Mayor Michael A. Nutter addressed the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce at its annual Mayoral Luncheon and President’s Circle Reception. His prepared remarks are as follows, please check against delivery:
“Good afternoon and thank you ladies and gentlemen for having me one more time for my annual report on the state of our City.
Today, I am pleased to say Philadelphia is in the best shape it’s been in for many years. We are experiencing growth across the board – population, employment and development.
After seven consecutive years of growth, Philadelphia’s population is at its high point since the mid 1990s – more than 53,000 new residents in Philadelphia, including the largest percentage of millennial population growth of any major city in America.
Jobs – we’re at our highest level in a decade. More people are working here, with a total number of employed Philadelphians is higher now than at any time since 2001. Our current unemployment rate is 6.4% — the lowest since 2008.
Our economy is booming – since January 2014, more than $8.5 billion of projects have been completed, under construction or announced in our City.
And, we’re a city in demand – a hub for start-ups and headquarters, large corporations and small businesses, satellite offices and skyscrapers.
Just yesterday, many of you probably heard, I announced that the American Bible Society is relocating its headquarters from New York City to Philadelphia this summer. They were very clear and straight forward about it. They said that they’re coming to Philadelphia because of our high-quality of life, affordability and diverse faith-based community. They are also bringing 200 new employees with to 5th and Market Street.
That’s not all. I’m pleased to announce two more companies are relocating to Philadelphia:
Integrichain, a New Jersey technology company, which is moving its headquarters to Philadelphia because the talent they need to grow, that talent wants to in Philadelphia. By December, Integrichain will have 50 employees at its new workspace in Eight Penn Center; and HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm with offices on three continents. The office will be at One Logan Square and it intends to hire 40 local employees.
These companies have learned, of course, what we already know: Philadelphia is a more attractive place to live, work, raise our families and visit and a better city to start, stay or grow a business.
Our City’s growth and prosperity is not the result of one Administration’s labor. Mayors, working with City Council, other elected officials and this business community, set the course of growth, plan for it and manage it.
But, mayors don’t start with a blank slate. They must address the challenges they’ve inherited while capitalizing on the assets they have available.
They stand on the shoulders of those who came before them – they drink from wells they did not dig and benefit from the shade of trees that were planted by others.
In Philadelphia, we’ve had 30 years of strong leadership, innovation and investment – three decades of change for the better.
In 1984, Philadelphians passionately debated whether to allow new construction to rise higher than the top of William Penn’s hat at City Hall. This was really a debate about the City’s economic future.
Mayor W. Wilson Goode made a choice and Philadelphia reached for the sky.
And now we have an incredibly beautiful skyline, a symbol of great economic health. Soon, Philadelphia will be home to the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, the largest building in the United States outside of New York City and Chicago and the largest development project in Pennsylvania history. And, we’ve made sure that the accompanying transportation infrastructure will be built to support this vast creative and innovative hub.
In the 1990s, Mayor Ed Rendell solved the financial crisis of a nearly bankrupt Philadelphia. He also rebranded the city as a destination for arts and culture and revitalized our hospitality industry. He invested in building the Avenue of the Arts, secured the Pennsylvania Convention Center at a new location, set out to build 2,000 new hotel rooms and enticed the GOP to hold its 2000 National Convention right here in Philadelphia.
We too have focused on improving the hospitality and tourism sector. Over the last seven years, we’ve transformed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway into our cultural corridor – adding the Barnes Foundation Museum to this incredible stretch of attractions.
Since 2000, Philadelphia has added more than 1,300 new hotel rooms and about 900 new jobs for Philadelphians at places like the Hotel Monaco, Hotel Palomar, Le Meridian, Homewood Suites and Home 2 Suite. And, we have more hotel projects underway: I know you are familiar with the combined W. and Element Hotels at 15th and Chestnut Streets and the Peebles Group’s Kimpton Hotel project at 1801 Vine Street.
Today, hospitality is among the top economic drivers for our city. We attract top-tier events, including the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, the Made in America Festival and the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in America for the first time in September 2015. I’m sure you saw that the New York Times named Philadelphia the No. 3 place to visit in the world and we’ve been shortlisted, of course, to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
In the 2000s, Mayor John Street oversaw the investment in two new stadiums, ensuring a four-team stadium district that is the envy of cities across America. And, he focused on rebuilding Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and eliminating blight.
We too have expanded neighborhood redevelopment and blight fighting strategies. We’re investing in commercial corridor improvements such as Frankford and Lancaster Avenues and the revitalization along Germantown and Erie, including improved and increased street lighting services.
We’re seeking out federal funding for vulnerable neighborhoods, like Mantua, which was designated as one of five Promise Zones by President Barack Obama, and North Central Philadelphia, which received a $30 million Choice Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Through our Philadelphia Land Bank, and by the way, Philadelphia is the largest city in America to have a Land Bank, we’re working with the private sector, non-profit organizations and individuals to take blighted, abandoned properties and return them to productive use and create more commercial development, market-rate and affordable housing, community gardens and more economic vitality in communities all across the city.
Liberty Place and Mayor Goode, a vigorous hospitality sector and Mayor Rendell, anti-blight initiatives and Mayor Street, and our decisions to build on their great work – in each case, it was leadership seizing opportunity and transforming our great City.
But mayors can’t accomplish these feats alone. They need the partnership of the business community and our residents. And of course, they need and must seek out the legislative, policy and budgetary support of City Council. For the last 30 years, City Council has been vital to Philadelphia’s growth and development. I want to thank City Council for its many contributions to our great city and ask you to recognize them one more time.
Mayoral leadership has had a ripple effect down through the decades, helping to swing the pendulum away from decline and toward investment in a more prosperous and vibrant Philadelphia.
Being mayor isn’t about treading water. It’s not about maintaining the status quo. It’s about action. It’s about getting stuff done. It’s about leaving the City better than you found it, as the Athenian Oath commands us – standing on the shoulders of those who came before you.
As a mayoral candidate in 2007, I campaigned for a Philadelphia renaissance with safer neighborhoods, better educated citizens, more ethical government, more growth in our population and more prosperity for every resident.
And, quite frankly, I think we’ve done a pretty decent job to bring us closer to that resurgent Philadelphia we want it to be. Let me talk about our great city today.
Philadelphia is a safer city. In 2014, our homicide rate was down 36% and incidents of violent crime were down 17% as compared to 2007. Our homicide rate is at has been at its lowest point since 1967 and violent crime totals are the lowest in 30 years.
Philadelphia is a smarter city. Over the last seven years, our on-time high school graduation rate has increased by 12 percentage points – from 53% when I came in, to 65% today. Our college degree attainment rate is above 25%. That translates into about 70,000 more Philadelphians with a college degree in just the last seven years. We certainly still have work to do.
We’ve worked to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America. We have completed or made progress on 160 of our 164 Green Works initiatives, including a 14% reduction in municipal government energy costs, sorry PECO, and a tripling in our residential curbside recycling rate since 2007. And, we have greened more than 1,100 acres, reducing storm water runoff by more than 500 million gallons a year.
Philadelphia is a more efficient and effective government focused on ethics, integrity and transparency – created the Office of the Chief Integrity Officer, beefed up the Inspector General’s Office, opened up our data to the public, implemented the Actual Value Initiative, wrote a new Zoning Code, and improved our tax collection. As of today, we have received nearly 7 million calls to Philly 311. And, due to our good fiscal management, our bond rating was upgraded to the A category by all three major rating agencies – the first time that’s happened since the 1970s.
All of these efforts and so many more, again, come with the input and strong support of Philadelphia City Council. Our Administration has focused on getting stuff done the right way.
Let me just say, I’m the first to realize that many of these changes don’t seem groundbreaking or particularly exciting, but they were serious, difficult, hard reforms. Many of these choices upset people in our city, but these decisions were necessary. When I was elected, I promised I would not kick the can down the road on critical reforms on how government gets stuff done, and I didn’t. We have a more ethical and efficient government as a result.
One of the best examples, and over the years one of the loudest, is our complicated negotiations with the City’s four largest municipal unions. I said seven years ago that a critical part of mayoral leadership, at least as I defined it, was to search for labor contracts that would be good both for the members and for our taxpayers. But these agreements also needed to be sustainable for well into future. We needed reform on critical issues like pensions, healthcare and work rules. It took time, but we achieved our goals in every one of these contract negotiations.
And so today for the first time since 2009, all four of our largest labor unions have contracts with raises and we got the needed reforms we campaigned for. And I want to note that in keeping with our concern for the future, three of the contracts’ terms expire in June 2017, allowing the next Administration time to reach new agreements with the unions.
Let us give our great public employees a round of applause for the work they do every day.
Philadelphia is also a more business-friendly city. We’ve reduced business and wage tax rates to 30 year lows, and we’ve planned for more reductions in our Five Year plan. We launched our Office of Business Services and programs like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business initiatives, Start-Up PHL, Kiva Zip, and many more.
And, there is more. On your table today, you have our Administration’s Priorities and Accomplishments document, the one from 2014 and its 2015 update, which is being released today at this luncheon, that provides a more comprehensive overview of what we have been doing and the progress that we have made across all areas of our city government.
The result? You can see it and you can feel it all over Philadelphia.
Let’s start in the beating heart of our city of neighborhoods, its economic engine, our beautiful, vibrant Center City. The revival of Center City started long before us, but we have taken it to another level.
Development is surging down Market East – currently under construction: $230 million retail and residential development between 11th and 12th Streets on the south side. This project, paired with the forthcoming redevelopment of the Gallery on the north side and the opening of Century 21 last year, will return Market East to its former glory and add more must see stops to our great shopping destination. In fact, Condé Nast Traveler recently named Philadelphia the No. 2 best shopping city in the world.
Investment is also rushing up Market West with the Brandywine Realty Trust’s development at 20th and Market.
And we’re constantly attending ground breakings and ribbon cuttings for new businesses, like:
EisnerAmper, a large consulting and accounting firm, came here as a gateway office in 2012 with 25 employees and now relocated to One Logan Square, they have about 125 employees; or Philadelphia Financial, an insurance company that opened in 2011, consolidated its operations here, creating 100 total jobs since it opened.
Look at University City: it’s expanding toward Center City, blending together what was once two distinct neighborhoods into one large hub of growth and innovation.
There’s EVO at Cira Center South and the FMC Tower, that is literally rising out of the ground on the west side of the riverfront. And, the new Dranoff construction proposed for the east side of the river at Locust Street – these new projects are closing the gap between Center City and University City.
Of course, the drivers of development in University City continue to be our great educational and healthcare institutions. We are seeing billions of dollars invested by the University City Science Center, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania for its Pennovation Campus, and Drexel University in its Innovation Neighborhood Master Plan.
This growth is indicative of the good things to come in University City and all across Philadelphia. More projects, more development, more growth, more talented young people calling Philadelphia home.
Let’s move on to the Navy Yard, where you see public investment and active recruitment of businesses by our Department of Commerce and PIDC has created a vibrant, growing economic zone with small businesses, start-ups and headquarters alike.
Just last month, three of our Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses graduates – Environmental Construction Services, Inc., United American Builders and the BFW Group – opened a cooperative work space down at the Navy Yard.
And these companies have joined other new businesses, like Franklin Investments, a financial firm, and EcoSave, an Australian energy efficiency company.
We’ve made the Navy Yard attractive using a proven model of growth: by investing public dollars in improved streetscapes, upgraded utilities and other infrastructure.
Since 2008, the Philadelphia Navy Yard has grown from a little more than 5.7 million square feet occupied to 7.0 million square feet occupied or under development and from 80 to 145 companies. In total, 11,500 people report to work at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which boasts a new hotel, a Marc Vetri restaurant, the Urban Outfitters and GSK’s headquarters and so much more.
And, then there are our waterfronts. Every Philadelphia mayor for the last fifty years promised improvement, development and change along Philadelphia’s waterfronts. We put words into actions.
For decades, the Penn’s Landing Corporation tried to develop Penn’s Landing. Patronage jobs were plentiful while progress was meager. We eliminated it, created the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, and working with strategic partners, drafted the Delaware Waterfront Master Plan to guide the next 25 years of progress.
As a result, you’ve seen some of these places, we’ve completed work on two major piers, the Race Street Pier and Washington Avenue Pier. Last summer, we launched Spruce Street Harbor Park, which was named one the world’s best urban beaches by Huffington Post. And, we have major plans to make Penn’s Landing Philadelphia’s next great public square.
But we haven’t neglected the Schuylkill waterfront either. This fall we cut the ribbon on the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, a publicly-funded connector project for the Schuylkill River Trail. And more trails are planned: amenities that will also attract new development.
All of this investment and development was again cited by the New York Times for reasons we were an “urban outdoor oasis”.
All of this growth, development and progress doesn’t just happen. And, I certainly didn’t do it alone.
Being mayor is about making tough choices and tough decisions. It is about a vision for the future. But it’s also about having the right team in place –I have a great team, a great group of people that I get to work with every day. I am the longest serving mayor of the top ten largest cities in America and we have a battle-tested team working hard every day to get stuff done.
Mayors should be the big picture visionaries and the pragmatic solution creators. Mayors capitalize on the millions of decisions made every day by business people like yourselves and community leaders and citizens. Mayors balance immediate priorities with future possibilities.
Now, this is my last speech to this Chamber as Mayor of my hometown. In 110 days, 110 days, Philadelphians will vote in mayor, City Council and other elections. Their decision will have a huge impact on our City’s future.
So before I wrap up, I want to talk to you about what I believe are the City’s major challenges, issues that we, as a City, must continue to address if we want to maintain the positive trend line of the last 30 years or so.
I think we can all agree that the next mayor will need to focus on the fundamentals – public safety, education, economic development, good fiscal management, and ethics and integrity. But, the next mayor will also address the three greatest challenges, in my opinion, that our city faces – education and funding, poverty, and the epidemic of violence affecting young men and boys of color.
These challenges are long-term, they’re deeply-rooted and they’re inter-connected. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes. And worse, they depress the potential of our city and its people every day.
Let me talk a little bit more about each one.
Education – Our education outcomes, though improving over the last seven years, are still much too low. Our high school graduation rate is 65%; the national average is about 80%.
Did you know that if you track an average 9th grade class in Philadelphia, only one in ten students will actually graduate from college?
If we continue on that path, which we won’t, it is estimated that 600,000 Philadelphians will lack the basic skills needed to compete in the global economy by 2030.
Make no mistake, this is, should be and must be a serious business concern. Not only will our future workforce lack the education and skills needed to work in your businesses, the millennial population who loves Philadelphia today, works in your companies and owns their own home, will not stay here if it means the having to send their children to some of our underperforming schools.
Part of this problem is that our schools are drastically underfunded. Our Administration, with City Council, has invested in education, more than $360 million in new annual funding over the last five years – that’s the largest increase in local contribution in terms of total dollars during the last 30 years. And, we will continue to make education a priority over this year, especially in the face of public education’s ongoing budget crisis.
But, we need the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to do its part too. We need an increase in education funding. Most importantly, we need the Commonwealth to implement a full and equitable system of funding for public education in Philadelphia and all across the state of Pennsylvania. We need a funding formula that takes into account the number of students and the needs and special challenges of each student.
I am very hopeful that under the leadership of Governor Tom Wolf, this year will be the year or should be the year to enact full and fair funding in Pennsylvania.
Poverty – This isn’t a new problem; poverty has been a serious problem in Philadelphia for generations. At 26.3%, Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of the top ten largest cities in America. Nearly 397,000 of our more than 1.5 million people in our city struggle under the oppressive weight of poverty, including 123,000 children.
And, income inequality in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth is only growing. A recent study showed that the average income of the state’s families grew between 2009 and 2013, but only because the top 1%, their income grew. Everyone else saw their collective income decrease. And this past summer, S&P released a study that said income inequality is hurting the overall economy of America – that’s the average citizen’s wallet and your bottom line.
Our Administration has been deeply committed to addressing the problem of poverty. We established a new office, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, or CEO, and we charged it with centralizing, advancing and managing our anti-poverty efforts and the money that comes in from many sources.
To address this cyclical, intergenerational problem, CEO launched Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, our comprehensive anti-poverty strategy. Shared Prosperity is a strategic approach that aligns available resources and assets to areas of need, focusing on education, jobs and job training, access to benefits, housing and economic security.
And, we are working to bring more family-friendly, family-sustaining and middle-class jobs to Philadelphia by reinvesting in manufacturing. Last year, we broke ground on the new $50 million Dietz and Watson facility and we welcomed United Scrap and AC Linen, both industrial companies, to Philadelphia.
The third challenge: the epidemic of violence among young men and boys of color. This problem makes a lot of people uncomfortable, well, it should. We are talking about the tragic and potential elimination of nearly an entire generation.
On average in Philadelphia, 80% of homicide victims and 75% of perpetrators are young black men. These numbers are devastating and only part of the impact – prisons are overcrowded, economic vitality and job growth stunted, communities and families suffer as a result.
In partnership with my good friend, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, our Administration launched Cities United, a national call to action to address the devastation of young black men killing other young black men in Philadelphia and many cities across America.
We’ve secured federal funding to bring together critical partners to address youth violence before it happens through the Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative.
And, we are actively involved with President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, working to ensure that our young men and boys of color have equal opportunities for success. Currently, we’re working with partners to develop a comprehensive plan to improve life outcomes for young people of color.
As I said before, these problems are inter-connected. Because when we address poverty, it will move the needle on education and violence in our communities. When we provide opportunities to young men and boys of color and help them stay out of trouble, we increase the likelihood that they will graduate high school, go on to higher learning and get a job and be a productive Philadelphian. When we keep kids in school, good schools, we reduce the chance of them ever committing a crime or perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
These are the chronic challenges that hold our city back from being the kind of leader in the world that we want to be and that we can be. We need to ensure that every Philadelphian is engaged in our economy and communities. We can’t leave any talent on the table, any resource untapped, any person’s potential unrealized…not in this day and time, not in this global economy, and not in our great City.
Despite the myth of the self made man, no one actually does it alone. We all have help at some point in our lives – our parents, a teacher who cared, a neighbor, someone who gave every one of us a chance. I am asking that each of you in this room be that person and help someone else.
Fight for fair and full funding for our kids. Support universal pre-k, including expanded federal and state funding. Mentor a student. Provide or subsidize summer internships for young people. Support job training programs. Hire a returning citizen who has paid their debt to society and is prepared to get to work. Get involved.
The only way we move forward in the 21st century global economy is if all of us move forward together.
Because isn’t that really the ultimate goal: a more prosperous city, a growing city, a better city than when any of us found it.
It’s about making difficult decisions, investing in the future while still balancing the interests of today, and working with partners to make Philadelphia stronger.
Mayoral leadership cannot be short-sighted or self-motivated. The best interest of our great citizens must be our first interest. That takes character.
The next mayor will meet with presidents of corporations and countries, international delegations and local unions, national developers and everyday Philadelphians. The next mayor will need to be a coalition builder and a partner to the business community, the neighborhoods, the political community, the non-profit sector and so many more. That takes leadership.
The next mayor will need to capitalize on the good government practices that the leaders before him left, as well as the challenges. That takes knowledge.
This job takes heart. It takes compassion and empathy. And, it takes skill.
As mayor, I have dedicated myself to moving Philadelphia forward. I am very proud of what our Administration has been able to accomplish over the last seven years with the support of this great Chamber, our City Council, the business community and, most importantly, our residents.
But we still have work to do. Our team will continue to fight for what is better for Philadelphia until the new mayor is sworn into office. And then, the next mayor will have to take up our torch, build on what we’ve done and what those before us have done, and create their own new day for Philadelphia.
Thank you. Let’s get back to work.”