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Chamber of Commerce members feel slightly less sure about Philly’s biz economy heading into 2020

Results are in for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia's survey of members on their views of the status of business conditions in the city.

At the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia's 2020 Economic Outlook event. (Photo by Paige Gross)

How do Philadelphia company runners feel about the state of the city’s business economy?

Last Friday, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia presented the results of a survey asking its members. Over the course of about a month at the end of last year, the Chamber posed questions about the changes in business conditions between 2018 and 2019, and looking forward to 2020. Ryotaro Tashiro, regional economic advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, presented the results of the survey, which was based on responses by 89 members of the Chamber.

Generally, Tashiro said, respondents — which included those working in the education, health, professional and business, retail, leisure and hospitality, finance, manufacturing, transportation, and utilities industries — feel generally good about the state of state of the region and its outlook going into 2020. Fifty-two percent of respondents felt that 2019 was a better year for business than 2018, but 43.2% felt that way going into 2020.

When it came to how they felt about their own companies, 61.4% felt better about 2019 than they did about 2018, but 53.4% said they felt 2020 was going to be better.

Across the board, respondents felt slightly less optimistic about business conditions in 2020 than they did in 2019, except when it came to number of full-time employees. Respondents said they believe hiring will be nearly 7% higher in 2020 than in 2019.

And when asked what they felt were the biggest problems facing Chamber members heading into 2020, labor quality, wages and benefits costs were the three highest concerns.

But a handful of local business leaders had a more positive outlook. In terms of attracting venture capital, talent and growth, these leaders — in charge of vastly different-sized companies — said things are looking good for their companies

Paul Lemmo, VP and GM of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, said that his company will likely hire more than 1,000 people in 2020, and has began thinking about STEM recruitment much earlier than college, even aiming to increase brand recognition among high and middle schoolers.

“We’re finding that in software, many kids in high school and middle school, even, are already great coders,” he said.

And for local startup Avisi Technologies, makers of a nanotechnology-enabled implant to combat glaucoma, Philly has been good to its cofounder and CEO Rui Jing Jiang, she said.

The healthtech company, founded in 2017, works out of the Pennovation Center, home to about 30 high tech, science and robotics startups. She said the entrepreneurial environment has helped them succeed and pull in investors, even though the city isn’t known for having a high number of VCs. But she generally feels there’s opportunity for growth in Philly’s business economy, she said. Her advice to those starting businesses in 2020?

“Philly is a great place for startup companies, but I wish investors in other areas felt that way as much as I do,” she told the audience. “I think you really need to focus on what your business is solving.”

Other learnings from the event: A recession wouldn’t hit Philadelphia as hard as other regions, according to FS Investments Chief U.S. Economist Lara Rhame.

Companies: Avisi Technologies / Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia / Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia / Lockheed Martin

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