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Chamber of Commerce puts ‘Roadmap for Growth’ in front of mayoral candidates

At a Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce panel discussion last night, tech and entrepreneurship mostly took a backseat to other issues.

The "Roadmap for Growth" panel, moderated by NBC10's Jim Rosenfield at WHYY. (Photo by Tony Abraham)

Last night, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce held a panel discussion on how to improve Philadelphia’s competitiveness on a national scale.
Moderated by NBC10’s Jim Rosenfield, the panel featured Michael Brown (Environmental Construction Services, Inc.), Patrick Eiding (Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO), Paul Levy (Center City District), Nilda Ruiz (APM) and Sam Schwartz (Comcast).
Panelists were supposed to briefly introduce themselves and offer their perspectives on how the city can grow jobs and increase competitiveness. They would then field questions from mayoral candidates Sen. Anthony H. Williams, Nelson Diaz and Doug Oliver before handling questions from the audience.
Here’s what actually happened.
There were opening remarks from GPCC President & CEO Rob Wonderling, who urged the candidates to focus on creating “A family-sustaining job for as many citizens in this city as possible.”
Then, Brandywine Realty Trust President Gerard H. Sweeney took to the podium with a tax-reform agenda. “Philadelphia should be a top-five job generator in the United States,” he told the audience. But, he said, tax structure is hindering our ability to create jobs — particularly, the city wage tax, which we recently explored in depth.
Now, some quotes from the panelists’ introductions that capture their overall message:

  • Michael Brown, Champion of Small Business: “You have to have what we call ‘disruptive technologies’ — technologies that find faster, efficient ways of doing business.”
  • Patrick Eiding, Champion of Labor: “I think the real estate tax in Philadelphia is a mess. Take it apart, start brand new. Make sure every property in the city is evaluated.”
  • Paul Levy, Champion of Statistics: “Since 1954, we lost 92 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the city. Those are jobs we need to replace with 21st-century jobs.”
  • Nilda Ruiz, Champion of Education: Ruiz’s takeaway? The next mayor will need to create more jobs that don’t require a college education.

Before Comcast’s Sam Schwartz even had a chance to speak, Williams had to leave — asking the first four panelists what we can do to improve the public school system.
That’s all well and good. But, on this “Roadmap for Growth,” where does tech and entrepreneurship fit in?
Finally, halfway through the event, Schwartz introduced himself. “I’m not a policy guy and a lot of this stuff goes over my head,” he admitted to the audience. But, he said, “I represent the perspective of a technology innovator. My job is to make sure Comcast continues to innovate and we can continue to attract the people who will help us do that.”
Schwartz made a point of other cities like Chicago, D.C. and Denver focusing their resources on granting tech entrepreneurs access to the capital they need. “I need to be competing against places like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook — and I need to do it from right here in Philadelphia,” he said. “We need an entrepreneurial community here that mirrors what we’re trying to do within our very large company.”
Schwartz says Comcast will be doubling the amount of interns it takes in this year for its “Home for the Summer” program. The program targets college students who have Philadelphia roots in hopes of luring them to build careers and start ventures in this city, not others.
And that about wrapped it up. The panel took two questions from the audience — one attendee who inquired about possible business deals with the panel, and another who asked about global competitiveness.

Companies: Brandywine Realty Trust / Center City District / Comcast / Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia / NBC 10

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