Commerce Director Harold Epps and Councilman Allan Domb both spoke at the ribbon cutting for venture-backed health IT company GSI Health’s new office on the top floor of a Center City skyscraper.
But it was CEO LeRoy Jones who stole the show.
In the most heartfelt ribbon cutting speech we’ve ever seen, Jones, 45, spoke of how many people advised him not to live in Philadelphia or build a business in Philadelphia.
“Go somewhere that’s more befitting of what you’ve become,” Jones, who goes by Lee, said people told him back in the late ’90s after he and his wife moved back to his hometown of Philadelphia from Northern Virginia. They noted the city’s crime and the city wage tax.
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But Jones wanted to be close to his family, most of whom live in South Philadelphia. A native of West Oak Lane and a graduate of George Washington Carver High School for Engineering and Science in North Philadelphia, Jones wanted his family — his great aunts and uncles, his grandmother, his sister — to be able to take a bus to see his home, to be able to see what he had become.
“You deserve to see your legacy,” he said to the elders in his family, seated in the audience during the ribbon cutting. Jones’ wife, Kim, a cofounder of the business, wiped tears from her eyes. A woman passed out tissues to Jones’ family.
Jones continued, saying that he wanted his nephew to see that someone that looked like him — Jones is African-American — could run a business in a tower on Market Street. “My great nephew doesn’t get to see very many people like me in his neighborhood,” he said.
The new office represents a big change for GSI Health, which previously had an office in Chestnut Hill on Germantown Avenue, not far from Jones’ home. Only five people were based in the office, with the rest of the staff working remotely. But Jones said he felt that it was time to get some of the team in one place. Thirty-five people, many of whom used to work from home in the suburbs, will now report to the new 13,000-square-foot headquarters four days a week.
The company, which makes a patient-tracking platform, employs 45, Jones said.
In order to make the prospect of working in the city attractive, GSI Health put together an incentive package for those remote employees, including salary bumps to offset the city wage tax and subsidized parking, Jones said. Most of the staff based at headquarters are engineers and administrative roles, he said.
The office, on the 53rd floor of the BNY Mellon Center at 1735 Market St., offers views to rival the city’s new observation deck. Jones joked that the office had to “compete with working in your bedroom” for his formerly remote workers. It’s a more traditional office space than other tech companies have, with its cubicles and dropped ceilings.
GSI Health also closed on an undisclosed round of funding from Rittenhouse Ventures, the Navy Yard-based venture firm.
When we asked Jones why he chose to move to a Center City office, he said he wanted to be an example for people in the city.
“I have a responsibility as a Philadelphian,” he said.