Philly's next big (economic) thing
Courtesy 18brumaire via Flickr
Through its long history, Philadelphia's core economic strength has evolved from trade to manufacturing to "eds and meds." Lately, the talk about Philadelphia's next big thing has featured energy, specifically the processing, transport, and related spinoffs from natural gas flowing from the Marcellus Shale. Later this month, Temple University's Center on Regional Politics will hold an economic symposium to discuss, among other things, how this "energy revolution" is impacting the Philadelphia region. Economist Joel Naroff wrote in The Inquirer recently that economic activity spawned by natural gas could become one of three
main pillars of the Philly region's new economy. The other two, he said, might be healthcare and hospitality businesses powered by the demands of aging Baby Boomers, and a resurgent logistics and shipping hub capitalizing on Internet retailers' growing demand for same-day delivery. Naroff argued that Philadelphia still has comparative advantages in those areas, despite its anemic economic recovery: Brookings' MetroMonitor last month showed the region has slipped to 99th out of the country's 100 biggest metropolitan regions in the overall strength of its economy.
Which employers dominate the economy?
Of Philadelphia’s 15 largest employers last year, only one is a
private business not involved in education or healthcare. While you’re trying
to figure out which one, we will tell you that five of the 15 companies with the most employees are from
the public sector—the federal government (No. 1), city (No. 2), school district (No. 4),
SEPTA (No. 8) and the state (No. 12)—and that the largest private employer is the
University of Pennsylvania and its health system (No. 3). Also on the list are Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,
Thomas Jefferson University and its hospital, Temple University and its hospital,
Albert Einstein Medical Center, Independence Blue Cross and Drexel University.
In other words, the government, education and healthcare sectors carry the most weight in the local labor market and economy. The only private business in the top 15 not in "eds and meds" comes in at No. 9: US
Airways. (Comcast, perhaps the city's most prominent private employer, comes in at No. 17.)
Planners mark their achievements
For a city with a colorful and contentious history of urban planning, the one-year birthday of a new comprehensive plan was cause for celebration of renewed interest in planning. At a packed anniversary event this month marking adoption of Philadelphia
2035, planners hailed recent achievements as proof that Philadelphia still can engage in meaningful,
long-term planning: there is more public green space, an arts organization is redeveloping a historic
building on the Delaware waterfront, and a citywide bike-sharing
program will soon be launched. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission has produced a promotional video and online planning game. But speakers acknowledged that much still hinges on funding and the support of future city leaders beyond Mayor Nutter. Other cities around the country also have shown a renewed interest
in long-range planning. In Detroit, the Kresge Foundation recently
pledged $150 million over five years toward implementing that city’s long-range
plan. New York City has continued to update milestones in its 2007 plan.
City overtime reaches three-year high
City worker overtime pay has risen back to a level not seen since 2009, driven largely by the prison system. According to an analysis by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PDF), the city spent 9.5 percent of its total payroll costs on overtime in fiscal 2012, and expects to face the same overtime bill in fiscal 2013. That percentage is up from 8.6 percent in fiscal 2011. The last time the figure hit 9.5 percent was in fiscal 2009 during the recession. Corrections officers and other prison employees accounted for most of the increase, driven by higher numbers of inmates. For some background on the city prison system, see our 2010 report and update.
School closings in perspective
closings proposed for 37 school buildings in the coming year,
the Philadelphia School District would rival many major cities in the
magnitude of its downsizing. In 2011, we looked at
how six other cities were handling school closings. We are now working on a new report that looks at more cities, focused on what has become of their vacant school
buildings. If you are not already receiving emails about our research, sign up here to be notified when our studies come out. And please tell a friend, too.
Old City among top creative neighborhoods
ArtPlace, a community development campaign by private funders and federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, has placed
Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood among the country's Top 12 urban areas for its arts scene and vibe. According to the first-ever ArtsPlace rankings, 18 percent of Old City
residents work in "creative occupations," 93 percent of its businesses
are independently owned, and the area has a high "walkability" rating. Other
neighborhoods in the list include Manhattan Valley in NYC, South Beach
in Miami, San Francisco's Mission District, and Washington DC's Adams
Morgan/Dupont Circle area.
Overhauling Property Taxes in Philadelphia: Our study, released in November, looked at Philadelphia's plan for property tax reform in the context of what other cities and states have done, and found that Philadelphia lacks some of the elements in place elsewhere.
Residential Taxes: A Narrowing Gap Between Philadelphia and its Suburbs. This report and interactive graphic
document how the residential tax burden fell in Philadelphia and rose
in many suburbs from 2000 to 2012, leaving the city more competitive on
local taxes with its neighboring municipalities.
Philadelphia 2013: The State of the City: We've begun working on our bi-annual State of the City report to be released in March 2013. Printed copies will be available, free of charge. To request one, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and postal address.
Amount spent by registered lobbyists in Philadelphia in first nine months of 2012, according to Lobbying.ph.
|Upcoming Public Events
Jan. 15: Phila Regional Port Authority board meeting. More info.
Jan. 15: Phila City Planning Commission monthly meeting. More info.
Jan. 16: Phila Parks and Recreation Commission hearing. More info.
Jan. 16: Delaware River Port Authority board meeting. More info.
Jan. 16: Phila Gas Commission special meeting. More info.
Jan. 17: Phila School Reform Commission monthly action meeting. More info.
Jan. 17: Phila Committee on City Policy luncheon and issue discussion. More info.
Jan. 17: Penn Institute for Urban Research symposium on energy efficient buildings. More info.
Jan. 22: Penn Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) monthly board meeting. More info.
Jan. 24: Phila Police Advisory Commission meeting. More info.
Jan. 24: Phila Dept. of Commerce hearing on storefront improvement funding. More info.
Feb. 6: Delaware River Port Authority monthly board meeting. More info.
Feb. 14: Phila Board of Health monthly meeting. More info.
Feb. 19: Penn Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) monthly board meeting. More info.
|Our Most-Read Reports
The Actual Value Initiative: Overhauling Property Taxes in Philadelphia. Read.
Residential Taxes: A Narrowing Gap Between Philadelphia and its Suburbs. Read.
Closing Public Schools: Lessons from Six Urban Districts. Read.