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Philly one of 10 U.S. cities with most fastest growing businesses: why this and other city rankings matter

If city-ranking lists are among the least challenging of editorial outputs often built on suspect metrics, they do purport to do something really well: convey perception with about as much in-born virality as can be had. So, yeah, the buzzy world of technology and entrepreneurship has been overrun with them in recent years. Philadelphia slides […]

Photo by Brian James Kirk.

If city-ranking lists are among the least challenging of editorial outputs often built on suspect metrics, they do purport to do something really well: convey perception with about as much in-born virality as can be had.

So, yeah, the buzzy world of technology and entrepreneurship has been overrun with them in recent years. Philadelphia slides into some, slips out of others.

Why do we care? In short: the perception built around shallow lists is surely part of the hype machine that helps attract and retain talent, in addition to developing our collective sense of identity.

Let’s take a look at how we’re doing.

Consider it another list of lists:

More than just Philadelphia’s businesses are tech savvy.

  • Philadelphia ranked as having the eighth fastest Internet download speeds – out of 35 cities with populations over 500,000 – according to Pando Networks’ 2011 broadband study.
  • Philadelphia was ranked as having the ninth most social media-savvy City Hall in a study done by the University of Illinois at Chicago, which ranked the 75 largest cities in the United States, according to Ragan’s PR Daily.
  • The citizens of Philadelphia are also described as having a “high knowledge about arts, humanities, IT and commerce and low knowledge about manufacturing,” according to a new study called “Knowledge in Cities” published in the May issue of Urban Studies, classifying Philadelphia as one of 11 knowledge clusters across the country.
  • In 20 years, Philadelphia will be a leading arts destination, spurred digital interest and low costs, says Business Insider [June 2012]

This heat map from Mashable is meant to show that Philadelphia tweeters are the country’s rudest.

Despite Philadelphia popping up everywhere on Top 10 lists in the technology world, the buzzing city was notably left off some technology lists – while also being occasionally ranked on some unfavorable lists.

Technology, venture capital and entrepreneurship play a huge part in growing many businesses that launch today. Because of that attention, magazines, websites and trade groups are trying to quantify the national conversation with lists, surveys and rankings, comparing different cities in the country and trying to define which cities are leading the country in the technology world.

Philadelphia usually hovers around these lists, but they often never show consistent dominance, which could be representative of the city’s reputation nationally. The perception that the city is attracting and retaining talent, leading innovation, creating jobs and offering more opportunity, may be growing, but it’s competitive to be on the short list of such places.

That’s why these lists — with so many different methodologies — vary so widely. Philadelphia is making good on its pledge to grow its national good will, but there’s plenty of work left to do.

This report was done in partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods program, the capstone class for the Temple’s Department of Journalism. Additional reporting was provided by editor Christopher Wink.

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