Guest Commentator: Melonease Shaw, President and CEO, Maven, Inc. @maveninc

How can we ensure all neighborhoods share Philadelphia’s growth? How can we seek a greater return for city neighborhoods?

Growing up in North Philadelphia and Germantown, I was surrounded by communities vibrant with jobs and economic opportunity. My family and our neighbors could find all we needed from the small shops and businesses just blocks from our homes: locally-owned pharmacies, restaurants, flower shops, and art galleries.

I even found my first job at one of these small businesses — a dry cleaner where I got the kind of invaluable, on-the-job training that has served me well throughout my career.

Over my career, I’ve worked for and with all kinds and sizes of businesses and organizations. The small business I founded 15 years ago and continue to run, Maven, Inc., in part helps new and relocating businesses connect with and form partnerships with their communities.

From this vantage point, I get to see firsthand both the opportunities and challenges of our neighborhood economies. All around us, Philadelphia is clearly on the upswing, and there is renewed economic activity in most corners of our city, including those where I grew up.

But in still too many communities, this growth is not fast enough, nor is it bringing the same kinds of opportunity to all blocks and all businesses. In fact, in some areas, new growth is making it harder for older businesses to survive.

But I firmly believe these great challenges also pose a great opportunity for collaboration: a call to bring government and business together to create smart, common-sense policies that make it easier for Philadelphians to start and operate homegrown businesses that thrive in the communities they serve. It’s also a call for the Chamber to lead this joint effort, leveraging the City’s programs for small and minority businesses.

We as a city can—and must—do more to give our neighborhood businesses their best chance to thrive, to continue to grow and continue to offer the kinds of services and jobs our communities need.

That’s why I, along with the Chamber, am supporting the Neighborhood Growth Project, an agenda to help speed up economic growth and opportunity in all communities.

The Neighborhood Growth Project is a broad set of policy ideas for our city, focused on promoting faster economic growth, and more good jobs in more neighborhoods. Delivering better education, better training, and a better future for our workforce. Building safer and healthier neighborhoods. And ensuring city government works better for all of us.

I’m most compelled by the parts of the agenda designed to help small minority and neighborhood-based businesses compete for deals they traditionally haven’t had access to, allowing them to participate more fully in our region’s growth.

It’s a smart plan, and I encourage you to read more about it—and even get involved in promoting and realizing it. It’s the kind of fresh thinking we need to hear, and it’s great that the Chamber is behind it.

It’s one of the many reasons I remain a proud member.

The Chamber’s PHL Neighborhood Growth Project is an integrated, comprehensive approach to advance a smart collection of pro-growth policies designed to expand opportunity across Philadelphia, block by block.

You can help build support for our inclusive, pro-growth agenda in City Hall:

There are many other ways to get involved in our city’s future through our new PHL Neighborhood Growth Project. Contact us at to ask how you can make a difference.