(Photo by Joseph Gidjunis. Copyright City of Philadelphia)
Esteemed Philadelphia tech community: Mayor Jim Kenney just wrote you a love letter.
In an op-ed published Monday in Philadelphia Magazine, Kenney gave a quick overview of tech scene icons, what the administration has done for the tech community so far, the problems it’s aware of and what the future looks like.
We’re calling it a love letter because it complimented the community’s qualities and potential, but also because it bared promises and musings, along with a hopeful gaze toward the future. It’s not surprising. Kenney has been playing to the tech scene ever since his campaign, even if he doesn’t totally feel comfortable in it.
Here are five thoughts that stood out:
1. The mayor feels the buzz too
It’s not just startup founders and the media (like this reporter) who are noticing growth along the city’s coworking centers and research hubs. “We’re seeing extraordinary growth and development in University City and other innovation districts around the city,” Kenney wrote.
2. The office drop-ins will continue
Kenney himself, as well as Commerce Director Harold Epps, have both been dropping by the offices of companies like Azavea and Curalate, but also less-established companies like Stitch and Margo (though yes, those companies are run by already established entrepreneurs from RJMetrics and Leadnomics, respectively). In the piece he pointed to the drop-ins as one way the administration is gunning to champion the community. In this way, he’s following in former Mayor Nutter’s footsteps.
The tactic also has the blessing of RJMetrics founder Bob Moore and other local entrepreneurs, who have said that sometimes politicians can do a lot of good by showing up.
3. The administration knows there are challenges
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine and ping-pong tables in tech community. There are plenty of challenges. To name a few that have been voiced by technologists: access to capital, talent retention and quality of life in the city. The mayor is aware. This is good. It means he’s listening.
“A difficult regulatory environment is often noted as a challenge, as well as a perceived lack of urgency,” the mayor stated. “I want to assure you I see it as my job to enable innovation, not stifle it, and I take this responsibility very seriously.” He pointed to initiatives like StartUp PHL and the Keystone Innovation Zones as an example of City Hall’s support to the tech environment. Though we would be curious to know what he’s doing to tackle the “difficult regulatory environment.”
4. The mayor is down with #SXSW17
He recognized the strong presence Philly had at South by Southwest 2016, thanks to Amplify Philly, and sounds like he’s also down for next year’s festival. “In 2017, Philadelphia will have an even bigger presence at SXSW,” Kenney wrote. See you in Austin, Mayor?
5. The cheerleading will continue
In a call to action, Kenney wraps up the op-ed asking for the tech community to keep showing up. The administration, he said, will keep up doing what it can to facilitate connections. He closed with a line that calls to mind his common refrain when talking about the tech scene, the fact that he wants “startups in every neighborhood.”
“Philadelphia is brimming with talent and companies who deserve to be celebrated,” Kenney penned. “Let’s show the world what we’ve got while creating even more opportunities for people from all backgrounds and all areas of the city.”
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