Philadelphia is a global city and should start acting like it. That’s what Mayor Nutter told the Chamber of Commerce in February 2012, and in his first formal international trade mission abroad, the Nutter administration is using technology as his leading hand to visit the United Kingdom and Israel later this year.
“Philadelphia can’t just compete in the mid-Atlantic or even with other cities in the U.S.,” but needs to look to the rest of the world, Nutter told 100 in attendance at a reception held Monday at the National Constitution Center to announce the trip. “This is part of that commitment.”
Sure, Nutter visited Florence this March to hear about the creative economy as the chief of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and last fall he visited China to talk about trade with Select Greater Philadelphia, but this is something different, said Luke Butler, chief of staff to the city’s Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Alan Greenberger, who will also be on the trip. This is a clear mayoral trade mission aiming to tie together that global conversation with the future strengths of Philadelphia, he said.
In Nutter’s remarks, he quoted his own speech as a way of making the case that he’s followed through on his pledge to put Philadelphia in a conversation with Chinese and Italian and British economies.
The trip, which will extend from Nov. 2 to Nov. 12, will split its time between London and other spots in the United Kingdom and then Israel, with a focus in Tel Aviv, a sister city to Philadelphia and a known hub for technology startups. The London portion of the trip will coincide with the World Travel Market, a large tourism and travel exposition at which Nutter and team hope to make a splash.
The full itinerary and the full roster of companies attending aren’t yet complete, said organizers, though Nutter said green building, technology, biotech and life sciences will be at the focus. There are sponsors, but trip attendees must pay their own way. “Travel and accommodation costs for city officials will be paid for by Select Greater Philadelphia from a portion of their budget dedicated to Philadelphia-specific business attraction efforts,” wrote the city’s Butler in a followup email.
Artisan CEO Bob Moul will be on the trip, as will someone from energy efficiency firm the Mark Group, which has origins in the U.K. Artists & Instigators founder Wayne Kimmel, who is active in Philadelphia Jewish and Israeli business communities, was also at the reception, a dressy wine and cheese affair held at the Constitution Center because the Independence Visitors Center, where the event was originally scheduled, was closed for the federal government shutdown.
At a time when city schools are in daily turmoil, Nutter might likely catch a newspaper op-ed questioning the timing. Is the pomp and circumstance all a glorified holiday marked as a business expense? Maybe not.
GIS firm Azavea is sending its CEO Robert Cheetham, who said at Monday’s reception that he already has British clients but is eager for introductions by the United Kingdom Trade and Investment agency, which is coorganizing the event.
Monetate isn’t sending anyone, because a dozen of their 180 staff are already based in London, said CEO David Brussin, but he was at the reception and happy the local technology industry was involved in an international trade mission because “I cheer for Philadelphia.”
Other U.S. cities are making the case that technology is a rare hope for economic growth, so it’s no small gesture that Nutter is putting that sector as the focus of this trade mission, part of the evolution of his first stump speeches in 2010 about tech.
A smattering of other technology and startup business owners were joined in the audience by lawyers and city officials, the city’s modest global community, including International House CEO and longtime British booster Oliver Franklin, and other business representatives, including those from U.S. Airways, which is helping support the trip along with a host of other institutions like Drexel, the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia and others.
Philadelphia doesn’t have a U.K. consulate, in part because of its proximity to New York City, which does have one, but a consortium of British and London-specific economic development groups have taken notice of Philadelphia’s growing technology sector and begun taking the trip from New York to foster business growth across the Atlantic. The plans for the trade mission have already brought cross-continental conversations to bear on a local tech scene.
Said Danny Lopez, the British Consul-General to New York at Monday’s reception: “We’re so happy we can get along together better than we did 237 years ago.”