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Making Kenney’s Economic Vision a Reality

The Mayor’s economic vision for Philadelphia is simple. He wants to decrease poverty by improving education and job training, spreading economic growth to neighborhoods that have been left behind, and furthering the revitalization seen in Center City.

Here are some of the ways the Department of Commerce is making that vision a reality in all our neighborhoods:

Furthering revitalization seen in Center City

One of our main priorities is making it easier to operate a business in Philadelphia.

  • Recent changes like moving all L&I licenses online and updating the Revenue website have greatly eased the process of doing business in Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia City Council established a Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform to examine the current Philadelphia Code for outdated and confusing regulations. Commerce Director Harold T. Epps will serve as one of the co-chairs, and representatives from the business community will be asked to serve as committee members.
  • To increase access to capital for small business, the Department of Commerce supports a number of programs, including:
    • Capital Consortium – A group of commercial lenders who work together to streamline and improve the process of applying for business loans. Applicants can reach all Consortium members at once by filling out a simple information form.
    • StartupPHL Funds – An effort by the City of Philadelphia and PIDC to increase the availability of investment capital for Philadelphia-based startups. The StartupPHL Angel Fund makes investments of $25,000 to $100,000; and the average size of StartupPHL Seed Fund investments is $250,000 to $750,000 for seed-stage companies.

We are also focused on growing private sector jobs in Philadelphia through business attraction, retention and expansion. When we look to bring in a new company or keep an existing firm in Philadelphia, the number one goal is always job creation. Many of the incentive tools used by our Business Development team are directly tied to job creation, including the Job Creation Tax Credit and workforce training grants.

Last year, investment management company Vanguard announced plans to open an Innovation Center downtown, bringing 20 new jobs to Philadelphia.  To build on that momentum, we’ve established Gateway Philly – a pilot program that offers rent reimbursements to entice other suburban companies to launch a satellite office in the city. Meanwhile, our team also continues to dedicate resources to attracting international companies, namely those from high-growth sectors such as life sciences and technology.

Spreading economic growth to neighborhoods that have been left behind

To ensure that residents in all neighborhoods get to experience the success and revitalization happening downtown, the City is committed to investing in commercial corridors and expanding opportunities for minority businesses.

With the significant investments being made through Rebuild, our neighborhoods can also anticipate further commercial and real estate development. Additionally, the Department of Commerce continues to fund several key resources for commercial corridors.

  • Programs such as the Storefront Improvement Program and InStore forgivable loans allow small business owners to make enhancements to their establishments.
  • We also provide funding for capital improvements and screetscaping, as well as 17 Corridor Managers in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Generating more opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses is another important strategy for bringing economic success to all the city’s residents. In 2016, Philadelphia surpassed its 30% participation goal, awarding more than $318 million in City, Federal and Quasi-Public contract dollars to minority and women-owned businesses. To expand the number of minority and women-owned businesses receiving contracts, Commerce continues to host monthly “Doing Business in the City” workshops, which help guide firms through the process of pursuing City contracts. Our Office of Economic Opportunity also applied for a Citi Foundation grant to implement a Minority Business Pipeline Project, which would provide technical assistance and capacity building to a pilot cohort of businesses.


Improving education and job training

The creation of a talent pipeline that is prepared to take on the new jobs coming to Philadelphia requires a multi-pronged approach. Not only is the City pushing for increased utilization of CTE and apprenticeship programs for more traditional industries like the trades and manufacturing; we are also supporting initiatives that aim to prepare students for careers in tech and other innovative fields.

  • STEMcityPHL uses high-impact mentoring to strengthen STEM education and career opportunities for Philadelphia students.
  • StartupPHL’s Call for Ideas grants are regularly distributed to organizations that provide tech training; the latest round is specifically focused on connecting students to tech.

To learn more about the Department of Commerce’s recent impact, review our 2016 Commerce by the Numbers report.

Mayor Kenney’s vision for Philadelphia is one that will require all of us – government, business and residents – to work together. Let others know about the steps we are already taking by sharing this post with your networks.