Ralph Roberts, to choose this City to locate and grow their business.

During today’s conference, themed “With Growth and Prosperity for All,” panelists will share ideas and experiences around incentivizing neighborhood economic development, public and private sector leadership at the neighborhood level, and the role that arts and culture can play in marginalized communities.

It is my hope that through these conversations we will walk away with actionable items that can continue to shape the work of the Roadmap for Growth.

The diversity of our City is one of our greatest assets. And yet, too often, while talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not.

Through our collective efforts, we must tap the full potential of Philadelphia by broadening the circle of opportunity to every neighborhood, and ensuring that every citizen in this City can participate fully in our economy.

I can’t end without a reminder that today is election day. If you have not voted yet, I encourage you to do so and encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. The stakes are too high, here in this City, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and for the Nation.

And now, it is my pleasure to introduce a leader who works tirelessly for Philadelphia and its citizens.

He is someone who cares deeply about creating opportunity for all Philadelphians regardless of race, color, creed, or status.

For as long as I have known him — and it’s longer than either of us care to admit — he has brought a neighborhood view to everything he does.

Please join me in welcoming my friend and our Mayor, Jim Kenney.

— David L. Cohen’s remarks at With Growth & Prosperity for All: A Roadmap for Growth Conference

“Through the Roadmap for Growth, the Chamber has expanded its approach to lead inclusive conversations in neighborhoods like Kensington, Mayfair, and Germantown.

As the Roadmap for Growth Action Team enters its third year, we look forward to encouraging more action, working with all of you who represent diverse neighborhoods and stakeholders to drive progress…for all Philadelphians.” — David L. Cohen

Main Street vs. “Mainstream”

Our first group of panelists discussed the various ways city, state, and federal incentives can spur long-term neighborhood revitalization. Takeaways included:

  • There’s a difference between Main Street and “mainstream.” When neighborhood businesses become “mainstream,” they can compete and sustain their Main Street status, which combats gentrification.
  • Opportunity Zones are economic development tools for our city and there are ways to maximize and incentivize investment.

A special thanks to our panelists:

  • Harold T. Epps, Director of Commerce, City of Philadelphia
  • Anne Bovaird Nevins, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, PIDC
  • Nestor Torres, Managing Partner, Myriagon Consulting Group, LLC
  • Moderated by: Sandra Shea, Managing Editor, Opinion & Director of Strategic Partnerships, Philadelphia Media Network: Philly.com, Inquirer, and Daily News

Communities for All Ages

The 50+ population contributes greatly to our economies, as proven by our featured speaker Bill Armbruster, Senior Advisor, AARP Livable Communities | Community, State, and National Affairs. According to our expert, 70% of businesses owned by this population are still growing three years later, compared to 28% of millennial-owned businesses. If we’re not building neighborhoods that work for all ages, our economies suffer.

Pooling Resources

Our second group of panelists examined how public- and private-sector leadership can stimulate neighborhood-level growth. Takeaways included:

  • Zipcode affects Philadelphians’ life expectancy. We need to come together to cultivate healthy and prosperous communities.
  • We need to change our perspective of the 50+ population and build cities that work for everyone, regardless of age or ability.
  • When you’re struggling to make ends meet, shopping in local neighborhoods is not always possible. However, if we can build wealth in communities of color we can help them build their own legacies.

A special thanks to our panelists:

  • Todd Baylson, Partnerships, Policy and Commercial Sales, Solar States
  • LeRoy Jones, Founder, President, and CEO, GSI Health
  • Yocasta Lora, Associate State Director of Community Outreach, AARP Pennsylvania
  • Gregory Reaves, Co-Founder & Principal, Mosaic Brokerage Group
  • Moderated by: Diana Lu, Community Engagement Editor, PlanPhilly | WHYY, Inc.

Arts & Culture Transforms Communities

Providing creative approaches to workforce development and community health, our final group of panelists challenged the business community’s perceptions of where arts and culture belong. Takeaways included:

  • Neighborhoods benefit from arts and culture. People feel safer, are more likely to visit and contribute to local businesses, and have a sense of belonging.
  • The arts can be a powerful tool to combat addiction, homelessness, and isolation.
  • People manage conflict and learn core competencies differently when the arts are involved.

A special thanks to our panelists:

  • Jane Golden, Executive Director, Mural Arts Philadelphia
  • Maud Lyon, President, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
  • Mike O’Bryan, Director of Youth and Young Adult Programs, The Village of Arts & Humanities
  • Moderated by: Barbara J. Silzle, Executive Director, Philadelphia Cultural Fund

Final Thoughts

Roadmap for Growth Action Team Co-Chair Pedro Ramos, Executive Director, The Philadelphia Foundation, urged all to take these important discussions to their businesses and homes so that we can continue the conversation about making our communities stronger and Yvette Núñez invited attendees to get involved and learn more about Roadmap.

About Roadmap

The Roadmap for Growth Action Team, an initiative of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, is a group of 180+ Chamber members and partners united to engage with a broad range of civic and neighborhood organizations in the development and execution of policies and initiatives that enhance the economy, encourage civic engagement, and support an efficient and impactful government in order to lift and improve Philadelphia’s economic and civic life.

Upcoming Roadmap Event

Roadmap for Growth: Uniting Against the Opioid Crisis
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Philadelphia Location TBA

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