FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA (May 11, 2021) – At the start of 2020, before the pandemic upended daily life and shook every aspect of the city’s economy, Philadelphia was in its 11th straight year of growth. Now, as vaccination rates rise and vitality is steadily returning to the downtown and neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia, the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corp. are releasing today a pair of reports: State of Center City 2021, a wide-ranging look at the past year’s challenges, and Monitoring Philadelphia’s Economic Recovery, a just-updated edition of our monthly report tracking multiple indicators of recovery.
Taken together, the reports highlight the challenges we’ve faced, the resilience of our economy and our residents, the strong fundamentals that will help the city rebound, and the unprecedented opportunity to create more dynamic and inclusive growth than the pre-pandemic status quo.
At the center of the region’s highway and transit system, Center City is the most concentrated employment node in the region, hosting 42% of Philadelphia’s jobs, creating opportunity for residents of all city neighborhoods and surrounding counties. With almost 50% of Philadelphia residents vaccinated once and close to 40% vaccinated twice, Philadelphia should set the twin goals of achieving 100% recovery of employment lost during the pandemic and then push far beyond that to more dynamic and inclusive growth.
Black- and brown-owned businesses were particularly harmed by the pandemic. Many enterprises are sole proprietorships without access to traditional capital, lacking banking relationships necessary to receive federal support. Bolstering minority businesses and commercial corridors can be a centerpiece of the city’s recovery strategy, leveraging substantial federal investments and private capital. A more competitive tax policy can spur both job and business expansion, building on existing supplier diversity initiatives to enhance the local purchasing power of Philadelphia institutions and businesses, helping to grow more Black- and brown-owned businesses.
The pandemic underscored the risk of relying on volatile wage and business taxes for 53% of locally generated revenue. Suburban workers contribute $800 million in wage taxes, 20% of the City’s local tax revenues. As the pandemic ends, and firms are deciding whether to return to their offices or remain remote, Philadelphia remains the only large city to tax both gross and net business income.
“The American Rescue Plan lifts Philadelphia above the need for divisive either/or choices to the opportunity for a both/and strategy that can redress both long-standing inequities, while prompting far more dynamic growth,” CCD President Paul R. Levy. “This a unique opportunity for the city to reposition itself and set out on a new path: Philadelphia can restore budget cuts, free up resources for transformational investments in neighborhood commercial corridors, Black- and brown-owned businesses and the reduction of gun violence, while increasing our competitiveness by diminishing our reliance on wage and business taxes.”
“Growth without equity created a city with huge disparities. Investments in equity without growth will leave us a slow growing city with low business density, too few family sustaining jobs, and insufficient opportunities for expanding the circle of recovery citywide. This is a moment for both dynamic and inclusive growth,” Levy said.
State of Center City 2021: Restoring, Returning, Reanimating, is a comprehensive overview of marketplace conditions in Philadelphia at the end of 2020. It provides detailed profiles of the diverse employment sectors that comprise the downtown economy, highlighting strengths and challenges as we entered 2021. It includes information on housing and transportation trends and serves as a report on CCD operations and their impact in the last year. The 70-page report is available here.
Monitoring Philadelphia’s Economic Recovery, May 2021, is a snapshot of current conditions based on key economic indicators, commercial office and housing market trends, construction activity, local tax revenues, transit ridership, parking volumes and pedestrian activity in Center City. The 10-page report is available here.
Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive since 1991, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at www.centercityphila.org and on Facebook and Twitter.