10 Big Ideas to Solve Philly’s Looming Jobs Crisis

Illustration by Alex Nabaum

There is in this city a coming-of-age narrative — the Story of Philadelphia’s Rise — and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this story well. It’s been told and retold by everyone from realtors to corporate recruiters to this magazine to the New York Times, and the basic plot goes like this: Once upon a time, Philly sucked. Laid low by the death of manufacturing and urban flight after WWII, the city by the 1970s was a pretty dismal place — a ghost town, all empty storefronts and streets. And then, a shift. Ed Rendell kicked us out of near-bankruptcy. The economy started growing; so did the city’s appeal. John Street focused on neighborhood improvement; the Center City District cleaned the place up. Now? It’s a whole new Philly. Center City booms, as does University City. We’re green, clean, walkable and bikeable, with a thriving hospitality industry and vivacious neighborhoods. There’s Comcast, the Navy Yard, the emerging start-up scene, all those millennials flooding the place. But you already know all of this.

There’s another story, too, though it’s not as well known. It’s certainly not as cheery as the first. It’s about economic growth, or the lack thereof, and it goes like this: For years — decades, actually — we’ve grown new jobs too slowly. Other major cities are attracting more companies, more talent, more money, at much faster rates. And this problem, roiling against the backdrop of revival, is more than a dark cloud in an otherwise sunny landscape: It’s a direct threat to all of Philly’s progress.

Truth is, Philly’s remarkable resurgence is less a product of innovative long-term planning and more the result of, well … happy accident. Over the past decade, especially, we’ve benefited immensely from a renewed national interest in cities (especially among millennials and boomers), a handful of major players hitting their stride (thanks, meds, eds, Comcast), and an unexpected population boom (more births than deaths, those enthusiastic millennials, and a steady flow of immigrants). Read more »

5 Takeaways from the 2017 “State of Center City” Report

Center City has strengths that can help it dig out of the employment hole it's still in, say local leaders. (USA Today Sports)

Center City has strengths that can help it dig out of the employment hole it’s still in, say local leaders.
(USA Today Sports)

The release of the 2017 “State of Center City” report at this morning’s quarterly meeting of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation was a “Yes, but…” affair.

Yes, job growth in the city is on a tear, said Center City District Executive Director Paul Levy. It outpaced job growth in both the suburbs and nationwide in 2016. And Philadelphia has added jobs for seven years running and 11 of the last 12. But in an economic recovery that’s been led by job growth in cities since 2010, Philadelphia — city and region — posted the slowest growth of the nation’s 26 largest cities in that time span.

Yes, the city has posted impressive job growth numbers relative to years past. But it’s still not only digging out of a 36-year-old hole — employment remains 25 percent below where it was in 1970 — it hasn’t even returned to its 1990 level yet. By contrast, its peer cities in the Northeast have fully recovered on both fronts and boast employment figures 12 (New York) to 24 (Washington) percent above their 1970 levels.

“This is why we called it ‘The Challenge of Incomplete Revival,'” [PDF] Levy said in his remarks opening this morning’s panel discussion.

The question then becomes: How do we complete it? Read more »

Report: Educational and Medical Jobs Help Stabilize Rents and Retail Market

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

It’s no secret that Philadelphia is a powerhouse in educational and health services – just a quick glance around our thriving metropolis will make this more than obvious. What might not be so obvious, however, is that this position reaps benefits far beyond what’s to be expected.

In fact, according to a new report by CBRE Group, Inc., our solid base of educational and medical jobs has helped to smooth out the fluctuations in our rental and retail real estate markets as well. 

In the Philadelphia metro, 21.4 percent of workers, or 618,000 of our total of 2.9 million employed, hold educational- or health-related jobs, the highest share of any of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. It even exceeds the national average, which currently sits at 15.4 percent.

According to Ian Anderson, director of research and analysis at CBRE in Philadelphia, the influence of both these industries is huge on our commercial real estate market. “It is most pronounced and measurable in the multifamily market, where we have seen its effect in buoying rents during the last downturn,” he says. Read more »

Why Valley Forge Is Banking on Sports to Lure Visitors

Making the pitch for a regional sports facility in Montgomery County at a Feb. 16 news conference at Center Ice in Oaks were (left to right) Chris Branscome, CEO, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer; Andy Carl, sports sales manager, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board; Jennifer Shipman, director of sales, DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia/Valley Forge; LIsa Karl, vice president of sales and strategic partnerships, VFTCB; Mark Shepard, King of Prussia Fire Department, and Mike Bowman, president and CEO, VFTCB. | Photo: Sandy Smith

Making the pitch for a regional sports facility in Montgomery County at a Feb. 16 news conference at Center Ice in Oaks were (left to right) Chris Branscome, CEO, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer; Andy Carl, sports sales manager, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board; Jennifer Shipman, director of sales, DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia/Valley Forge; LIsa Karl, vice president of sales and strategic partnerships, VFTCB; Mark Shepard, King of Prussia Fire Department, and Mike Bowman, president and CEO, VFTCB. | Photo: Sandy Smith

For an investment of just under $50 million plus a modest annual operating subsidy, Montgomery County hotels and restaurants could see $100 million or more pour into their coffers within five years if a new multi-sport tournament-ready playing facility is built in the county.

To get the ball rolling towards that goal, the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board held a kickoff news conference last Thursday (February 16th) at Oaks Center Ice to mark the formal start of raising funds and soliciting proposals for a Valley Forge Sports facility. Read more »

How Philly Moms Are Fighting for the Right to Pump Breast Milk in Privacy

Illustration by Anna Parini

Illustration by Anna Parini

Like most moms, I’ve breast-pumped while perched delicately atop toilets, while wedged into filing closets, while idling in Target parking lots.

This is all de rigueur in the pumping world, which is one of endless workarounds. For one thing, being topless at work and milked by a motorized pump is nobody’s first choice; for working moms, pumping is the only way to feed their kids breast milk for the full year recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Secondly, even though federal and city laws require most employers to provide non-bathroom private space for moms to express milk, there’s wide latitude in what those spaces look like and how consistently they’re available — particularly in our increasingly open-office society. Not to mention all the public spaces that offer, like, zip. So … hello, Wawa bathrooms, hotel lobbies, broom closets. Read more »

U-City Named Hottest Tech Submarket in Nation

One Drexel Plaza and Drexel Square

Strong demand and rising rents should make it easy for projects in the University City development pipeline, like the Schuylkill Yards joint venture between Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust, to find tech-sector tenants to fill them, if the latest CBRE “Tech-Thirty” report is any guide. | Image: SHoP Architects and West8

Those shiny new buildings rising in University City are not only turning it into Philadelphia’s second downtown — they’re making it the nation’s hottest submarket for high-tech office space, according to CBRE’s annual “Tech-Thirty” survey.

The survey, which examines job growth and technology office space rent growth in the nation’s 30 largest technology employment centers, put the area surrounding Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania at the top of the list for office rent growth — the average rent of $41.40 per square foot is up 37.8 percent over the two-year period from the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2016 — and in growth of net absorption (the amount of space on the market that gets occupied), it ranked second only to Tempe, outside Phoenix, with a growth rate of 23.3 percent over that same period. Read more »

The Most People Ever Visited Philadelphia In 2015

Philadelphia Skyline | R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Skyline | R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

Visit Philadelphia released Philadelphia’s tourism statistics today, and the numbers are record-breaking: 41 million people visited our city last year, up from 39 million in 2014.

But to some extent, the results are unsurprising — this marks the sixth year in a row that Philadelphia has broken the previous year’s tourism record. And with the city playing host to marquee events like the papal visit in 2015 and the Democratic National Convention this year, why should we be surprised? Philly’s a city on the rise. (The New York Times shouted us out in its “36 hours” series in May).

And while Philly rises, its economic fortunes do, too. According to Visit Philadelphia, visitors to the city generated $10.7 billion in economic impact, or, put another way, $29 million every single day. 

Read more »

Verizon, City Could Tussle Over Fios Franchise Agreement

Verizon Fios ad - Suburban Station

An ad for Verizon Fios in Suburban Station. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Verizon says it’s fulfilled its contractual obligations to roll out Fios to the entire city. Philadelphia isn’t so sure.

Earlier this month, the city asked residents to let them know if they’d tried to get Verizon Fios but were told it was not available in their area. Verizon signed a franchise agreement with the city for its Fios television service in early 2009. One requirement, standard in most franchise agreements in American cities, was for Verizon to have the entire city covered with Fios service by February of this year.

“It’s in our best interests as a company — after pursuing the franchise agreement and investing millions of dollars to build our network — to make the service available to as many city residents as possible,” says Verizon spokesman John O’Malley. He says Verizon completed a build-out of its network a bit before the February deadline.

But Philadelphia has received more than 500 submissions to the city website asking residents if they’ve been unable to get Fios, says Philadelphia Chief Information Officer Charlie Brennan. If it’s determined Verizon violated the agreement, the company could pay fines up to $2.6 million “if we can prove definitively that they have not met their commitment,” Brennan says. Read more »

It’s Happening: Comcast Is Buying DreamWorks

comcast-dreamworks-940x540

NBCUniversal, which is part of the mighty Comcast Corporation, announced the purchase of Dreamworks Animation today, in a major deal for the Philadelphia-based cable and entertainment conglomerate.

DreamWorks Animation is a production company that makes animated films, TV shows, live entertainment and related products. You know it from animated features like Shrek and Madagascar.

According to a statement from Comcast, DreamWorks has an equity value of about $3.8 billion, and DreamWorks stockholders will receive $41 per share. The boards of each company and the majority shareholder of DreamWorks have all approved the agreement, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Read more »

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