At the Chamber’s 2019 Mayoral Luncheon, Mayor Jim Kenney addressed over 1,600 members of the Greater Philadelphia business community for the fourth time. Following our President & CEO Rob Wonderling’s opening remarks, David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Comcast, delivered his own speech and awarded two young Philadelphians (Summer Love and Tho Tran) the Gustave G. Amsterdam Leadership Award. Each received $5,000 and an iPad to support their education at local universities.

Afterward, our Board Chairman Dan Hilferty, President and CEO at Independence Blue Cross, remarked on the progress of our city and reflected on its future, before introducing Mayor Kenney.

Skim through highlights of the mayor’s speech or read his full remarks below.

Thank you, Dan, for the introduction and for inviting me to speak today. It’s an honor to deliver my fourth annual address to your Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

I want to recognize Chamber President & CEO Rob Wonderling for his advocacy on behalf of Philadelphia businesses, as well as the entire Chamber Board for their leadership.

I’d also like you to join me in acknowledging the event sponsors and Chamber staff for making this tradition possible.

And of course, I have to thank the Marriott team for their hard work today and every day. The workers here are fighting for a fair and neutral process to decide whether to form a union, and I am proud to stand with them in their fight for a better Philadelphia.

Please join me in giving all of these folks a round of applause.

A great deal of progress was made over the past three years, and none of it would have been possible without the support of our City Council members and administration staff — many of whom are here in the room today.

Our progress is also, in large part, thanks to each and every one of you.

You help create jobs, employ our residents, and ensure our economy continues to thrive. You are the reason our job growth rate has outpaced the national average for the past three years.

After several difficult decades, Philadelphia is finally experiencing the renaissance it deserves.

Our name is on the lips of both millennial employees and corporate CEOs. National media outlets are highlighting the many reasons people should move here from New York.

And the city that once thrived on being the hungry underdog is now happily basking in the spotlight. Though, of course, we’re still hungry.

Major players like Wawa, Giant, Target, and JP Morgan Chase have doubled-down on their presence in the city. And international companies like Jazz Pharmaceuticals and WuXi AppTec made new commitments to Philadelphia.

We hosted the inaugural Project NorthStar conference for Black and Latinx individuals interested in running or working at a tech business. And while the world was busy following the race for HQ2, we had local companies like GoPuff and Linode making their own splash.

Not to mention, noted VC firm Backstage Capital selected Philadelphia as one of four cities for its new accelerator program that will provide critical support and resources for startups run by underrepresented founders.

Philadelphia International Airport added numerous domestic and international flights. And PhilaPort saw a significant workforce investment with the development of the new Maritime Training Center thanks to support from generous partners like Citizens Bank, Holt Logistics, and Philadelphia Works.

We need to harness the energy of this momentum and remain focused on two things — improving lives of Philadelphia’s residents today, and investing in our future.

Because this administration believes in equity and opportunity for ALL people, our actions have been driven by a desire to increase affordability; improve access to quality spaces for life and work; and deliver public services more effectively and efficiently every day.

Ultimately, we strive to improve quality of life for our residents, while making Philadelphia more competitive on a global scale.

And I know that we can’t achieve this goal without adding jobs, increasing the number of businesses in the city, and growing our tax base…those things are always at the forefront for this administration.

I firmly believe the future of this city is dependent upon the success of all of its residents. We must have a Philadelphia that benefits everyone, and an economy that works for us all.

That is why we’ve been so dedicated to investing in education and workforce development…because these areas are critical to lifting families out of poverty and into the middle class.

Thanks to the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, more than 4,000 children have received free, quality pre-K; and PHLpreK providers have grown their small businesses while paying their workers higher wages.

Working closely with the School District, we have created a dozen Community Schools, where Coordinators and partners are transforming traditional neighborhood schools into thriving hubs with expanded programs and services for all residents.

Our Out-of-School-Time initiative has been revamped to improve the quality of afterschool and summer programming — helping students access more and better activities that can improve their academic performance, decrease the dropout rate, and prepare them for postsecondary and career success.

And last year, we took back local control and accountability of our schools, dedicating over half a billion dollars in more funding over five years for the School District.

Our vision is to create excellent public schools in every neighborhood that better prepare our young people to be part of our city’s growth.

And we’re already seeing progress. Just yesterday, the District celebrated three consecutive years of improvement among both District-led and charter schools citywide. I want to acknowledge Superintendent Dr. William Hite for his leadership and commitment to our student’s success.

Our new School Board members are also making great strides. Moody’s Investor Services recently assigned an Investment Grade rating for the School District — the first since 1977. Now the District’s outlook is “stable” as a result of new revenues and strong District management, an upgrade that can save the District millions in future borrowing.

Last year, on this very stage, we unveiled a new citywide workforce strategy — developed with the Chamber, Philadelphia Works, the School District, Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Youth Network, and more than 20 other stakeholders and employers.

Since then, we have established a new Office of Workforce Development at the City that has partnered closely with Philadelphia Works and other stakeholders to create career pathways — rather than just focusing on short-term job placements.

I’d like to thank Pat Clancy at Philadelphia Works for his leadership and the inroads he has made, including improving connections with the Community College of Philadelphia and launching ApprenticeshipPHL — a regional public / private collaboration aimed at increasing and aligning registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs.

While investing in Philadelphia residents and trying to attract more people here, we are also keenly aware of the need to invest in places — neighborhood commercial corridors, housing, citywide infrastructure, public spaces, and other amenities — to drive economic growth that is inclusive and benefits local communities.

Through Rebuild — another initiative made possible because of the Beverage Tax — we have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to improving parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, and libraries throughout Philadelphia.

Just last month, we celebrated the first groundbreaking on a Rebuild project — Parkside Fields in West Philly. This is the first of many we can expect in the next few years.

And in just three years, the Department of Commerce has dedicated over one million dollars to improving more than 145 facades on commercial corridor businesses.

Additionally, PIDC has supported a number of our neighborhood businesses throughout the city — financing 12 million dollars to more than 60 small businesses in the last year alone.

We are driving business growth on commercial corridors and connecting neighborhoods to the vitality of our core economy.

Yet, as we have seen in other successful cities, with sustained economic growth comes issues of affordability.

So, this fall, the administration released our Housing Action Plan, setting targets for homeless, affordable, workforce, and market rate housing.

Working with City Council, we committed to using resources captured from real estate tax revenues as properties roll off of expiring abatements, rather than imposing a new tax — allowing for more than 50 million dollars over five years to fund elements of the plan.

We also put a great deal of effort into improving the systems that keep this city running for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

When it comes to the ease of doing business in Philadelphia, one of the most basic — but important — steps we’ve taken is making all L&I issued licenses available online.

Through the Special Committee for Regulatory Review and Reform, agencies including L&I, Health, Revenue, and Commerce are working to streamline processes, improve customer service, and eliminate unnecessary hurdles where possible. These departments are currently rolling out a pilot to improve the customer experience for food businesses.

We also started modernizing City contracting and procurement, making it easier for local businesses to work with us.

In the fall, we released CONNECT — our strategic plan for prioritizing and investing in a transportation system that will provide people with more access to job opportunities across the city, giving current and future residents the chance to be part of our economic growth.

We’re also making progress in improving quality of life for our residents by addressing issues like litter and public safety.

We all know Philadelphia has been plagued by litter and short dumping, which is why we established the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet to tackle these issues.

This team has developed neighborhood plans to combat litter and the Police Department created an environmental crimes unit that is partnering with the District Attorney to prosecute short-dumpers to the fullest extent of the law.

And we’ve recently announced that we’ll be initiating a street sweeping pilot program in neighborhoods that need it most.

Although Philadelphia’s overall crime rates remain at historic lows, current gun violence and homicides levels are unacceptable.

These crimes impact all of us — me, you, your employees, your customers, our families, and the city’s reputation.

One life lost to gun violence is one too many, so two weeks ago we unveiled a new violence prevention strategy called “A Roadmap for Safer Communities.”

It’s a comprehensive, public health approach that invests in job training, community organizations doing great work on the ground, innovative data analytics and policing tactics, and much more.

In addition, we continue to increase resources for the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments. And our Police officers are strengthening relationships with the communities they serve by engaging organizations and residents in unexpected ways.

One of the best examples is a program dubbed “Turning a New Corner,” where police partner with employers and employment agencies to conduct on-the-spot interviews with people on designated street corners in Southwest Philly. In just a few months, dozens of people secured jobs through this effort that is also strengthening trust between the community and police.

In 2018, we launched the Philadelphia Resilience Project to address the impact of opioids on the Kensington community and surrounding areas.

Significant progress has been made. In fact, about an hour ago, our outreach team and the Police closed the homeless encampment on Emerald Street. And they’re helping individuals experiencing homelessness access shelter and drug treatment.

We’ve also hosted three large-scale cleanups spanning hundreds of blocks, created Safe Corridor routes for travel to and from schools in the neighborhood, and removed approximately 3,000 discarded needles off the streets.

But we need more help.

In order to sustain ongoing efforts and set this community up for continued success, we ask individuals and businesses to give what they can — in time or treasure.

I invite you to join us for the next major cleanup, which will take place on March 9th. Kensington’s business community needs your support. And of course, donations to the many partners involved are always welcome too.

You can visit to learn more about the work we’re doing and the projects that need your support.

I also want to take a second to acknowledge those of you who are already involved in helping Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, through efforts like the Hub of Hope and First Step Staffing, campaigns to curb panhandling, and improving food access.

At a time when vulnerable populations are threatened by policies and rhetoric at the national level, the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth serves as an important counterpoint — a recognition that humane policies towards all people can enhance, rather than hinder, business development.

Despite all of this progress, we know there is more work to do.

A quarter of our residents are still struggling amid persistent poverty. This is a generational problem, and despite considerable efforts, there has been little change.

Continued growth and new jobs — benefiting residents in every zip code and from every background — will be vital if we want to make a dent in those numbers.

So, it’s critical we keep an open dialogue between the business community and the City about how we can improve government processes and reduce barriers to doing business in Philadelphia.

As Mayor, I have seen time and time again that our greatest success comes from partnership.

We may not agree on everything, but the Chamber and City government must always work together if we want our region to reach its full potential.

Whether it was the formation of PIDC — which just celebrated its 60th anniversary; ongoing collaboration between the Commerce Department and Select Greater Philadelphia to attract new companies, talent, and jobs to our city; the Chamber’s participation in Council’s Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform; or your support for projects like the Hub of Hope at Suburban Station — instances where the public and private sectors truly come together are where we’ve seen the greatest results.

Another area where we already share a lot of common ground is the need to invest in education and workforce development.

Monetary support through organizations like the Fund for the School District and its Philly Fundamentals website are greatly appreciated, but there are other ways to get involved too.

You can provide work-based experiences for students — inviting them to intern or shadow employees.

Your company can hire young people during the school year and summer — and Philadelphia Youth Network can provide support to you and your staff.

You can also create apprenticeships and other earn-while-you-learn opportunities.

Sadly, for many Philadelphians, the economic successes I talked about today feel like they are happening in another city.

We need our recent growth to not just continue but increase. And we need it to work for ALL Philadelphians.

While America has generally experienced economic success in modern times, the least-advantaged among us are now becoming worse off. Income inequality has grown, rents are rising, wages have stagnated, and automation is rapidly changing the labor market.

Growing inequality has been particularly drastic in Philadelphia, where we actually saw our median household income drop in 2017.

I often hear members of the business community say that we need more urgency in Philadelphia’s efforts to grow its economy. And I couldn’t agree more.

Every day, those of us in City government are working hard to ensure that Philadelphia is steadily growing and improving.

By supporting new entrepreneurs and actively engaging with existing companies, we’re doing our part to make sure Philadelphia has more home-grown success stories — in addition to the major entities and international companies we attract.

Our team is constantly exploring ways to expand access to capital and special financing options for small businesses, especially those on low and moderate-income corridors.

And, while it may not happen as fast as we would like, we’re looking for solutions that allow us to improve the city’s business climate while still providing residents with the services and opportunities they need and deserve.

City staff are dedicated to increasing Philadelphia’s global connections in order to elevate our presence around the world and expand our economy.

At any given moment, the Commerce team is juggling dozens of business attraction projects — both domestic and international — working with key partners like Select Greater Philadelphia and PIDC to close the deal.

We have hosted incoming business delegations from around the world, and outbound business missions to key countries like Germany, China, the UK, and Ireland — with several companies establishing a presence in Philadelphia as a result.

Plus, through ongoing efforts with the Brookings Institute, and with the support from local advertising firm Brownstein Group, we’re working to establish Philadelphia’s Global Identity — pinpointing the truly unique attributes we have that can be shared with the world to attract new talent, businesses and investment.

And all of this is being done with an eye towards growth, with equity.

If I can underscore any part of these remarks, it is this — Philadelphia MUST be intentional about the need for inclusive growth so that all residents are able to be part of the city’s positive momentum.

Economic growth can easily happen at a rate where those who are already struggling get left behind. I believe that for Philadelphia to not only survive, but thrive, we can’t let that happen.

As our administration looks toward a potential second term, I am challenging all of our departments to approach their work through an inclusive growth lens — considering how even the most well-intentioned policies and programs might prevent necessary growth or harm vulnerable populations.

Ultimately, we all need to work together to ensure we are making decisions that lead to the best results for ALL Philadelphians.

Philadelphia is indeed facing an urgent moment in our city’s — and the nation’s — history, and the need to do right by our residents is critical.

We need more jobs, more training…and higher wages.

A job is an incredible opportunity, but the opportunity must be met with a wage that doesn’t lock the worker into a cycle of poverty. An economy that works for all must respect the dignity of work.

Pennsylvania’s $7.25 minimum wage, unchanged since 2009, is the lowest among all neighboring states. We are below Delaware, Maryland, New York state, and New Jersey, where Governor Murphy just announced a move to $15 by 2024.

For those of you who are concerned about the economic impact of a minimum wage increase, evidence arising from the explosion of minimum wage raises in other jurisdictions shows it does not lead to a loss in low-wage jobs.

In fact, the states surrounding Pennsylvania have realized both real wage and employment growth in food services — an industry impacted by low-wage work.

The City is leading by example with recent legislation guaranteeing a $15 minimum wage to all City workers and contractors by 2023, with increases beginning in the upcoming Fiscal Year.

Many employers — including local leaders like Jefferson Health and La Colombe, along with national companies like Amazon and Target — have already taken action, committing to raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour — or in some cases, higher.

I urge all of you to follow the lead of the City and your peers that I mentioned. You have a chance to raise your wages so your workers understand they are valued, and so they can provide for themselves and their families.

I also encourage you to support a minimum wage increase across the Commonwealth, so that the playing field is level, and we catch up to our surrounding states who have all made progress on this issue without harming their economies.

Just yesterday, Governor Wolf announced his plan for a minimum wage increase in Pennsylvania — calling for an increase to $12 in the next Fiscal Year, with additional increases until we reach $15 by 2025.

We need our legislators to work with Governor Wolf to make this reality, and I hope that all of you will join me in supporting his proposal.

As we continue to push for fair wages and more funding for public education, the backing of our business community will be essential.

If we can commit to these two issues together, the impact of Philadelphia’s ongoing growth could be even greater.

Because — as we’ve seen time and time again — when we work together, we all win.

Let’s ensure that Philadelphia’s prosperity continues and that the benefits reach ALL our residents.

Thank you again for having me.

Philadelphia’s Renaissance

Improving Quality of Life

Education & Workforce Development

Partnering with the Business Community

Inclusive Growth

Upcoming Local Advocacy Events

City Council Reception

Thursday, March 28, 2019
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown | 21 N. Juniper Street | Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tickets starting at $125

Roadmap for Growth: Defining Growth for Philadelphia

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Center City Location TBA
Tickets starting at $45