Mayor Kenney Op-Ed: Tech Is Key to Philadelphia’s Growth

In an op-ed, Mayor Kenney explains how he plans to further champion Philadelphia’s tech industry.

James Kenney | City Council Flickr

Mayor Jim Kenney | City Council Flickr

When I think about where Philadelphia has the greatest potential for growth, I am instantly drawn to the tech industry, and I am not alone. Global incubator and seed fund 1776 partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this year on a report ranking 25 major U.S. cities and their readiness for the oncoming digital economy — Philadelphia ranked 8th, ahead of New York City and Washington D.C.

Right now, the buzz surrounding Philly’s startup scene is bigger than ever. Companies like Curalate and RevZilla are getting national attention. CNBC recently profiled our startup community, highlighting Philadelphia’s unique attributes, including the city-backed platform StartupPHL. We’re seeing extraordinary growth and development in University City and other innovation districts around the city.

As our progress continues, discussions around how to elevate Philadelphia’s tech and startup scene increase. A difficult regulatory environment is often noted as a challenge, as well as a perceived lack of urgency. I want to assure you I see it as my job to enable innovation, not stifle it, and I take this responsibility very seriously.

One way I’ve tried to achieve this is by being a champion for the tech community. That is why the Commerce Director and I have made it a point to visit several offices and co-working spaces and to take part in the many conferences and other events our tech community hosts throughout the year. The City’s Director of Entrepreneurial Investment, Archna Sahay, has also instituted regular office hours at co-working spaces across the city, where entrepreneurs can meet with her for one-on-one advice. Additionally, Philadelphia had its first organized presence at SXSW in March. Being there further established the City of Brotherly Love as a hub for startups and promoted the companies, innovations and technologies we have created here. In 2017, Philadelphia will have an even bigger presence at SXSW.

Our Administration also supports several very concrete resources for startups, including tax credits and incentives like the Keystone Innovation Zones (KIZs). We have the StartupPHL Fund, a collaboration between the City, PIDC and venture capital firms, which provides early-stage investments to Philadelphia-based startups.

Additionally, we understand that tech startups grow by hiring the best talent they can find. We are doing what we can to make Philadelphia a desired location for young people — adding bike lanes and engaging public spaces, improving the school system, and more. We are also working to develop a stronger talent pipeline here in Philly. The Department of Commerce now houses a Talent Development Unit, which focuses on preparing our residents for the workforce of today and tomorrow. StartupPHL’s Call for Ideas grants supplement these initiatives, funding startups like TechGirlz and FirstHand, which work with local kids to get them more involved in STEM fields.

As we continue building on Philadelphia’s current status as a hub for entrepreneurs, I also want to ask each of you to think about what you can do to impact our city. How can new technology, like 3D printing, be paired with Philadelphia’s deep history in traditional manufacturing to create innovative opportunities for our residents? How can tech solutions be used to deliver city services? How can you incorporate our next generation of young entrepreneurs into your companies and projects? We are eager to facilitate these interactions.

Philadelphia is brimming with talent and companies who deserve to be celebrated. 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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