Tags: world class
January 1, 2010
By Bernard Dagenais
Philadelphia Business Journal
The past year has been a trying one for the region and many of the businesses located here, but there's reason to believe we're heading in the right direction when it comes to key economic issues.
Philadelphia isn't divorced from the rest of the nation, but the job market here is better than many parts of the country. Unemployment is lower in Pennsylvania, at 8.5 percent, and slightly in New Jersey, at 9.7 percent, than the rest of the nation, at 10 percent. The numbers are at least headed in the right direction. Though it's small consolation to the person out of work, many parts of the country are in worse shape.
The local housing market, which appears to be on a slow rebound, was never hit as hard as other areas. While nearly one in four mortgages in the nation are under water, in Pennsylvania only 7.5 percent of mortgages have negative equity, meaning that homeowners owe more than a house is worth. In Philadelphia, the number is 7.6 percent. That will continue to improve as housing rebounds.
And, judging by publicly owned companies, profits are on the rise, even on lower sales than year-ago figures, as cost-cutting is having its intended effect.
Despite these factors, the projected slow recovery of the economy will continue to make things challenging for CEOs and policymakers in the year ahead.
This special economic outlook issue helps to pinpoint key issues worth watching in 2010. Our Ten to Watch, featured on pages 12 and 13 of this issue, identifies business and government leaders who bring reason for optimism in 2010. That feature also highlights the issue of business tax reform, with its potential to boost the entire region if the city can begin to partake in the job growth that has occurred elsewhere in Greater Philadelphia.
There are additional stories we'll be watching with particular interest.
In year two of federal stimulus funding, it will be important to track actual job growth tied to spending, including work force development dollars that have been injected into the region. Educational degree attainment continues to be an area in need of improvement to help the region compete for companies. A better trained and educated work force makes for a stronger economy and can be a deterrent to crime as more productive options come within reach for many who now feel left out.
As the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia embarks on its World Class Philadelphia Initiative, one byproduct could be creating criteria and an inventory of institutions that already enjoy reputations as global leaders. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the new Barnes Foundation location on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Franklin Institute, the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania might be some of the institutions on such an inventory.
As the economy continues to improve, there's reason to believe that the regional marketing initiative Select Greater Philadelphia will see some additional success in luring companies to the region. Greek solar-panel manufacturer HelioSphera announced in November that it would create 400 jobs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, thanks in part to a $49 million package of state grants and loans. Select continues to make the case to companies who may want to set up operations locally, and the region's proximity to New York and Washington, D.C., continues to make it a great place for U.S. headquarters of foreign companies.
Greater Philadelphia has its share of problems and assets, as does any region. Much in the year ahead rides upon business leaders, striving to make progress.
BERNARD DAGENAIS, editor of the Philadelphia Business Journal, can be reached at email@example.com. (Twitter.com/berniedagenais)