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: Jenna Kelly, Northern Georgia Region President, Truist

Spotlight On: Jenna Kelly, Northern Georgia Region President, Truist

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020SunTrust and BB&T have combined in a historic merger of equals to create Truist, the sixth-largest U.S. bank holding company. With 275 years of combined history serving clients and communities in high-growth markets, the new company will deliver the best of both companies’ talent, technology and processes, Northern Georgia Region President Jenna Kelly told Focus: Atlanta.


Q: What has stood out for Truist in Atlanta in the last year?

A: We announced our merger in February last year and closed it in December. We spent the bulk of the year operating independently as SunTrust and BB&T. This meant we really only had three months as a joint entity before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. All along, we have been talking about how this merger was an opportunity to build a better bank and we looked at how we were better together, including our complementary business lines and strategies. One of the exciting developments this year was our announcement of the new branding and our purpose. The Truist purpose is to Inspire and Build Better Lives and Communities. That purpose is at the center of everything we do, and something that differentiates us, especially given the current circumstances, to our clients.

Q: What has been the real impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the operations of Truist?

A: We said from the outset of the merger that all our client-facing teammates would retain roles. Within the Northern Georgia region, our team remains in place and our efforts have really been more about how we integrate culture. With the pandemic, most of our team is working remotely. We paid a $1,200 special bonus to all our teammates who make less than $100,000, we have implemented additional time off and we have introduced more flexibility given family dynamics can be difficult to juggle when childcare or education are not available. 

We also turned our attention to how we can provide our clients with relief. We are participating in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and we are working on how we can get our clients the funding they need. Through the first round of funding, we have helped around 32,000 clients with $10 billion in PPP loans. In Atlanta, we made around $4 million in grants to the agencies that are on the frontlines of the crisis response. 

Q: As you have seen the landscape change, how have you seen the banking industry set up for the future?

A: The message is that there is a place for everyone, whether it be a small bank, a large regional or a multinational. The impetus behind our merger was the growth of technology in banking. We looked at the demands our clients have in the way they want to be serviced, and it is not necessarily walking into a branch anymore. We needed some additional scale, and we came together so we could be more innovative and make new investments. This does not mean there is no longer a role for community banks. We believe we have a unique opportunity however to leverage our high touch community bank model with investments in technology to create better client experiences and build more trust – something we call T3.

Q: What role does Atlanta continue to play for Truist in its portfolio?

A: Atlanta is our largest market, given it was the headquarters of SunTrust. When we merged, we enhanced our market position. Atlanta is a diversified economy both in industries and population and from a banking perspective, we like where we are in the market. We continue to invest to strengthen our position.  

We have a very long history of supporting Atlanta as well as communities across the state. We announced last year that we would double our commitment to the Atlanta community to $300 million in investments over a three-year period. The investments include a combination of community development investments from the bank and philanthropic grants from our foundation. 

More broadly, the Southeast has been one of the most attractive areas of the country. Those growth dynamics play well for Atlanta, which will continue to attract jobs, companies and population. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to recover faster than other parts of the country, given our position going into the crisis. 

Q: How are banks going to be able to help small businesses through this crisis?

A: Unfortunately, small businesses will be the hardest hit through this pandemic. The government stimulus is certainly a starting point and that will give them some temporary relief. We want to be able to leverage the tools and capabilities we have as a larger bank and deliver them on a local, personalized level. We, as a bank, can perhaps help fund CDFIs that can in turn fund small businesses. There is no one solution, but that is an area we were considering well before the pandemic.

I think it will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes the world for all of us. We have all adapted in ways we probably thought we never would or could. There is a lot of digital activity going on now that makes our merger make even more sense. We set up a portal for the PPP program within 36 hours so our small-business clients could apply for this funding quickly. Now we have this online business portal we can use when it is over to help small businesses apply for loans in ways that were not possible before. It remains to be seen what the scale of the impact will be. For our teammates, the priority will continue to be about their safety and when we will go back to working in a more traditional environment. But we have all proven that we can be productive in a nontraditional environment.

Q: What is the outlook for Truist Atlanta in the next 12-18 months?

A: We will continue our integration of the two banks because we are still operating fairly independently in terms of systems and brands in the market. The full rebranding will not happen until the third quarter of next year, so we have a lot of integration work to do in the next 18 months. We will focus on doing this in the least disruptive way for our clients. One significant and positive development is that we will not need to change our clients’ existing account and routing numbers so they will not have to order new checks. Creating a seamless transition to Truist will help solidify and grow our brand awareness in Atlanta, especially given the loyalty our previous brands generated. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: https://www.truist.com/



Spotlight On: Reynold P. Cicalese, Managing Shareholder, Alloy Silverstein

Spotlight On: Reynold P. Cicalese, Managing Shareholder, Alloy Silverstein

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read MARCH 2020— Alloy Silverstein is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm, headquartered in Southern New Jersey. In an interview with Invest: South Jersey, Managing Shareholder Reynold P. Cicalese discussed the changes in the sector and the firm’s support for small businesses in the area.



What changes have you experienced in the accounting sector over the last few years?

Technology has brought significant changes to our industry, allowing us to better serve our clients beyond just preparing a tax return or financial statement. We are on the cloud ourselves, encourage our clients to be on the cloud, and we use technology to help and collaborate with clients on a daily basis. Our advisers are proactive in helping design our clients’ future, as opposed to only telling them what they historically have done. We use software and apps that allow us to create KPI dashboards for our clients so they can have real-time data to make better decisions based on today’s information – not from last month or last year. We also have clients all around the world and we use meeting apps to constantly communicate with them.

Artificial intelligence is severely disrupting the industry. The investment in AI will significantly increase within the next five to six years. We need to keep an eye on this trend and make sure we remain competitive. With regard to audits, for example, it is expected that AI can look at every transaction and provide an efficient audit report. For regional and smaller firms it will be a challenge to compete with larger firms that have the capacity to invest in AI. 

How do you support the small-business community?


We find that many startups are underserved. We recently launched our Startup Hotline, which is a complimentary CPA Q&A for new and emerging businesses. Micro businesses may have questions regarding the type of entity they should start, for example. Through this tool, we give them access to our team of advisers and experts who can provide guidance on accounting, tax, payroll, and many other general business topics.


In addition, we add value for our clients and other small businesses in the community by hosting complimentary monthly lunch workshops, which we call “Alloy Academy.” What started as presentations on accounting software has evolved to bringing in guests so we can cover a wide variety of topics that may be important to a business owner or their employees.


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Alloy Silverstein: https://alloysilverstein.com/ 


Spotlight On: Sam Miles, First Senior Vice President, Central Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

Spotlight On: Sam Miles, First Senior Vice President, Central Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read November 2019 — Central Florida’s economic growth has driven many financial institutions to rebrand and adjust to the latest innovations and client needs. That is the case of Valley Bank. In a discussion with Invest:, First Senior Vice President Sam Miles, who oversees the regional bank’s Orlando and Jacksonville markets, addressed trending business areas for the bank, the impact of its Professionals Group and the bank’s branch rebranding effort. 


Which of the bank’s lending areas are seeing the most demand?


Our largest piece of business revolves around commercial real estate financing. There is a significant amount of capital being invested in real estate in Central Florida. As an example, there are 38 new multifamily projects either under construction or in the planning stages that represent $1.7 billion in investment. That growth, combined with strong employment, is creating high demand for residential developments, and we are very active in multifamily construction lending. In the last year, we also expanded our SBA team to help address the small-business lending market in Orlando. We have a full array of professionals in place with expertise in residential lending and SBA lending to complement our commercial real estate and C&I teams. 

What are your expectations for the relaunched Professionals Group? 

With the relaunching of the Professionals Group we’re trying to reach an affluent population that we haven’t specifically targeted previously. The Professionals Group is a team of commercial lenders dedicated to customizing products and services for any 

group of professionals, including doctors, attorneys, accountants and centers of influence operating throughout our bank’s footprint. It can be a wonderful source of referrals and, by establishing relationships with these professional groups, we will be able to drive new business.


How is Valley Bank improving customer experience? 


We are in the process of rebranding and redeveloping our branches to make them more user friendly. Clients will no longer have the traditional walk-in when they visit our branches. We are providing a modern feel with a warm and welcoming setting. Each branch that we are building now is going to have that model. We are also refurbishing existing branches to fit a more modern and welcoming environment. These new branches fit the trend of people wanting a different, fast-paced environment. 


How does Valley Bank give back to the Orlando community? 


We’ve played a big part in LIFT Orlando, and the redevelopment of the West Lakes area. We have been heavily involved in financing the projects there that are revitalizing that community. That is a wonderful community effort and we’re proud to play a part in it. Our team also spends a lot of time in the community with local groups such as The Ronald McDonald House, Second Harvest Food Bank and The Coalition for the Homeless. We provide paid days off to encourage our employees to volunteer and give back to the communities where we serve. 


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Valley Bank: https://www.valley.com/


Spotlight On: Brett Gray, Managing Principal, Cushman & Wakefield

Spotlight On: Brett Gray, Managing Principal, Cushman & Wakefield

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read November 2019 – In the last few years, the Charlotte Metro Area has enjoyed consistent growth, thanks largely to its strong banking sector. As the region continues to grow, Charlotte’s economy is diversifying and attracting large companies that need commercial real estate solutions. In a recent interview with Invest:Charlotte, Cushman & Wakefield Managing Partner Brett Gray talks about the state of Charlotte’s real estate market, use of technology to improve client needs and his outlook for the region heading into 2020. 

How is Cushman & Wakefield addressing the growth of the Charlotte metro area?


We are organized across a suite of services with specializations that directly tie to Charlotte’s explosion as a high growth city.  These services include Capital Markets, Tenant Representation, Landlord Representation, Project & Development Services, Asset Services, Facility Management, Valuation and Advisory Services and Consulting to name a few.  Under each of those service lines, we have additional services that clients can tap into for all of their needs. 


This is a thriving city. It has often been thought of as a secondary market, but it’s practically a regional hub that’s led by the banks. That has been the driver for development since the 1980s. It is essential for us to have key leaders in this space to help grow. For example, we have one of our National Emerging Tech Advisory Group members here in town, which is important as tech has been a big part of Charlotte’s recent growth. Our Multifamily National Practice Co-Leader sits here, our Southeast Valuation and Advisory leader is here.  These are just a few examples that show our commitment to this market and the depth and breadth of our resources and services.


How is Cushman & Wakefield implementing new technologies to address client needs and provide better service?


Cushman & Wakefield’s property technology (PropTech) strategy focuses on strategic partnerships across our global platform with a variety of organizations, including Fifth  Wall, MetaProp NYC, Plug and Play and 1871.  The firm recently entered into technology relationships with innovative companies like Saltmine and Reonomy.  It is essential for us to partner with organizations to identify technology that will disrupt our industry.  PropTech drives efficiencies ensuring Cushman & Wakefield evolves quickly in this ever changing environment to deliver excellence to our clients.  It is our responsibility to drive the latest solutions to them as their advisor. 


How is Cushman & Wakefield addressing growth while preparing for a potential recession?


We’ve seen some inverted yield curves, and while the curve is a good historic warning sign of a recession, it doesn’t mean it’s right on the edge. The difference is that consumer confidence, which makes up 70% of the economy, continues to rise. Government spending remains strong. You’ve got a record unemployment rate continuing at an all-time low. You’ve got wage growth. As long as we continue seeing wage growth and low unemployment numbers, with consumers making up so much of that, we feel really good about where we are. We don’t see anything happening in the next year and a half to two years, but we continue to advise clients to be aware. We take a look at the “what if?” models out there. If a recession happens, what will happen? We’re always looking at those things, but right now we feel really good. 


How does Cushman & Wakefield view the commercial real estate landscape?


If you look at the past 12 months like a report card, it’s arguably the most exciting time in the history of Charlotte. We look out everyday to cranes looking into our windows, and you see the growth of the light rail happening. The airport is expanding. The logical places of growth are emerging. It followed predictable patterns, where before some of the wealth was concentrated, but now you’re seeing emerging corridors appear. Opportunity Zones help drive some of that investment. Companies are selling their properties for record prices, and moving into emerging corridors. When you think of a big city, you put a dot in the middle of the city and there are no gaps expanding outward a mile or two. Charlotte still has some opportunity to develop around those gaps, and you’re starting to see that happen.


To learn more about our interviewee, visit: http://www.cushmanwakefield.com/en

Spotlight On: Jeffrey Mylton, Charlotte Market President, HomeTrust Bank

Spotlight On: Jeffrey Mylton, Charlotte Market President, HomeTrust Bank

By Felipe Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — The Charlotte Metro Area is home to a plethora of banks and financial institutions. While local and nationally-recognized banks provide similar services, many residents prefer to go to a local bank for their banking needs. HomeTrust Bank is a local bank keen on providing personalized service to its clients.  In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, HomeTrust Bank Charlotte Market President Jeffrey Mylton talks about the advantages of local banks, the challenges they face, its relationship with the local business community and the outlook for Charlotte’s banking sector.  

How would you describe the bank’s trajectory since entering the Charlotte market five years ago?

It has been a nice steady climb. We have added new relationship managers who are more in line with midmarket-type lending. We’ve also added several new divisions, one of which is equipment finance and the other is our SBA division, as well as a larger, more robust residential mortgage area. Two of the three divisions are headquartered here, as opposed to our headquarters in Asheville, so the bank realizes where a lot of the growth will come from over time.

What advantages does the Charlotte market provide over bigger national banks?

I would say a lot of customers are looking for personalized service. Just about every big bank has small business lending somewhere else. You come to them locally, but the approval process is out of the market. We provide the speed, flexibility, and personal service that a big bank can’t provide.


What will your partnership with fintech company AvidXchange accomplish?

A client that would take advantage of AvidXchange would have to be processing a lot of transactions. That’s more of a middle-market company, which is the type of company we are seeking in that middle-market segment where we would like to be more prominent. It’s a way to get our name out and have people realize our capabilities are just as good as the bigger banks.

What are the greatest challenges facing community banks in Charlotte?

A lot of community bank growth has been done by boosting the balance sheet with real estate. I think everybody understands you have to be diversified. You have to have a deposit base in order to lend. Real estate’s great, but you can’t do everything with real estate. There are so many more business opportunities for a bank when it is servicing business customers. 

As this market grows, people are looking for a bank that can satisfy their needs. Other than a few things that a big bank does, such as mergers and acquisitions, we can do what they can do. Most of the time we can provide it either more efficiently or less expensively.

We’ve seen just about all but about two community banks disappear here in Charlotte, but you’re also seeing big growth in credit unions. I think the reason that they’re becoming so active is because of the void of community banks. People would rather deal with a personal relationship where somebody locally cares. Big banks don’t provide that. So you’re seeing us thrive as one of the few left, as well as the credit unions.

How can regulators or economic engines like the Charlotte Regional Business Partnership help address some of those challenges?

They are directing attention to a need. They’re attracting customers and business to the city, which gives us an opportunity to do business. When those companies come here, they are looking to work with someone that actually works and makes decisions locally. Many large banks don’t make business decisions here.

How is HomeTrust responding to the emerging millennial market and the demands of this generation?

Whether it’s remote data capture, creating our app so you can do all your banking services on your phone, or Popmoney, where you can transfer money between different accounts, those are all things that can continue to evolve. And as they evolve we continue to make sure we have what we need to be competitive.

What’s your outlook for the finance sector in Charlotte and what emerging businesses are you involved with?

There are so many multifamily projects being done. Opportunities are there for all residents of these multifamily projects to be banking customers. We aim to serve all customer segments, millennials to retirees, as well as small to middle-market companies.

As for emerging businesses, we have relationships with quite a few of these types of companies. Those that are involved in cloud computing, data centers, and related businesses in fiber optics. Technology and digital businesses just keep changing, but we’re active on all fronts. We have quite a few cloud computing-related businesses.


To learn more about our interviewees, 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