Philly Benefits From Energy Boom. But Is It Safe?

A series of stories today that paint a big and complex picture: Philadelphia is benefitting from an “energy boom”—refineries in danger of being shuttered a couple of years ago are now back at work. But getting the raw materials here—oil and gas—remains a tricky, even scary proposition.

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Fixing Academia: 5 Ways To Save St. Joe’s (and Every University Like It)

Nov 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Saint Joseph's Hawks mascot. The Hawk, during the second half against the LSU Tigers at ESPN Wide World of Sports. LSU Tigers defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 82-65. Photo | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Saint Joseph’s Hawks mascot. The Hawk, during the second half against the LSU Tigers at ESPN Wide World of Sports. LSU Tigers defeated the Saint Joseph’s Hawks 82-65. Photo | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

St. Joseph’s University is facing financial problems. Revenue is not as high as projected. Expenses continue to rise. So they’re implementing budgetary cutbacks. Last year the university ran a $4.4 million deficit. Wow, what a huge surprise, right?

I don’t mean to pick on St. Joe’s. It is an excellent college. I have a St. Joe’s grad working for me and I often meet the school’s alumni in the business world and find them to be smart and successful.  Also, I live near the campus (my kids often play soccer on their turf field) and I think their outreach to the community is great. I want them to succeed. But the university is facing a problem that many other excellent colleges in the area and around the country are facing: the problem of potential extinction.

People just can’t afford to pay $50-60K a year for a college education, even if it’s at a good school like St. Joe’s. The payback just isn’t there. The numbers don’t make sense. St. Joe’s has to make some hard and unpopular adjustments if they want to survive. Adjustments that won’t compromise their standards or reputation. And I’ve got a few tough ones to recommend.

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Good Riddance, Radio Shack

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On Tuesday, Radio Shack announced that it would be closing 1,100 of its stores — nearly 20 percent of the company’s locations. During the last quarter, which included the normally busy Christmas-shopping season, Radio Shack sales fell 19 percent while net losses reportedly tripled. There are 20 Radio Shack stores in the Philadelphia area, but it remains unclear which of them will be affected.

This is a big business story, especially because Radio Shack has more stores in this country than almost any retailer (Walmart has 3,700 and Radio Shack competitor BestBuy has 1,400), and no doubt some pundits and prognosticators are going to chalk this up to a sluggish economy. But the real cause for Radio Shack closing 1,110 stores is none other than Radio Shack, which is quite simply and without hyperbole the worst retail shopping experience that exists on planet Earth. Read more »

Can Plastic Surgery Help Older Workers Get a Job?

The Philadelphia Business Journal has a piece today about workers getting plastic surgery either to nab or defend a job that might otherwise be taken by a younger coworker.

Dr. Jonathan Pontell has seen the trend up close.

“There’s no question that in the last five years, it’s happened way more often,” said the Media, Pa. based Pontell, who has been practicing since 1996. “There’s been a huge uptick.”

He cited two groups that get plastic surgery: Those looking for work, and people who fear they’ll lose their jobs or status because they look too old. People already employed but scared of ageism say they “want to protect their jobs by looking as youthful as they can.”

“It’s not fair. Qualifications and experience should land you the job,” said Pontell. “But whether people do it consciously or unconsciously, employers are taking other things into account other qualifications.”

 

Benjamin’s Desk Opens The 8th Floor

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Benjamin’s Desk celebrated innovation last week with a cocktail party on “The 8th Floor,” its new work and party space at 1701 Walnut Street. Benjamin’s Desk is a coworking space for mobile professionals, entrepreneurs and startups on Rittenhouse Row.

Individuals and companies can rent space at the Desk  from $99 a month to $1,100 plus for full-size companies. The atmosphere is similar to a think tank, with lots of people from different companies working alongside each other. At any given time conversations and ideas can flow from one work station to another, and a new innovative idea is born.

The newly-acquired eighth floor will welcome the first “smart-space” in Philadelphia, featuring Nest thermostats, seven flat-screens, Philips Hue lighting and streaming video, all of which can be controlled by an iPad. The space can be rented for events to outside vendors. Eventually it will have a roof deck.

More of HughE’s photos from Benjamin’s Desk after the jump »

Comcast May Sell Electricity in Pennsylvania

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Comcast has been busy lately. The company now owns 100 percent of NBCUniversal, it’s preparing to build the tallest building in the city again and Brian Roberts is the possible “kingmaker” for a deal with Time Warner Cable.

As part of the company’s expansion, Comcast is also looking to diversify its services. You’ve seen this already with XFINITY Home, which offers security and remote home control. And now, it’s going to sell electricity.

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5 Questions: Now That We Have a Land Bank, How’s It Going to Change the City?

Anne Fadullon

Anne Fadullon

Mayor Nutter’s signing of a new “land bank” bill on Monday was greeted with applause from the development community. Anne Fadullon, president of the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia, was among those offering praise. She’s hoping the new process will allow redevelopment of the city’s blighted areas without running roughshod over neighborhood interests that often find themselves in opposition to big new plans.

“I think really what’s encouraging about the process that’s happened so far is it’s really brought groups of people and entities together,” she said. “We’ve all kind of had to sit around the table and look at each other’s different perspectives.”

Fadullon talked to Philly Mag this week about the new land bank legislation, why it’s needed, and how it might remake the city’s landscape. Some excerpts:

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