Spotlight on: Kenneth Lawrence Jr., Commissioner, Montgomery County

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Montgomery County is the third-most populous county in Pennsylvania and the state’s the No.1 county for manufacturing. With an extensive trail network, the largest indoor mall in the country, a growing population and diverse economy, Montco presents unique opportunities for businesses among several industries. Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence recently spoke with Invest: about the county’s efforts to grow its economy, attract businesses and embrace sustainability.

What were some highlights for Montgomery County over the last 12 to 18 months?

Montgomery County had its AAA bond status restored by Moody’s. We are working hard on our transportation and infrastructure, repairing our roads and bridges, and making sure these are in good, working condition. We implemented a parental leave policy for our employees. The new policy is not gender-specific and employees can get six weeks off for the birth, adoption or guardianship of a child. We believe that will spur area companies to implement similar initiatives. Montgomery County has the best trail network in the region. We have over 90 miles of trails, including the Schuylkill River Trail, which is the most popular trail in the region, and we are working on expansion, improvements and new connections for many of our trails.

What are some business opportunities unique to Montgomery County, in relation to other counties in the region?

Montgomery County is the No. 1 county in Pennsylvania for manufacturing. We have more manufacturing jobs than any of the 67 counties in the state. There are numerous opportunities in manufacturing, especially in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. For example, Thomas Jefferson University recently opened the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing in Lower Gwynedd, which is a specialized education and training institute for biopharmaceutical processing. Upper Merion is the third-largest employment hub in this region, following Center City and University City. We are working with SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) on King of Prussia Rail to connect University City, Center City, and Upper Merion with public transportation. This is a 10-year project, but we are working very hard to connect the three major employment hubs in the region.

The pharma and healthcare sectors keep growing in the county. Tourism in Montgomery County is a $1.2 billion industry. Valley Forge National Historical Park gets over 2 million visitors a year. King of Prussia Mall is the largest shopping mall on the East Coast.

What is the county doing to develop sustainable operations?

Sustainability is very important for us as a county government and we want to take a leadership role. We recently announced a wind energy purchase that will power all of the county’s electrical accounts. The commissioners also made a commitment to transition to

renewable energy for heating all county-owned buildings and powering all county-owned vehicles by 2050. Another major project is a new justice center, which is part of six individual construction projects in downtown Norristown to address service, operational and energy inefficiencies and modernize county buildings for the future. We are taking every step possible to make sure that sustainability is a major part of that project so that we’re not increasing our energy footprint. We are also working with our municipalities across the county to explore options for sustainability.


To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Montgomery County: 




Record Numbers Flock to Philly, Again

by Yolanda Rivas


2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Greater Philadelphia experienced its ninth straight year of record tourism in 2018. Public and private organizations in the sector are making multiple efforts to elevate tourism to the city and maintain its record-setting pace. 

Enhancements to the city’s historical, cultural and dining options, such as the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the stadiums in South Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art renovations and a number of new hotels on the horizon are some of the examples of improvements to the city’s offerings. 

“We’re working on a partnership to significantly grow our brand globally while also making a further commitment in Philadelphia with a new project that will dramatically enhance the architectural canvas for residential real estate,” Larry Korman, president of luxury extended-stay brand AKA Hotel Residences, told Invest:. 

Philadelphia’s weekend occupancy rate remains in the low- to mid-90%, also record highs, as the city of brotherly love attracts both business and leisure travelers. Local hotels, such as the Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown, are committed to highlighting and complementing the communities where they operate through area-inspired decor and modern design.  

“We have locally commissioned art in our hotel, and since we sit on the Avenue of the Arts, our decor is themed with a nod to arts and music. We sourced most of the art and decor from local artisans, vendors and companies to ensure that we are supporting the community in every way possible,” Jerry Rice, General Manager at Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown, said in an interview with Invest:.

To meet the demands of those who want a unique and intimate experience, some local brands are making the transition to boutique hotels. That is the case of former Courtyard by Marriott, which has been reborn as The Notary Hotel. According to the hotel’s general manager, Jim McSwigan, some of the elements of renovation include reimagined rooms, public workspaces for guests, a new shower experience in all rooms and a modern fitness center. 

“We have maintained an element of history with 1920s-inspired decor and furnishings, while introducing a modern feel. We offer the latest and greatest when it comes to providing guests with a great space, not only for business meetings, but for social events, weddings and any type of celebration,” McSwigan said.  

Another main driver for visitors and a key economic developer is the arts sector, and Philadelphia’s world-class music institutions are putting the city in the global spotlight. Such is the case of Opera Philadelphia and its Festival O, for example, which has had a  local, national and international impact. David Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia, pointed out in an interview with Invest: the importance of the festival in creating local, enlarged artistic partnerships and developing a new, mostly young audience. “That is the biggest impact; we now have more customers than five years ago. We work with Visit Philadelphia, PHL Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other agencies that promote the city and create local pride,” he said.

“Because we do so much new work, what we are doing is affecting the field of opera nationally in terms of the field celebrating and participating in contemporary art activity. Internationally, we have become recognized as one of the most innovative opera companies in the United States,” Devan stated.

This year, Philly’s official tourism marketing agency VISIT PHILADELPHIA is focusing on opportunities in the multicultural market, specifically Latinx, LGBTQ and African American audiences. 


To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

AKA Hotel Residences: 

Opera Philadelphia: 

Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown:

The Notary Hotel: 



Spotlight on: Gary Jonas, President & Principal, The HOW Group

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Philadelphia’s real estate market has been growing steadily over the last few years. Many international and national investors are targeting the sector, where rents are affordable, when compared to surrounding markets, and there are numerous low-risk investment opportunities. This week’s “Spotlight On,” with Gary Jonas, president and principal of the The HOW Group, illustrates the landscape for the city’s real estate industry, including the most in-demand services, top neighborhoods and the trends in the sector.

What HOW Group business lines are seeing the most growth in Philadelphia today? 

The two divisions that are seeing the most growth are construction and real estate. We attribute that to the hole in the market between companies working for themselves and building a small number of units and companies building hundreds of units. There is a spot in the middle where people need contractors to build 50 to 100 units. It is hard to find companies to fill that space because of the labor shortage. It is also hard to find companies that are capitalized enough to work in that space. Because we are able to fill that gap, we have seen significant growth in our construction division over the last year. There is a huge need for that type of work.

Our real estate company does a lot of new construction sales, which speaks to the Philadelphia market. We expect this division to double its business this year. We made a big investment three to five years ago to launch this division, and now we are seeing significant growth. Between those two companies, we are going to do north of $100 million this year.   


What areas of Philadelphia are most in demand in residential real estate?

There is a huge growth opportunity in neighborhoods where you can provide housing that is in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. That is an underserved market and there is a lot of development starting to happen in that price range. For example, Mantua is a neighborhood right on the edge of Schuylkill Yards, education centers and the development going on in the area, and it is a great place for these types of projects. University City has a 17% to 20% homeownership rate, but it’s the second-biggest job hub and there is a need for affordable housing in the area. The edges of University City are primed for significant growth. There is a neighborhood next to Grays Ferry, known as the forgotten bottom, which is another great area for development because of its location and access to major highways. We also expect to see growth in south Philly. 


What are some trends in Philly’s real estate sector?

We are seeing people who want to do co-living spaces. We are seeing a lot more buildings that provide a product similar to Airbnb. We are also starting to see more micro units because affordability is starting to become an issue. As construction and land costs continue to rise, we are seeing unit size starting to decrease and become a popular option. Because of the inadequate labor pool, we are also starting to see more manufacturing stock like modular and prefab units being placed.

We are always looking to create advancements within the construction division. We are working with manufactured housing developers to figure out ways to use technology to build in a more efficient and cost-effective way. We are working with foundation companies that use proprietary systems and build foundation walls that are more energy efficient and cost-effective than concrete. We are doing these things to differentiate our products.


How does The How Group impact the community?

Our charity division, HOW Charities, supports underserved families with homeownership and financial literacy. We want to get people to financial freedom and this year, we are donating two houses. We are working with the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia (BIA) to figure out ways to duplicate this effort on a broader scale. Along with the BIA, we are looking at solutions with the private sector toward affordable housing and job placement within the industry. There is a lot of momentum because of how great the sector and the city are performing.


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

The HOW Group: 

Top Philly Neighborhoods for Commercial Real Estate

by Yolanda Rivas


2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Philadelphia’s real estate sector has been in growth mode for a long time. Affordability, a strong economy and the city’s strategic location are some of the drivers behind investment. According to local market leaders, King of Prussia, Fishtown and Kensington are among the neighborhoods experiencing a high volume of commercial real estate activity.

“The construction and new development activity going on in the King of Prussia market is very attractive. Numerous businesses and baby boomers are moving to the area. There is more land available, beautiful housing stock, good school districts and less traffic congestion,” Sean Beuche, regional manager of Marcus & Millichap, said in an interview with Invest:.

King of Prussia’s proximity to a variety of interstates, strategic location and the emerging growth and development going on in the area, makes it an attractive destination for real estate investors. In addition, King of Prussia is home to the largest mall in America by leasable space, which is another major driver for retail activity. 

Another area of high activity is the I-78/I-81 Corridor, especially in the industrial and logistics space. 

“The shift to e-commerce and modernized supply chains have not only created one of the largest warehouse distribution markets in the world in our backyard, the Pennsylvania I-78/I-81 Corridor, but demand continues to be robust for Philadelphia industrial properties. A variety of users, including retailers and third-party logistics companies, are driving demand so they deliver goods to consumers more efficiently than ever before,” Adam Mullen, market leader for the Greater Philadelphia Region at CBRE, told Invest:.

CBRE’s Pennsylvania I-78/I-81 Corridor Industrial MarketView Q2 2019 report showed that the corridor saw occupancy gains of 1.9 million square feet and observed a total of $135 million in capital investment. 

Other areas attracting interest are Point Breeze, which is gaining value, while Fishtown and Kensington have been hot for some time. According to Beuche, areas further along the Main Line region are also seeing numerous investments. Lehigh Valley and Central PA markets, for example, are driving many new investors into Pennsylvania

“As the yields continue to deliver in some of these secondary and tertiary markets, investors want to move outside of areas where they’re getting squeezed by some popularity. There is a bit of a ripple effect being created by the economy being strong for a long time, and many of the investments that have been made or taken in these core markets are pushing investors further out,” Beuche said. 

Opportunity Zones are also an attractive area to build market rate, workforce housing and to expand commercial development. 

“In Philadelphia, land is still relatively cheap compared to other getaway northeastern markets. Some of the most attractive undeveloped parts of the city are in Opportunity Zones. For example, in Center City East, on the west side of University City, on North Broad Street and in South Philadelphia,” Managing Partner at Alterra Property Group Leo Addimando told Invest:.  


To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Alterra Property Group: 


Marcus & Millichap: 


Spotlight on: Chad Dobbs, General Manager for Pennsylvania, Uber

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read JULY 2019 — Ride sharing is here to stay. Although the concept is not new, it has gained significant popularity over the last few years. According to Statista, a survey indicated that 36% of 11,000 participants in the U.S. used ride sharing services in 2018, an increase from 15% in 2015. Our ‘Spotlight on’ for this week, Uber’s general manager for Pennsylvania Chad Dobbs, shared with Invest: Philadelphia the latest highlights and growth areas for the company in the region. 

What were some highlights that Uber saw in the region during the past 12-18 months?

We rolled out Express POOL, which is a new version of Uber POOL. This new shared ride option allows passengers to get more affordable rides by taking a short walk to a spot along the route to meet their Uber, and joining other users with similar routes — which makes ridesharing more efficient. We also made significant progress on our wheelchair accessibility, through a partnership with MV Transportation, to get more wheelchair accessible vehicles on the road and massively improve the reliability of that service. Finally, we launched Uber Rewards in late 2018, which is a loyalty program for riders. Whether you’re using Uber as a rider or to get food you can accumulate points and unlock special features on the Uber app.

What are the main growth drivers for Uber in Philadelphia?

In Philadelphia and other similar-size cities, our fastest growth areas are typically outside of the core. We’re excited to bring portable options to places that are not traditionally served by public transportation, and need a quick, reliable and cheap alternative. Outside of our ride program, we’re expanding the Uber concept as a platform and joining other transportation modes. For example, we recently launched a transit planning pilot program in Denver with the local transit system. The biggest opportunity for growth is around this concept that Uber is a platform and a way to get from point A to point B, but not necessarily in the back of a car. That part of the business has grown substantially over 2018 and is continuing to grow.

What are you doing to grow and improve the driver side and experience in the city?

We’re sitting in our Greenlight Hub facility, which is a physical location where drivers can come to receive in-person support with the on-boarding process. It’s very important for us to make sure the drivers have the support they need. We have also launched a number of different tools over the last 18 months to improve the drivers’ experience. For example, we had our 180 Days of Change campaign to make substantial improvements to our product based on the feedback of our local and national drivers. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:


Spotlight on: William Burns, Tax Office Managing Partner, BDO

By Yolanda Rivas

2 min read JULY 2019 — Accountants and financial professionals play an important role in the global economy and business model, taking on an array of roles within organizations in all industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. 

Accountants can bring a significant perspective of the economy and industries growth. Our ‘Spotlight on’ for this week brings a perspective of what are the industries looking for in regards to advisory and how the local accounting companies impact the labor pool.

BDO offers a wide range of services including advisory, audit/assurance and tax services. Which are most in demand in Philadelphia?  

The core services that we provide in Philadelphia are audit and tax, which is where we are seeing the most demand. Our recent acquisition of AC Lordi will allow us to bolster what we can do regarding advisory and scale us up to the next level. We have seen an increase in demand for our services from healthcare, life sciences, and manufacturing and distribution. In addition, we have seen an influx of people reaching out for advice regarding maximizing the benefits of tax reform. We expect to see an increased demand for advisory services related to tax reform, especially surrounding Opportunity Zones.

What are BDO’s efforts to recruit talent from the local pool?

Six years ago, BDO merged a select group of geographically close practices, retiring a number of partners and ushering in a new class. We now find ourselves in a position where we can grow exponentially in one of the largest markets in the country. Our focus on targeted growth means we are constantly adding talent as we look to expanding our tax specialties.

There is always a hunt for qualified talent. To combat that, we try to over-hire at the entry level. Turnover in our industry is relatively high and by attracting more students at the front end we have more opportunity to offer them higher positions when people decide to leave. We have partnerships with local universities and we recruit on a regional and national level. We also have a program to identify and attract students to the region from all over the nation.

What Impact does technology have on the accounting and financial sectors?

Technology has a huge impact on how we operate, since most of what we do is software driven. Data analytics is making us more efficient and many firms are using it as a tool within their audit and tax practices. Those firms that aren’t focused on using and developing technology are going to lag behind.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

Philly Life Science Leaders Boosting Infrastructure, Partnerships

by Yolanda Rivas


2 min read July 2019 — With more than 800 related companies and a rich network of health and education systems, the life sciences sector in Greater Philadelphia is growing at a steady pace. All the activity is driving local organizations to develop new infrastructure and local partnerships to cater the burgeoning segment. One prime example: uCity Square 

“There’s nothing like it right now in the Philadelphia region,” Steve Zarrilli, president and CEO of the University City Science Center, told Invest:. A community for entrepreneurs and innovators, uCity Square is an example of the recent efforts to connect businesses, residents, institutions and innovators to form a growing hub in Philadelphia.“Spark Therapeutics and Invisible Sentinel are two of the companies located in University City, and we recently announced that Amicus Therapeutics is creating one of its research centers here as well. These and other companies at uCity Square will play a significant role in the growth of Philadelphia’s life sciences sector,” Zarilli said. 

More than 80 percent of all companies in the life sciences industry have a presence in the Greater Philadelphia region. As stated in Invest: Philadelphia 2019, health-focused sectors provided an economic impact of $88.5 billion for Pennsylvania in 2016 and an economic output of $24.6 billion total between 2011 and 2016 for the Greater Philadelphia region.

Numerous research, biotech and medical devices organizations contribute to the role of life sciences as a key player in Philadelphia’s economy. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is an example of that impact, with more than 3,400 people employed at its Upper Providence research and development facility. According to GSK Vice President of Medicine Opportunities Research Unit David Payne, the site is the company’s hub for pharmaceutical R&D in the United States, and represents 40% of its global pharmaceutical R&D workforce. 

As part of its efforts to contribute to the local life sciences sector, GSK continues to look for partnerships and alliances. “We want our U.S. R&D hub at Upper Providence to be a magnet for talented scientists, researchers and physicians. This is a great research center for innovators to build their careers. Every function required in the ‘molecule to medicine’ journey is represented at our hub, providing opportunities for employees to broaden their R&D knowledge and enable career progression and diversification,” Payne said.

Besides the demand for qualified professionals, there is also a need for infrastructure development to support the region’s scientists, entrepreneurs and life sciences companies. As Zarrilli explains, the Science Center’s goal is “to build an additional 3 million square feet of office, lab, residential and retail space over the next seven to 10 years, to further define the leading-edge community we envision at uCity Square. We will do our part to help make Philadelphia a leader in gene therapy and other areas of life sciences.”

As the growth in Philadelphia’s life sciences sector continues, it will impact different areas and draw more entrepreneurs and companies to the region. According to Zarrilli, the advances in the life sciences arena, especially in therapeutics, will lead to additional advancement in areas such as medical devices and digital health. “Life sciences is clearly the strongest area of innovation in Philadelphia, but it will spawn activity in other areas that are complementary.”  

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

University City Science Center: 


uCity Square: 

Philadelphia Readies the Fireworks for Iconic July 4 Bash

by Yolanda Rivas

2 min read July 2019 — When it comes to celebrating America’s birthday, few do it like Philadelphia. From spectacular fireworks displays and public concerts to festivals and parades, the City of Brotherly Love has one of the biggest and most popular Fourth of July celebrations in the nation. 


Among the most iconic local celebrations is the six-day Wawa Welcome America festival. With over 50 free multicultural events, the city, chambers of commerce, tourism organizations, local universities and dozens of public and private organizations come together to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

“The Wawa Welcome America festival continues to enhance Philadelphia’s national reputation as a must-visit destination, with show-stopping, diverse and most importantly, entertainment experiences that are open to the public,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a written statement. 

To offer families and guests an enhanced experience, the activities this year will have a new layout design for the July 4th Party on the Parkway and July 4th Concert & Fireworks. “Spending the day with us on the Parkway will be better than ever before; we are really excited to have our guests take advantage of this expanded layout,” explained Welcome America Inc. President and CEO Michael DelBene, in a statement outlining the event. 

Attendees will also have free entrance to 22 local museums, attractions and cultural institutions during the 2019 Wawa Welcome America festival. This year marks the largest number of museums participating in the festival’s 27-year history. 

The activities on the 4th of July will start with the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony at Independence Hall, presented by the City of Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative and Independence National Historical Park. The event will include a reading of The Declaration of Independence and a performance by the Philly POPS® BIG Band. Mayor Jim Kenney will present the fourth annual Magis Award and convenience-store chain Wawa will announce the recipient of The Wawa Foundation Hero Award. 

After this ceremony, 4,000 marchers, floats, and military personnel will begin the Salute to America Independence Day Parade. From noon to 7 p.m. visitors can enjoy numerous entertainment activities across five blocks at Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

This year’s concert, produced by Live Nation Philadelphia and Comcast NBCUniversal, will feature performances from GRAMMY® Award-winning singers Meghan Trainor and Jennifer Hudson. 

“The City of Philadelphia is proud to welcome GRAMMY® Award-winning superstars Meghan Trainor and Jennifer Hudson to our great city, as well as shine a spotlight on Philadelphia native Patti LaBelle along with the hundreds of talented entertainers performing leading up to July 4,” said Mayor Kenney.

The Celebration of Freedom Ceremony and Salute to America Independence Day Parade will be broadcasted by NBC10 and Telemundo62 on July 4 at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. NBC10 will also broadcast the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and Fireworks live from 7-10 p.m.

“This year, we embrace time-honored traditions to celebrate the city’s diverse neighborhoods, thriving creativity, and global appeal. With over 50 free, family-friendly events, we invite everyone to join the fun, and commemorate our nation’s independence,” said DelBene. 

For more information, please visit: 

Wawa Welcome America: 

Philly POPS®: 

Meghan Trainor: 

Jennifer Hudson:

Baby boomer retirees keeping accountants, advisers busy

By staff writer

June 2019 — As the baby boomer generation retires from the workforce, the need for business succession planning continues to grow. This is keeping at least one group busy: accountants and advisers.


“Over the past few years, we’ve seen significant growth in the need for succession and exit planning services due to the concentration of businesses that are owned by baby boomers who are retiring on a daily basis,” Christopher Meshginpoosh, managing director of Kreischer Miller, told Invest:. “Many of the owners of our clients are trying to fill their bench of future leaders or determine which exit options make sense for them in light of their long-term goals,” he said.

Although boomers are staying longer in the workforce and they continue to drive the U.S. labor market, business owners who were born between 1946 and 1964 are having a hard time transitioning their companies to the next generation of owners. According to Deutsche Bank Research an estimated 10,000 people turn 65 each day, which is the standard age for retirement. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65.

“There is potential for a talent void as baby boomers leave the workplace. This represents a tremendous opportunity for younger professionals as they are presented with more career opportunities,” James Bartolomei, Principal at HBK CPAs & Consultants, told Invest:.

The increased number of boomers retiring each day presents several challenges for employers, including the need to provide the right tools for every party involved in the transition process. “Companies need to make sure they have mentoring and training programs in place to allow a smooth and effective transition from one generation to another,” Bartolomei said.

Some accounting and advisory firms, such as Kreischer Miller, have seen a great deal of interest in the formation of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), which has driven them to develop a deep expertise in that area.

“In the right situations, ESOPs provide a tax-efficient method for owners to gradually transition ownership to their employees, allowing the business to continue to thrive as an independent organization,” Meshginpoosh said.

According to Generational Equity, there were some 12 million baby boomers who owned a business in 2015, and 70 percent will be retiring over the next couple decades.

Although the exit of the boomers from the workforce presents numerous challenges for the economy overall, it translates into opportunities for the youngest generations. Many Philadelphia accounting experts are positive about the market.

“The fundamentals that our clients are showing us are great. Earnings are good, the businesses are solid and they’re growing organically as well as through acquisitions. Overall, the Philadelphia economy is expanding and we’ll continue to see a lot of private equity pumped into the Philly market,” Christopher Bruner, managing partner of EY, told Invest:.

For more information about our interviewees visit:

Kreischer Miller:

HBK CPAs & Consultants: