Steven Wray’s got more than one big idea.
The executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia spoke about World Class Greater Philadelphia, the Economy League’s years-in-the-making initiative to make Philly “world class” by 2026, at yesterday’s RAIN (Regional Affinity Incubation Network) Conference at the University City Science Center.
The initiative focuses on three areas: education, business growth and infrastructure, with the technology and innovation sector playing a large part in all three.
We’ll get to Wray’s broader strategies in a second, but first, here are two ideas he’s pulling for:
1) Make Philly a hub for social entrepreneurship. (We like this idea and have written about it extensively.)
2) Turn all our boarded up Borders stores into coworking spaces. They’ve got the cafes built in already, he says. Any takers?
Now, here’s a sampling of some of Wray’s strategies to make Philly world class by 2026:
- Create more “signature destinations.” Wray referenced Indy Hall as one of Philly’s “signature destinations,” acknowledging Indy Hall cofounder Alex Hillman, who had delivered the conference’s keynote speech. But we need more of those standout places for businesses at every stage in their development, Wray said.
- Sell the idea of Philly as a hub for entrepreneurs and innovation. We’ve got to market our regional success stories — and failures, Wray said. We should be vocal about homegrown Philly businesses and try to attach that Philly branding to growing companies, he said.
- Increase the availability of funding for businesses. This point comes on the heels of a recent report that says that Philly-area venture capital funding is on pace to be the lowest since 1996. Wray says we should motivate venture capital firms to move to Philly and also look into funding sources overseas.
- Cultivate more partnerships between industries and universities in order to turn research into products and services. A recent notable success story comes from Temple University, whose licensing revenues hit an all-time high this past fiscal year.