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Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting

October 17, 2017

Good morning everyone.

One year ago, I stood here and talked about the challenges and opportunities we faced in the race to become a top-25 global metro region. 

I told you I was worried we might fall behind as other cities mobilized to compete and surpass us. I said we’d better get moving and rise to the challenge. 

After a very intense year, I am happy to let you know we have upped our game. We’re now playing a hurry-up offense with a great team - the kind that Carson Wentz would love.

Your Chamber of Commerce has launched several initiatives designed to bolster the region’s economic strength and enhance its competitive advantage.

Part of what makes a region world class is having a world-class transportation network. In this vein, the chamber’s CEO Council for Growth has identified the most transformative transportation investments - each achievable within the next 10 years - that will attract business and enable growth throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. 

Some of the projects include: Acceleration of the 30th Street District Plan; creation of a Market-West high-capacity transit station; expansion of Market-Frankford line; and extension of the Norristown high-speed line.

World-class regions also need to work for everyone. That’s why your Chamber has been driving the Roadmap for Growth aimed at bringing together business, government and civic leaders to address head on the city’s more than 25 percent poverty rate.

In a region with such an embarrassment of riches, we should not have embarrassing levels of poverty.

With the Roadmap, we are:

  • Partnering with the City to market neighborhood business corridors.
  • Encouraging immigrant entrepreneurship.
  • And Identifying low-barrier employment opportunities for our most vulnerable residents. 

As we strive to build an economy that is inclusive, we are also working to seize new opportunities created by the digital economy.

In the spring, the Chamber hosted the release of a report by the Brookings Institution that outlined ways the city could leverage its existing strengths in research and innovation.

Brookings underscored an important fact we often take for granted: Philadelphia has the assets needed to compete as a world-class metro.

The challenge now is to work together collaboratively to better maximize our strengths and leverage our best assets: human capital, transportation, quality of life and geography.

To that end, we spent the summer developing an implementation plan to drive forward the Brookings’ recommendations which included:

  1. Launching a series of initiatives to grow the city’s advanced industry clusters starting with precision medicine, followed by digital health, energy and advanced manufacturing.
  2. Creating an anchor firm entrepreneurship initiative to better support technology startups.
  3. Coordinating and expanding anchor-based, skill building education and procurement initiatives to grow a more inclusive economy inspired by the success of the West Philadelphia skills initiative.
  4. Establishing a connected-corridor strategy between University City and Center City, thereby forging a stronger connection between the region’s largest employment hubs and innovation assets.

This effort will be overseen by a leadership council of CEOs who will serve as the brain-trust for implementation of the Brookings recommendations.

But this type of wholesale strategy to drive innovation, entrepreneurship and inclusion will not be successful if there are policies in place that hold us back, including undue regulatory requirements and uncompetitive tax burdens.

That’s why, over the past year, the Chamber has also been on the frontline fighting to improve the city’s business climate.

In particular, the Chamber filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s new wage equity law. This is the type of ordinance that disadvantages Philadelphia businesses and keeps companies from coming here or staying here. 

In today’s ultra-competitive environment government and business need to work together, not against one another. 

To that end, it was a welcome sign to see City Council create a special committee to review the 2,000-plus page Philadelphia Code to identify outdated and confusing regulations and propose remedies to streamline the City’s regulatory environment.

Thank you to Mayor Kenney City Council President Darrell Clarke and Committee Co-chairs Councilman Derek Green, Commerce Director Harold Epps, and Rob Wonderling - for your leadership.

This is important work that will have a lasting impact. In an increasingly mobile society, we need to make Philadelphia an even more attractive place to live, work and grow businesses.

Did you hear that, Jeff Bezos?

While we have been busy building for the future, a once-in-a-century opportunity has emerged.

On Sept. 7, Amazon put out a Request for Proposals, giving cities roughly six weeks to bid on their second headquarters.

There’s nothing like an opportunity to get 50,000 new jobs and a $5 billion investment to focus your attention and increase your sense of urgency.

This is a game-changing opportunity for Philadelphia. For context, Amazon’s Seattle headquarters employs 40,000 and is spread over 33 buildings that encompass over 8 million square feet of office space.

After going through this bid process and working with so many talented leaders including John Grady at PIDC; Commerce Director Harold Epps; Matt Cabrey at Select Greater Philadelphia and colleagues at McKinsey and We Work … I have one thing to say: I really like our chances.

And I’m not the only one. An article in Forbes magazine last month was titled: “Why Amazon Should Put Its Headquarters in Philadelphia.”

A data-driven analysis by Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics also put Philadelphia on the short list of cities along with Austin and Atlanta. 

Here are just some of the reasons why Philly is a homerun: We have the size, the talent, the space, the location and the leadership that a great company like Amazon covets.

We have tremendous air, rail, shipping, public transportation and highway access.

We are centrally located between the financial and governing capitals of the world.

We have prime shovel-ready space between the Navy Yard, Schuylkill Yards, and uCitySquare all ready to build a world-class headquarters easily integrated into the region.

We have an excellent mix of affordable urban and suburban housing stock.

We have a tremendous quality of life: a compact, amenity-rich, walkable downtown, with great parks, restaurants, museums, sports and entertainment venues. Not to mention, the greenways from Center City to Valley Forge.

We have more than 100 colleges and universities within a 50-mile radius, including top-notch institutions like Penn, Jefferson, Drexel, Temple, and Villanova.

No region can top our educated talent pool.

And we have a stable and increasingly business friendly environment, starting with our Chamber of Commerce and extending to world-class Fortune 500 companies like Comcast, Vanguard and AmerisourceBergen – which is led by our keynote speaker Steven Collis.

In short, we are a lot like Amazon’s own internal slogan: We work hard, have fun and make history.

If anything, the process of mounting the bid cemented my belief that Philadelphia is perfectly suited for Amazon.

In fact, Amazon wants what every other company - big or small -  looks for when it comes to growing or starting a business. That’s why it is in our interest to do everything we can to not only bring Amazon to Philadelphia, but to position the region to support and attract the Amazons of tomorrow.

We have done a lot in the past year to up our game in Philadelphia. But there is more we can do. And more we must do.

This will ensure when opportunities like Amazon arise, Philadelphia is on everyone’s short list of places to do business. 

Thank you, everyone.

Let’s keep working together to make Philadelphia one of the world’s great metros.