February 18, 2014 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter addressed the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce at its annual Mayoral Luncheon and President’s Circle Reception. His prepared remarks as follows, please check against delivery:
“Thank you, Dan Fitzpatrick for that introduction. Your leadership as the Chamber of Commerce’s Chairman of the Board and your vision for our region’s future has been critical to our shared success.
I want to recognize Rob Wonderling, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, City Council President Darrell Clarke and the members of City Council, the representatives from Governor Corbett’s Administration, members of the General Assembly, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger and his team, PIDC President John Grady and all of the members of my Administration, here with us today.
I must also thank each and every one of you for your support and advice over the last several years. From the entrepreneurs and small business owners to the presidents and corporate suite executives of major corporations, you are the job creators, the leaders of our region and the drivers of our economy.
We share a deep passion for this City, a fervent belief in its potential and an unwavering commitment to driving Philadelphia forward. Today, I am proud to stand at this podium as your partner and as your Mayor.
You stood by us as we charted an ambitious course for this City. We navigated through the rough waters of the Great Recession and we always had your support.
Working together, Philadelphia is growing – a more modern and more prosperous City. Together, we have put our city on a fundamentally different path and built a strong foundation for Philadelphia’s future success. Let me mention to you what we have achieved:
Our skyline is being transformed with more than $5 billion worth of projects completed in the last two years, and many more to come.
Just last week, we unveiled a major new investment and development by the Church of Latter Day Saints at 16th and Vine, next to the Church’s elegant Temple rising on 17th and Vine. And later this afternoon, we will officially announce the team selected to transform the current Family Court building at 1801 Vine into a world-class hotel.
After a serious cooperative effort by our Administration, City Council President Clarke and the Fairmount Park Conservancy, we also announced last week an agreement to move forward with the sale of the Love Park garage, which will revitalize the iconic JFK Plaza and transform it into a dynamic, modern, open space for Philadelphians and tourists.
And, it’s not just Center City. Whether it’s the Bakers Square shopping center in Hunting Park, the Paseo Verde development in North Philadelphia, or the Veyko manufacturing facility along American Street – we are seeing investment all across Philadelphia.
Working with City Council, we are again lowering wage and business taxes, bringing the resident wage tax below 4% for the first time since the 1970s and we’re providing a range of exemptions and incentives to help companies start, stay, and grow in Philadelphia.
Together, we overhauled the out-dated, broken and corrupt property tax and assessment system, including completing the first comprehensive city-wide property assessment in a generation.
Together, we re-wrote the City’s zoning code – replacing a 50-year-old document – and created the City’s first comprehensive plan, Philadelphia 2035, making the development process more predictable and consistent with modern land-use policy.
We are transforming thousands of acres of long neglected waterfronts on the Central Delaware River and the Lower Schuylkill with dynamic plans that reclaim former industrial land – plans for new trails and parks and plans that will facilitate economic growth.
As part of our Master Plan for the Central Delaware River, we are putting in place a strategic vision and financial plan to finally reconnect Penn’s Landing to our urban core. The implementation of this plan will develop Penn’s Landing as a world-class public space.
And City Council and our Administration, working closely with Council President Clarke and Councilwoman Quinones Sanchez, created a Land Bank, a better system for the disposition of vacant land and properties, making Philadelphia the largest city in the nation to have such a system.
Working with PIDC, we launched new initiatives to foster the startup community in Philadelphia with investments in programs such as Startup PHL, the Science Center’s QED program and DreamIt Ventures, and partnered with organizations like Goldman Sachs to launch the 10,000 Small Businesses program to support small businesses in neighborhoods throughout our city.
Because of the investment that we have all made, because of the hard work we have all done together, the markets are responding and confidence in Philadelphia is growing. We are seeing a return on that investment in the form of unprecedented residential, commercial and institutional development; companies deciding to start here, stay here and grow here.
For the first time since the 1970s, our municipal credit rating is in the “A” category by all three major rating agencies – and it’s the highest it has ever been rated by Standard & Poor’s with an A+ rating.
We saw incredible decreases in crime in 2013 – the lowest number of homicides since 1967 and a nearly 40% decrease in homicides since I took office.
Our population has grown every year since 2008, as affirmed by the 2010 Census, and we’ll show growth in 2013 as well.
And, we have reversed the so-called brain drain, retaining almost half of all our non-local college graduates. No major city has experienced a larger growth of young people than Philadelphia.
The foundation we have built by working together, will make Philadelphia a better City with more opportunities for success forevery citizen. The path we have chosen, the path we are on now, is a path to greater prosperity.
Philadelphia has always been a city of ideas, a city of making – an idea that inspired this Chamber, PHLCVB, the City and many others to embark on a new regional promotion campaign, PHL – Here for the Making. Today, we are capitalizing on the presence of our world-class educational and research institutions and are quickly emerging as a true innovation city.
We must build on this momentum in the growing sectors of our economy to create new economic opportunities, jobs and growth in areas like health care, innovation and energy and clean tech.
Let’s start with health care. Our strength in healthcare is unrivalled and the institutions that call Philadelphia home are major drivers of our economy. Building on this solid foundation, we can reclaim our position as the capital of healthcare innovation in the United States.
We recently took a big step forward with the announcement by Independence Blue Cross that they will invest $50 million in health-related venture funds and early stage companies. I want to recognize and thank CEO Dan Hilferty for his forward-thinking in this area.
I want you all to know that I am committed to bringing more early stage capital to Philadelphia to help turn ideas into businesses, innovation into jobs.
Over the last few years, we have welcomed hundreds of start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs into our fold. Companies like RJMetrics, a fast-growing data analytics firm right here in Center City.
Founded in 2009 by Jake Stein and Robert Moore, RJMetrics helps their clients grow, while expanding their own business in the process. In the last ten months, RJMetrics has nearly doubled in size – and they are still hiring.
And just this morning, we officially opened their new workspace across the street from City Hall in the Widener Building – a space three times larger than their last. Let’s recognize the founders of RJMetrics – Jake and Bob – who are here today.
Or look at, Revzilla, a homegrown on-line, motorcycle accessory retail company, which will move into a larger warehouse space at the Navy Yard next month with the help of the City, PIDC and Liberty Property Trust to accommodate its exceptional growth.
Before the end of this quarter, RevZilla will have a staff of more than 100 full-time employees and 160 by the end of this fiscal year. Let’s recognize Anthony Bucci and Chris Pinto from RevZilla.
Small businesses with innovative approaches are thriving here in Philadelphia. These are just two examples of the many forward-thinking businesses in our impressive technology and innovation sector.
Businesses are attracting more and more young, creative, educated people to our great City. Businesses of all sizes – from Curalate to Comcast – that are changing the tech and innovation scene in Philadelphia. Businesses that started small and, in just a few short years, are growing into bigger companies.
That’s the kind of growth environment that we are building in Philadelphia, together – a place for bold ideas and opportunity for all.
We are also seeing large investments from our tech and innovation market. Just last month, we announced that Comcast would build its new Innovation and Technology Center – a $1.2 billion development project, the largest in the history of Pennsylvania – right here in Philadelphia.
At 59 stories, it will be the tallest building in America outside of New York City and Chicago. Comcast will create 1,500 new jobs and thousands of construction jobs. The Center will be LEED Platinum Certified. And, most importantly, it will be the 21stcentury think-space, an innovation powerhouse, a technology epicenter.
I want to thank Ralph and Brian Roberts, our own David L. Cohen and the entire Comcast team, and Bill Hankowsky and John Gattuso at Liberty Property Trust for making this incredible investment right here in Philadelphia.
So, as our City continues to develop and thrive, Comcast has chosen to grow with us. And in doing so, it reaffirms our belief that Philadelphia is a powerhouse in the technology and innovation market.
Another major area of strength for us is energy. Last year, Philadelphia Energy Solutions took over the Sunoco Refinery, opening a range of opportunities for our region. Philadelphia has the potential to become one of the leading energy hubs in the United States, and people are starting to notice – companies like Axalta Coating Systems which recently chose Philadelphia as its new corporate headquarters.
But, perhaps one of the most critical decisions in developing our energy sector is the potential sale of Philadelphia Gas Works. A sale of PGW would require a joint effort by my Administration, City Council and many others, and I want to acknowledge their partnership throughout this process.
Selling PGW and unleashing the potential of this asset will increase the development of energy enterprises, reduce overall costs for customers and create a competitive advantage for our city. All of this while maintaining our commitment to social programs for low-income customers and our senior citizens, while also honoring the contract agreements with our skilled union workers of PGW.
Let me just say this, selling PGW is a necessary step to protect the stability of our City’s finances. Selling PGW will infuse hundreds of millions of dollars into our struggling and severely underfunded pension system – tackling a problem decades in the making.
We expect the sale of PGW to generate expanded natural gas opportunities, which would mean lower costs for manufacturers and shipping and transportation companies. It would allow for critical infrastructure upgrades that would, in turn, create new jobs for our building trades and members of the gas workers union.
We are now reviewing all of the final bids and we expect an announcement very soon.
I truly believe that, in addition to the energy and technology sectors, we must reinvigorate the manufacturing industry in Philadelphia. It won’t be the same as it once was but it can be great again.
The 1970’s manufacturing decline severely impacted our regional economy. We stagnated. Over the years, we rebounded as we shifted our focus to new economic drivers. Today, we have an opportunity to bring manufacturing jobs back into our workforce, expanding the types of jobs available to many Philadelphia workers.
So, in January of last year, I created the Mayor’s Manufacturing Task Force, with the help of Councilman Bobby Henon and this Chamber, and charged it with mapping out a growth strategy for manufacturing in Philadelphia. We have begun to review and implement the recommendations, with the goal of attracting new manufacturers to Philadelphia and coordinating the pursuit of federal, state and other funding options.
We still have a great deal of work to do to make Philadelphia an attractive place to traditional and new manufacturers. But, I honestly believe we can regain a foothold in manufacturing, and expand it using our natural strength of location and workforce training.
We have the right support network in my office, in City Council, the Commerce Department, Philadelphia Works and our anchor institutions. We have the space. We have the people. We have the potential. We have great companies – now, let’s go get even more.
And, I have taken a message of “Philadelphia is open for business” across the country and around the world.
From Beijing to Tianjin and London to Tel Aviv, from San Francisco to Chicago and Boston to New York City and many others – I’ve talked to people around the corner and around the world about the talented people who move Philadelphia forward, create jobs and opportunity and make us strong.
That’s why we’re continuing to invest in the expansion of the Philadelphia International Airport, PHL – its growth is vital to securing our position in the global marketplace. We are very excited about the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, which created a global travel network that will make Philadelphia a pivotal destination and about the arrival of Qatar Airways, the fifth new air service at PHL in the last 18 months, after 8 years of no new airline service in Philadelphia.
Last year, I spoke to you about my vision for the future of Philadelphia – a more prosperous City, with a strong and diverse economy, a well-educated and highly skilled workforce prepared for the 21st century marketplace, open for business to the world, with significantly reduced crime and poverty as a result.
And today, it’s clear that confidence is growing in our City. We have a strengthening economy. We have population growth and limitless potential. We have a safer, cleaner, greener city. I know the future is looking bright in Philadelphia.
But, Philadelphia still faces some serious challenges that threaten that bright future. Crime, though decreasing, is still much too high— even one life lost is one too many. Too many Philadelphians are without decent health care. Too many of our families lack affordable housing options. Too many of our returning citizens can’t find a job. Too many of our children and adults go hungry. And, too many of our neighbors, our grandparents and our children struggle in poverty.
With more than a quarter of our population living in poverty, we face significant challenges in attracting and retaining businesses,increases in costs to the City for providing services and the loss of thousands of people who don’t fully participate in the economy of our City.
Last year, we launched Shared Prosperity, our comprehensive anti-poverty strategy, to address this cyclical, intergenerational problem. In our first few months, we have seen incredible participation from foundations, non-profit organizations and the financial and legal communities. Our efforts helped secure West Philadelphia as a Promise Zone designee by President Barack Obama.
We must not turn away from these challenges that hurt our City. We can’t ignore these problems and hope they just go away. Right now, we have to be honest with ourselves about what will create opportunities and economic vitality for Philadelphia. The answer is education.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision on Brown v. the Board of Education. At the heart of the case, was the issue of equal access to high-quality education.
Listen to this key part of the Court’s decision – Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms.” That statement is as true today, as it was 60 years ago.
Quality education remains the greatest challenge Philadelphia faces in the 21st century. In my view, access to a high-quality education is the Civil Rights issue of the 21st century.
You are less likely to become a first class scholar with second class education funding. We’re less likely to become the world-class city we want to be with a workforce in which many struggle with low-literacy skills and poor educational attainment.
For each of you in this room, solving the education problem must become a business and economic imperative. If we don’t address this problem now, in 10 years, we won’t have a competitive workforce, meaning you won’t have a qualified pool of workers to fill available positions.
Not to mention, the bright young entrepreneurs who love Philadelphia now, who have chosen Philadelphia as their home today, who started their own businesses or work in yours – they may leave. They won’t want to send their children to under-funded schools. But it’s not a problem a decade from now – it’s a today problem for the kids in school right now and the new parents looking for a school in the next few years.
You are business owners and leaders. Every day, you make critical decisions about where to spend and how to save. Our School District doesn’t have that level of autonomy or the flexibility – the District is essentially living “one-time fix to one-time fix,” cutting valuable programs and initiatives to make every dollar stretch.
We have to stop our tendency toward politically expedient, one-time, one-year fixes. There isn’t a business in this room that would operate this way. Your shareholders, investors, employees and customers wouldn’t stand for it. And, when it comes to education, the school children and parents of this City won’t stand for it either.
This on-going series of one-time fixes is hurting the quality of education our children receive and it’s having a serious impact on our City’s budget.
Here are my thoughts on moving forward:
We need a bold new approach to public education. I am not interested in saving schools of the 1950’s – I’m interested in the schools of today and tomorrow, making them innovative campuses of educational excellence.
I am talking about high performing district-managed and charter schools with a common system of accountability. Schools that focus on science, technology, engineering the arts and math, career and technical education, and the career academies model. School models that build a foundation for high-quality education in the future.
But, we have to start with fair and full funding for the School District of Philadelphia and every other school district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
We need a predictable and sustainable funding system for public education in Pennsylvania – just like you look for predictable and sustainable revenue for your company.
We need a state-wide, student-weighted funding formula.
We need to fund public education based on the number of students in a district and the specific needs of those students – needs such as English as a second language, poverty, or a learning disability. By the way, Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the country without a student-weighted funding formula.
City Council passed the cigarette tax 16-0, now we need the General Assembly to pass authorizing legislation which would provide $80+ million of locally generated annual recurring funding to the District. And, we need the General Assembly to change the distribution of the 1% Philadelphia sales tax extension to a 50/50 split between the School District and the City’s pension fund, providing an additional more than $70 million to each, every year.
With those two actions in Harrisburg, we then need City Council to do its part and pass the State amended 1% sales tax extension to help ensure that the future economic viability of both our School District and City pension fund are protected – we still have more work to do.
Over the last three years, working with City Council, I have increased funding to the School District by $155 million annually, including raising your taxes. Some of you didn’t like it – and I wasn’t thrilled about it either, but I had to take action for our children.
I believe that investing in the education of our children is an investment in the future. It’s an investment in making our region more competitive. It’s an investment in our City, the Commonwealth and our nation.
I am asking you to join me in the fight for the future, the fight for our children, the fight for a smarter, ready for business Philadelphia. Whether you walk, drive or take the train, come to Harrisburg with me and urge the Commonwealth to make public education a top priority.
I’m asking this Chamber to make education funding, full and fair funding, your number one priority for 2014. Every meeting, every lobbying day, every fundraiser, every survey – education funding must be at the top of the discussion. You can also support the children of this City by partnering with local schools and by sponsoring summer internships for young people through WorkReady.
Under the impressive leadership of Dr. William Hite, the School District has already made many difficult decisions for the fiscal health of the District. He has closed failing schools, consolidated schools that weren’t operating at a cost-effective level and reduced contracted services and Central Office staff. He continues to work toward critical reforms in union contracts for teachers and principals and other District staff.
And, I know that Dr. Hite has ideas about changing the approach to education – he outlined many of them yesterday in Action Plan v. 2.0, his blueprint for the future of the District. He has my full confidence and support in seeking sensible work rule changes, developing a better accountability model and creating a system that produces well educated young people.
I look forward to working with him and the members of the School Reform Commission on these efforts, while partnering with all of our stakeholders as we go to Harrisburg together to fight for fair and full funding for education.
In spite of the challenges our city faces, my enthusiasm is unstoppable. I know we are a great City. We won’t allow the progress of the last few years to be undone. One of the most valuable lessons of my time in public service, perhaps the most important, is that our city is strongest when we work with our partners for the benefit of every citizen.
For me, that means working shoulder to shoulder with the neighborhood, civic, religious and business leaders in our city and our region and this Chamber of Commerce. So, I have a direct request – continue to be our partner in building a better City, grow with us, help us create more opportunities for every Philadelphian.
We are on the right path. Working together, we have built a strong foundation – now, let’s keep working together.
Let’s talk together, pull in the same direction together, toward a better city, toward more opportunities, toward prosperity, toward common goals. And if we bind together our resources, our resolve and our ideas, then Philadelphia will be the place where greatness is made.
God bless Philadelphia. Thank you.”