FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA (August 2, 2022) – Philadelphia’s next mayor needs to devote the same energy that recent administrations have committed to conventions, festivals and sports, but broaden to include initiatives to retain and attract businesses that sell nationally and globally, termed by economists “traded sector” firms. Decades of decline have left Philadelphia with fewer jobs and businesses per resident than comparable cities and our own suburbs. We trail in the retention and attraction of traded sector establishments. This is a major reason for the city's high unemployment and poverty rates.
This regional map depicts the primary clusters of jobs in Philadelphia: Center City, University City, East Falls, the far northeast and northwest, the airport and Navy Yard. Even more telling, however, are the blank spaces: vast swaths of the city lacking many jobs, in sharp contrast to the suburbs.
In the last three decades, we have achieved great success: a thriving downtown, a burgeoning University City and Navy Yard, vibrant commercial corridors, world class educational and cultural institutions and surging investments in life sciences. But the revival is incomplete and limited to only portions of the city.
Hospitality, education and health care are our strong suits. But there are not enough businesses selling services on a national or global scale, paying family-sustaining wages and driving demand for emerging Black- and brown-owned businesses. These major employers flourish in peer cities and surrounding counties, but not in Philadelphia. Their absence weakens our tax base, eroding the ability to fund services to solve problems.
“Among the 10 largest employers in the city, there is only one taxable, private sector firms. Many of these businesses are present in the region but not in the city,” CCD President Paul R. Levy said. “We are like a six-cylinder car engine firing on only two of its cylinders.”
Philadelphia can be proud of decades of commitment by five mayors to the hospitality industry, building on historic assets and providing opportunities for local residents who lack college degrees. However, it is now widely understood that Philadelphia excels in the growth of entry-level jobs, but falls far short with family-sustaining jobs.
In June 2022, Philadelphia City Council reached a new consensus that lower wage and business taxes support the growth of Black- and brown-owned establishments and neighborhood small businesses, fostering more job opportunities. But smaller businesses can’t reach their full potential, nor will we generate enough family-sustaining jobs, without taking the next essential step: creating a more competitive setting so medium-sized and larger establishments that sell externally choose to locate and grow here and to contract with local small businesses.
A new report from Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CCD/CPDC), Firing on All Cylinders: Growing Jobs and Small Business by Expanding the Traded Sector, compares Philadelphia to five other U.S. cities: Baltimore, Boston, Denver, New York and San Francisco. It documents how Philadelphia lags in many other traded employment sectors, but suggests that if we replicate the success achieved by others and commit to steadily more competitive tax rates, we will grow more family-sustaining jobs and a prosperous network of small, local businesses.
Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, 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.