By: Sara Warden
In NBC’s 2019 ranking of Top States for Business, Pennsylvania landed a lacklustre 28th position – lower than half way down the poll for business friendliness in the country. The state was in 39th place in terms of economy, 32nd in quality of life and 31st in workforce. But there is potential. The state ranked ninth in terms of education and sixth in access to capital. The Philadelphia authorities are grabbing onto these roots and nurturing them into shoots with the new PHL Taking Care of Business Initiative.
“This new investment will have a big impact on neighborhoods all across our city by providing businesses and neighborhoods beyond Center City with the resources they need to succeed and to thrive,” Mayor Jim Kenney said to the Philadelphia Tribune. “Reducing blight not only makes our city more beautiful but it helps small businesses — especially minority and women-owned businesses — attract shoppers and employees. When small businesses succeed, our economy grows stronger.”
The program was pioneered by city Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, with the goal of reducing blight while creating 300 jobs for local residents – that’s 30 part-time employees in each district who are paid $15 per hour. “We are committed to building a strong workforce and job market that will in turn help us attack poverty and crime to ensure inclusive growth across the city,” added Kenney.
But rather than making the employees public servants, they will instead be Cleaning Ambassadors, paid by the Commerce Department to Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), which will issue RFPs and/or contract with CDCs. “This program will pay workers a living wage and introduce them to workforce training that can lead to other professional opportunities and jobs. I strongly support PHL Taking Care of Business,” said Council President Darrell Clarke in a press release.
For initial costs related to the program, the city has now pledged $10 million to fund the initiative, which is a way to attract new business, improve conditions for existing companies and improve quality of life. “Strengthening our commercial corridors, which are the lifeblood of communities throughout my district and across the city, is essential to stabilizing our neighborhoods,” said Councilwoman Parker in a press release. “PHL Taking Care of Business will help ensure that every business corridor in the city, regardless of size or neighborhood, will be clean and attractive, allowing the businesses to focus more time on growing their enterprise. It will also help to change that awful characterization of our city as ‘Filthadelphia.’”
Several local business owners that are already part of the program’s pilot catchment area are delighted with the results. “Living on a busy street with lots of businesses, you always see trash on the street. Ever since the 9th District street cleaning team started, you definitely see a difference. I believe neighbors see the difference too. People walk around prouder and are more likely to speak up when they see people throwing trash on the ground,” said local resident Frank Huynh.
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