As he addressed more than 1,400 members of the region’s business community, Mayor Michael Nutter touted Philadelphia as being poised for growth.
Nutter presented his vision for the city during the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mayoral Luncheon, held Monday afternoon at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel.
“In a more globalized world, we need to promote Philadelphia at an international level to attract investment. International companies are coming, staying and growing in Philadelphia,” Nutter said.
“Philadelphia is positioned for international growth and we’re going to attract new industries, new companies and new jobs,” he said.
Nutter said his administration’s approach to economic development, education, government reform and infrastructure renewal reflects a consistent philosophy that is aggressive, global in scope yet capitalizes on the cultural assets that make Philadelphia unique.
“All of the investments made by my administration have been guided by a vision of transforming Philadelphia into a global knowledge-based economy that still runs the gamut from shipbuilding and rail car assembly to food production, culture, education, research and high technology,” Nutter said.
He said Philadelphia is experiencing growth in the education, medicine, energy and sustainability sectors.
“All of these signs point to a new Philadelphia with an economy that reflects our changing world,” he stated.
“And while we are still suffering from the effects of a global recession, it is certainly good news to report that our unemployment rate has dropped for four consecutive months and we’re seeing the same thing at the national level, with unemployment now at 8.3 percent.”
Nutter addressed the renaissance slated for the city’s two major boulevards — Market East and North Broad Street. The city is working with Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust to redevelop the Gallery Mall and the surrounding blocks and will be attracting new retailers on both sides of Market Street.
“We are focused on working with business and retailers to make a cleaner, safer, more enjoyable experience for everyone and to stop the code violations and behavioral problems that currently hold this area back,” he said of Market Street.
Nutter noted that the city is pursing opportunities to transform the Divine Lorraine building on North Broad Street.
He highlighted the need for the Philadelphia International Airport expansion project. — noting that the airport gives the region access to foreign markets and export opportunities. The expansion project — which has received a $500 million commitment from the Federal Aviation Administration — would create thousands of jobs for construction, concession, skilled trades and airline employees.
“We are seeking to do what is in the best long-term interest of the city, the region, our citizens, our travelers and our airline partners. It’s a big project, but by working together, we’re going to get it done, right,” Nutter said.
He cited the ways in which his administration is working to create a positive business environment.
He said the city created more opportunities for minority-, female- and disabled-owned businesses and surpassed its target participation rate of 25 percent last year. The city’s minority capacity building program, in which participating companies learned how to become prime contractors, wraps up this month.
“I’m counting on all of you to partner with and utilize our growing minority, female and disabled business sector to ‘hire local, contract local,’ helping our economy and our citizens,” Nutter told the business leaders.
In a move to improve the city’s tax environment, Nutter said the city will eliminate the $300 licensing fee for all new businesses, exclude the first $100,000 in gross receipts from taxation, institute single-sales factor apportionment across all sectors and reduce the burden on small and start-up companies operating in Philadelphia.
He highlighted the importance of Philadelphia having an educated workforce.
“Despite our growth potential, our new businesses, our high quality of life and our high-growth sectors, Philadelphia will not compete in the global economy unless we have an educated 21st-century workforce,” Nutter pointed out.
“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: Education is our poverty reduction strategy. It’s also our crime reduction strategy, it’s our employment strategy, it’s our growth strategy.”