A deeper look into how Philadelphia’s economy is recovering

A deeper look into how Philadelphia’s economy is recovering

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read – Philadelphia is the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Its diverse population, affordable rents and urban atmosphere make it an ideal location for entrepreneurs to open up shop. So much so, that small businesses make up 99.7% of its economy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. The city was on a strong growth course before COVID-19. However, that all came tumbling down when all non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down in Pennsylvania on March 19. 


In an effort to limit the damage to the national economy, the federal government rolled out the Coronavirus Aid and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27. Part of the act, a loan called the Paycheck Protection Program, has played a particularly important role in Philadelphia’s recovery. The program set aside $349 billion for small business loans intended to help them stay afloat and keep their people employed during the pandemic. Within weeks, the federal aid was exhausted and small businesses were once again left with uncertainty. A second glimmer of economic hope presented itself  when Gov. Tom Wolf allowed Philadelphia to transition into the yellow phase of his recovery plan on June 5. Stay-at-home orders were lifted and in-person retail was again allowed. Despite rising coronavirus cases, most businesses were eager to open their doors under regulated CDC guidelines. 

Two weeks into Philadelphia’s reopening a new obstacle landed in the city’s lap. Some businesses experienced looting and vandalism due to nationwide protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes. On June 11, Philadelphia announced a new grant and loan program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 shutdown and damages from recent lootings. The Restart PHl Loan Fund from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. will be primarily for minority-owned businesses in low-income areas. The $3 million in loans to small businesses can cover costs for things like inventory, technology, staffing and employee training. Philadelphia also announced a $1.4 million “Restore and Reopen Program,” which will provide grants to independently-owned businesses that have suffered from property damage.

“These efforts are intended to provide equitable and immediate relief to ensure our small businesses can sustain themselves and return in a manner that allows them to thrive,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. 

It may be too early to tell how the region’s economy will fare as it heads into a post-COVID-19 landscape. However, there is one sector that is expected to thrive as a result of all of this. Now more than ever before technology has proven to be a vital aspect of everyday life. One key advantage the industry has is the ability to have its employees work remotely, unlike retail and food services. The tech sector could even play an essential role in igniting the reconstruction of the local economy, according to the Greater Philadelphia Economy League.


Spotlight On: Vito S. Pantilione, President & CEO, Parke Bank

Spotlight On: Vito S. Pantilione, President & CEO, Parke Bank

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read anuary 2020 —  Parke Bank is expanding its lending business, including construction lending, from the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas to North Jersey and New York’s Brooklyn and the Bronx with its lending expertise. Parke Bank has a major Asian client base, which makes it important to keep a careful eye on the politics of the country toward China. Parke is also one of the few banks that provide banking services to the cannabis industry, which also requires careful monitoring of Washington’s ever changing position on the emerging cannabis business, says Vito Pantilione, president & CEO of Parke Bank, in an interview with Invest:.



What main changes have you observed in the banking and loan business in the South Jersey market?


We are in a great location to provide lending and banking services in New Jersey, and the Philadelphia area, in addition to expanding up into the Lehigh Valley area. Because of our growth, we’ve also grown our lending operation to North Jersey, Brooklyn and the Bronx.


The banking industry is always changing, I don’t think there is any other industry except maybe insurance where there are as many regulatory changes. There is also a lot more competition, even from nonbanking entities. We embrace competition because it makes you pay more attention and sharpen your pencil.


What services are most in demand for an institution like Parke Bank?


One of the services we’ve offered since we opened the bank is construction lending. It is a very attractive product, especially because many banks have discontinued this banking product. Even though the regulations for construction lending have become much more stringent, our structure allows us to handle it because we are well-capitalized and we have the experience and expertise. We find that our construction lending product is very attractive in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area and most recently in the Bronx and Brooklyn. We carefully entered the Bronx and Brooklyn markets and now have multiple multifamily projects and commercial loans in these areas.


How does the bank support the small business community in South Jersey?


We are very active in commercial lending, which includes small business lending. Some of our commercial lending is related to real estate as we have financed many investment properties. We also look at some of the South Jersey markets that need extra services, like startup companies and small companies that need to expand to remain competitive, where it is more difficult to get financing. We look at those sectors and try to establish loans and banking relationships to help support those markets. 


Small business lending is important to us. We are a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, which allows us to provide funding for projects to small businesses that may not fit into the standard bank  financing. The SBA is a perfect vehicle to provide the needed credit enhancement to make those loans possible. That type of lending with small business banking also provides the opportunity for full service banking, bringing much needed deposits.


Are there any worries or challenges in the banking industry that Parke Bank is watching?


One area in which we’ve been very fortunate is our Asian business. I used to be president of a Chinese bank in Philadelphia, and when I opened this bank in 1999, I was fortunate that a lot of my clients and friends from the Asian bank followed us to Parke Bank. The current Chinese trade situation with the United States is a concern to me personally, which can reduce growth in the Asian market. As far as actual business, it has not really affected us that I can see. We are still getting new Asian customers and we have a branch right in the heart of Chinatown in Philadelphia, with a multilingual staff. We are very proud of that.


Another potential challenge is the Banking Secrecy Act, which is of major importance to us because we are one of the few banks in the country to provide banking services to the cannabis industry. We entered the market totally by accident because we had a major customer of the bank who received a permit to open a cannabis dispensary and asked us to finance the building. We loaned him millions of dollars over the years and it wasn’t until two years later that we realized what a major step that was for Parke Bank. At that time, we were one of the very few banks that was even banking cannabis. Now we have about 130 customers, and that is an industry where government regulations are having a big impact. We are very careful to follow the regulations that are in place, given there are really no clear regulations yet in place because it is not legal at the federal level. We are a state-chartered bank doing business with state-approved cannabis businesses. 



To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Parke Bank: https://www.parkebank.com/ 


Spotlight On: Kevin Miller, President & CEO, Addition Financial

Spotlight On: Kevin Miller, President & CEO, Addition Financial

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read November 2019 — As the banking sector gets more concentrated, some financial institutions are implementing rebranding efforts to meet the demands of customers and keep up with the latest innovations and technologies. Addition Financial recently went through a rebranding effort and is now focusing on expanding its footprint. President and CEO Kevin Miller shared the financial institution’s latest updates with Invest: Orlando. 



What has been the impact of rebranding as Addition Financial?

In the last year we have made multiple changes, the biggest being our transition from a federal charter to a state charter. The state of Florida has a business-friendly environment and they were able to offer us some additional regulatory flexibility, for example a much larger territory and additional flexibility in the way we conduct our business and investments. We changed our name from Central Florida Educators Federal Credit Union to Addition Financial. We have also been expanding our footprint and recently acquired a small bank. These efforts have been part of our focus on expanding our presence throughout Central Florida.


We are focusing on our name change and rebranding effort to make it clear that more people can join the credit union. The rebranding has been positive, we have more people joining us and our new message, image and culture have been well-received. We have been in Orlando for more than 80 years. We have a great relationship with the community, which is vibrant and growing at a rapid pace. The diversity of culture in Orlando, provides us with numerous opportunities to continue our expansion and reach more people. 


What differentiates Addition Financial from the competition?

As a credit union, we are a not-for-profit financial institution, which means that our motivations are different than the for-profit institutions. A differentiator for us is our focus on the community and our educational ties. When we interact with our members we focus on the educational aspect. We support education and we also make sure that we educate people about financial literacy. We partner with K-12 schools in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties and we have student-run branches in some high schools in each of those counties. We train the students to run the branch and teach financial literacy to their peers. We also have a program to educate college students on meeting their unique financial needs. In addition, we are working on housing affordability with these partners. We partnered with the districts to create a custom program to help teachers live in the communities where they work. 


What are some notable changes in Orlando’s banking and finance sector over the last few years?


A lot of the people who come into our branches are surprisingly young. The younger generations are looking for consulting and advisory types of services, while the older generation comes to our branches mostly for transactions. In terms of services, we have seen an uptick in small business demand. We focus on smaller businesses that maybe don’t feel like they have enough size or capital to go to some of the larger financial institutions. Lending is at an all-time high for us. We are seeing a lot of refinancing, especially with interest rates being so low.



To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Addition Financial: https://www.additionfi.com/ 


Spotlight On: Jesse Flowers, Community President, CenterState Bank

Spotlight On: Jesse Flowers, Community President, CenterState Bank

By: Max Crampton-Thomas


2 minute read November 2019 — Staying competitive and emerging as a leader in a crowded banking field takes smart growth strategies, remaining cognizant of trends in the industry and an ever-increasing focus on the technological wants and needs of customers. Jesse Flowers, the community president for CenterState Bank, spoke to Invest: about how his bank is ensuring continued growth into the future.  

How does your bank ensure continued and sustainable growth? 


We continue to grow, hire more people and expand our client base. We are always looking for acquisitions and good partnerships. We have acquired five banks over the last six years in South Florida, and all of them have been a strong fit. We want to make sure that our culture fits with the companies we acquire. We still run like a small bank, and all our decisions are made locally.


We stick to our fundamentals. We make sure that the loans that we provide are to good, qualified borrowers that can withstand a recession. On the commercial lending side, most of the demand is driven by real estate. We are paying close attention to where we are in the real estate cycle because Florida is mostly driven by tourism and real estate.


What is a particular trend you are keeping a close eye on? 


Banking is always changing. One of the trends that we have seen over the last five years is people using alternative lenders. Whether it be hedge funds, internet lenders or hard-equity lenders, a high number of those lenders have stepped into the market, more than they used to in the past. That might continue to be a trend because they are often able to be more flexible on the terms and conditions of their loans due to less regulation.


How does CenterState Bank remain client-focused in a rapidly changing banking environment? 


People are more focused on technology. We have to focus on the services that people want, like better and easier online technology. Those are the services that are expanding with people using phone and online banking. CenterState has invested in technology over the last several years because we know how important it is. Now, with open source platforms, access is getting cheaper, and we have hired in-house programming professionals to develop software for us.


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:


Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Executive Vice President & Commercial Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Executive Vice President & Commercial Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read October 2019 – With over 30 years in the banking industry, Chuck Cross has witnessed seismic changes in the way the banking sector conducts business. Currently serving as the executive vice president and commercial banking executive for Seacoast Bank, Cross has a unique perspective on the prominent growth of the banking sector in the past couple of years. He recently sat with Invest: Palm Beach to discuss how Seacoast has sustained continuous growth, why the business ecosystem in Palm Beach County is a benefit for banks and some of the reasons he attributes to the overall growth of Palm Beach County. 

How has Seacoast Bank sustained continuous growth? 

Seacoast Bank has been growing organically by hiring people and building relationships with customers since the recession, but we augment that organic growth with strategic M&A activity as well. We acquired Palm Beach Community Bank in November 2017, expanding our branch locations in the county from three to five and getting access to new customers. We also have  two commercial offices in the market, which is another catalyst for growth.


Why is Palm Beach County a conducive business environment for the banking sector? 

From a macro perspective, when you have a half million people relocating to Florida and a good amount of that coming to Palm Beach County, it drives the kind of growth we hope to see for the next couple of years. From a financial services perspective, Palm Beach is a great place to be operating and providing service.

Palm Beach County has really grown over the past decade. Dense population provides great opportunities for banks. Palm Beach is growing like the whole state of Florida is growing. Everyone wants to move to Florida either for the weather or for some of the changes in the tax reform, and people have always wanted to retire here. Palm Beach also has great infrastructure in terms of education. In addition, there’s a lot of oceanfront property that attracts high-net-worth individuals, which in turn attracts retail, recreation and service jobs.


To what do you attribute the growth of the local economy in Palm Beach County?

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County has done a great job of attracting a lot of wealth management and private equity firms where the owners can live on the island and operate their companies from there. In the northern part of the county, there are also some aerospace companies, and there are healthcare technology companies like Max Planck and Scripps that are providing higher-level jobs as well. Hopefully this will help attract other types of high-level businesses.


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:


Banks increasing support for Philly’s growing small businesses sector

Banks increasing support for Philly’s growing small businesses sector

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — The economic environment in Philadelphia, with many world-class educational and healthcare institutions, a diverse population and affordable rents, represent an ideal space for entrepreneurs to start their small or medium-size businesses. At the heart of the small-business community is an industry that plays an essential role: banking.


Many Philadelphia banking leaders say they have seen increased demand for lending and other services from small businesses. “Philadelphia has long been home to successful small businesses, but in recent years the collaboration between the public, private and nonprofit sectors is spurring a new level of growth,” Robert Kane, market president at KeyBank, told Invest:. 


According to Kane, KeyBank ranks 13th among more than 1,800 SBA lenders nationally. In the last five years, the bank has loaned more than $1.13 billion to small businesses across its footprint.  

Similarly, Philadelphia is one of the largest portfolios in BB&T’s footprint for small business. In an interview with Invest:, Regional President Greater Delaware Valley/Lehigh Valley Region for BB&T Travis Rhodes explained that the number of small business clients the bank is serving in Philadelphia is disproportionately larger than any other market in BB&T’s footprint. As a result, it created the “Bank on Your Success” initiative, which is directed to this community. 

“This free financial knowledge program helps entrepreneurs begin to understand the value of an income statement, a balance sheet and other banking basics. When they begin to think about their kind of profitability, how to manage their short-term assets, receivables and inventory, this education is essential. That education is ultimately what prepares somebody to be able to withstand or to handle the next downturn, because it helps them understand the levers of a company,” Rhodes said. 

Some of the biggest challenges small businesses face are improving cash flow, reducing operating costs, improving financial wellness, balancing growth with quality and hiring and retaining talented employees. To help mitigate those challenges, Keybank has developed Key@Work, which is a comprehensive, no-cost employee financial wellness program. 

“We also have a program, Key4Women, that supports the financial progress of women in business. It’s a great program, offering mentorship opportunities, access to capital and professional development,” Kane said.  

The small-business sector also helps banks to maintain a local presence. “We have small-business relationship managers who know the people in the community and become the point of contact for growing their small-business loans. Business sales also come with a lot of deposits, and that’s been a very healthy growth vehicle for us over the last couple of years,” Rodger Levenson, CEO of WSFS Bank, said in an interview with Invest:. 

Small businesses also have a significant impact on Philadelphia’s employment. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia 2019: State of the City report, about 26% of private sector employees in the Philadelphia region worked in small businesses in 2017, a number that was typical for the comparison regions. Also, 17% of Philadelphia employees worked in firms with fewer than 19 employees, second-highest behind the Boston region.

“Small business continues to be the primary generator of jobs and economic activity, not just in Philadelphia but in our entire region. And we see significant growth in our small-business lending activity over the next few years,” Levenson said.  


To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

KeyBank: https://www.key.com/small-business/index.jsp 

BB&T: https://www.bbt.com/small-business.html 

WSFS Bank: https://www.wsfsbank.com/Small-Business