The Power Fifty 2009

What This List Is: Our ranking of the most influential Philadelphians. What This List Isn’t: A rehash of the usual suspects

26. Harold Epps, influencer
President and CEO, PRWT Services
New to list

Even though PRWT’s bid to go public failed this year, Epps is the highly regarded new businessman on the block. The 57-year-old North Carolina native took over the day-to-day tasks at PRWT (one of the largest minority-owned companies in Philly; it’s provided business process services to governments for more than 20 years, and last year got into pharmaceutical manufacturing) from founder Willie Johnson in ’08. The company’s leadership is a who’s who of the politically connected — George Burrell, Jerry Johnson, Mark Schweiker. This year, Mayor Nutter tapped Epps to chair a task force on tax policy and economic competitiveness, where he’s earned respect for his no-nonsense approach.

27. Jeremy Nowak, willpower
President, the Reinvestment Fund
New to list

Nonprofit scrappers and business CEOs alike praise Nowak’s skill at getting money to deserving revitalization projects in struggling neighborhoods (from housing and grocery stores to artists’ workspaces and the Mastery Charter Schools), particularly the “early dollars,” which are the riskiest. Since Nowak, 57, founded the Reinvestment Fund in 1985, it’s sunk about $650 million into the region, leveraging about $1.9 billion in total development, mostly in places that at one time seemed hopeless.

28. Judith von Seldeneck, influencer
CEO, Diversified Search Odgers Berndtson
2005: 7 :: 2000: Not on list

Name the local CEO, and chances are von Seldeneck has recruited, placed, advised, mentored or cheer-led him or her, including Ed Notebaert at Temple Health and Ted Peters at Bryn Mawr Trust, to cite just two. Her company is one of the most influential headhunting firms in the nation, but her clout increasingly comes from her role as girlfriend-in-chief of a feisty sorority of the city’s most powerful women (Midge Rendell, Judy Spires, Camille Barnett) and her more stealthy one as key adviser in the Nutter kitchen cabinet.

29. Marc Vetri, lifestyle
New to list

There are charity events, and then there are charity events that bring celeb chefs like Bobby Flay to town and raise $300,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. But that’s not why Marc Vetri is so important to us. (Neither is the fact that his namesake restaurant has been called the best in America, or that he’s expanded foodie horizons with pizza on North Broad.) Instead, Vetri’s on our list because by emphasizing cooperation over competition, he’s changed the way the restaurant industry works in this city. He’s brought talented chefs through the ranks in his kitchens, then encouraged them to do their own thing. And that’s added depth to our restaurant scene, giving us some of the region’s best eateries — Blackfish, Zahav, Xochitl and James. So far.

30. Carl Dranoff, transformational
President, Dranoff Properties
New to list

Whatever your opinion of his Symphony House on Broad Street, this 61-year-old real estate developer has been erecting and rehabbing buildings at an incredible pace since forming his -Philadelphia-headquartered company 11 years ago — and is changing city streets in the process. World Cafe Live in West Philly, Venice Lofts in Manayunk, 777 South Broad in South Philly, the Victor in Camden — the list goes on in a mostly neighborhood-revamping, residential-and-retail-mix manner. Everyone else seems to have given up on the Camden dream, but this Drexel grad plans to break ground next year on another -condo-rise, called Radio Lofts, across the river. We thought he was brave when he publicly fired back at Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron in a letter to the editor after she panned Symphony House. He must be: He’s venturing into sharky Main Line waters with a downtown overhaul in Ardmore.