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Mayor Jim Kenney’s Third Annual Address to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia

Posted Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Programs & Events, Public Policy, Advocacy, Action Teams, Roadmap for Growth

On February 6, 2018 Mayor Jim Kenney addressed over 1,700 members of the business community in his annual speech at the Mayoral Luncheon.

Read his full remarks below:

Thank you, John for the introduction, and for inviting me to be here today.

I want to recognize Chamber President & CEO Rob Wonderling, and this year’s Gustave G. Amsterdam Scholarship winners: Sierra Williams and Mingwang Jiang.

Let’s also take a moment to thank Comcast, the primary sponsor of this great event, and one of the City’s longstanding corporate partners.

Everyone in the room today is a vital part of our city’s fabric — you keep our jobs growing, our residents employed, and our economy thriving. And for that, you deserve a round of applause.

It is an honor to be here this afternoon delivering my third annual address to your Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

It’s hard to believe that we have already been through two full years together during my time as Mayor, and that we are now entering Year 3 of our partnership.

I’d also like to recognize the members of City Council who have joined us. Since last year’s address, great progress has been made. None of it would have been possible without the support of our City Council members and countless hours of hard work from our City leaders and staff, many of whom are in the room today.

In the past year, Philadelphia has experienced a number of exciting moments, topped off — of course — by the Eagles’ historic Super Bowl win on Sunday!

A close second was the City’s bid for Amazon HQ2 — one of the greatest examples of how far Philadelphia has come in recent years. Never before have we seen such a coordinated effort to bring a company to this city.

As you all know, last month we made the first cut. Philadelphia is now one of twenty finalists in the fierce competition for Amazon’s new headquarters.

The relationship between the City and the Chamber was essential to the development of our proposal, and I look forward to continuing that level of collaboration for other attractions in the future.

While being selected as Amazon’s new home would be an undeniable game changer for Philadelphia, one of the most valuable parts of the bid process is how it has helped all of us focus on the unmatched assets that our city has to offer businesses and their employees.

It also reminded us of areas where we must continue to improve in order to better compete with other world-class cities.

Talent, livability, and logistics are at the center of Philadelphia’s proposal. We must commit to continued investments in all of these areas in order to remain competitive — not just for Amazon, but for any company considering this region for its operations.

There is no denying that education is the foundation upon which a successful society is built. That is exactly why we have made schools the top priority for our administration from Day 1.

Since the last time I addressed this group, all 2,000 PHLpreK seats for this school year were filled — allowing our children to start their academic careers on the right track with quality early childhood education. Another 700 children have already graduated out of PHLpreK.

Twelve Community Schools have opened, providing students and their families with vital resources such as food access, after-school programming, and job training.

Most recently, we made the decision to bring Philadelphia’s schools back to local control. We have initiated that process with the Commonwealth by dissolving the School Reform Commission and beginning the appointment of our new School Board — which will be in place on July 1st — to guide the future of our students.

All of these actions are steps toward a more equitable, fair, and successful future for Philadelphia’s young people.

Put simply, we need to ensure that every child has access to quality schools, no matter where they live, or what they look like.

The local Board will be able to provide direction that speaks to the city’s needs, and ultimately, I — and all future mayors — will be responsible to the people of Philadelphia when it comes to supporting our schools.

I want to recognize City Council members for their leadership on this issue and thank them for their passionate advocacy on behalf of Philadelphia’s students.

As Mayor I am not only willing, but eager, to take on this responsibility because the success of our education system is critical to our city’s future.

As we embark on the journey toward local control of the School District, I look forward to working closely with the Chamber of Commerce to ensure business interests are represented.

The Philadelphia public school system is the city’s most important long-term talent development pipeline, critical for business growth and attraction.

A thriving economy requires an educated, well-trained workforce that allows companies to hire from their own backyards.

A strong public school system is also vital to attracting talent from across the country and globe. People want, and deserve, a quality education for their children.

Restoring local control provides a unique opportunity to build a modern education system that prepares students for the knowledge economy, and businesses will be a crucial partner in this work.

The Chamber’s commitment to education has long been clear in its programming and funding priorities.

For example, you have been a major contributor to the City’s Read by 4th campaign, which aims to double the number of Philadelphia children reading on grade level by the time they enter 4th grade.

Because of the investments and partnerships of many in this room — and the leadership of Dr. Hite, who is here with us today — the School District’s early literacy scores jumped by five percentage points for 3rd graders in 2017.

There is also the Future Ready program for middle school students — a partnership among the Chamber, Wells Fargo, and the School District. It provides in-classroom instruction and half-day immersions at local companies to help enlighten young people about the career opportunities available to them.

This commitment extends beyond the Chamber and into the offices of many individual companies.

For example, in December, the School District and local tech leaders came together to announce the launch of CS4Philly — an ambitious initiative to get computer science education into every K-12 school.

We cannot overstate the importance of preparing our young people with these tech-based skills which are already critical for today’s jobs and will dominate the landscape in the future.

In the areas of livability and logistics, Philadelphia is in a strong position, but we also recognize opportunities for improvement.

Many of our public facilities are in desperate need of investment. To address that, we have gotten the ball rolling on Rebuild, our ambitious plan to renovate parks, rec centers and libraries. Several months ago, we released a list of 60 proposed sites across the city.

We need to improve our public transit system in order to ensure Philadelphia’s continued growth is equitable. To do this, the City’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems has been hard at work developing a transportation action plan which will be unveiled later this year.

One example of this type of transportation improvement that provides better access to jobs is the Boulevard Direct service that began last year. The new SEPTA bus route serving Roosevelt Boulevard between the Frankford Transportation Center and the Neshaminy Mall is cutting commute times for residents and workers in the Northeast.

Projects like the 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens and Reading Viaduct Rail Park will transform underutilized spaces into areas that are engaging, green, and community-driven.

Additionally, the capping of I-95 is poised to be one of the biggest infrastructure investments in our city in recent years, and will have significant economic impact not just on the waterfront but Philadelphia as a whole.

These actions will improve life for Philadelphia residents and businesses alike.

Another aspect of livability that has been challenging for many Philadelphia residents is the ongoing national crisis of opioid addiction and homelessness; but local businesses have stepped up in a big way to address the needs of residents impacted by these issues.

Members of the Chamber have been working with Liz Hersh, Director of Homeless Services for the City of Philadelphia, and Mitch Little, Executive Director of the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity. You have been key partners as we try to constructively address chronic street homelessness, panhandling, and food access.

Just last week, we opened the new Hub of Hope in Suburban Station — an effort that received an unprecedented level of cooperation among SEPTA, the City, non-profit service provider Project HOME, and businesses in the private sector.

Thanks to over $800,000 in funding raised by business leaders and other community members, the Hub of Hope will be able to offer immediate services such as showers and laundry. It will also be an access point for medical and psychiatric attention, legal services and more.

These examples are just a small sampling of the proof that this partnership between the public and private sectors is what drives true success in Philadelphia.

Much of this would not have been possible without the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth — an effort that has increased collaboration between the business community and the public sector.

The Roadmap has guided efforts aimed at growing jobs and the economy, while also improving life for all Philadelphians. I want to thank Roadmap Co-Chairs David Cohen and Pedro Ramos, as well as their subcommittee co-chairs and members, for the efforts made so far.

Under the umbrella of the Roadmap for Growth, the Chamber of Commerce has taken on an important role in advocating for the hiring of diverse populations, including immigrants, residents returning from incarceration, and homeless individuals.

A few months ago, I was asked to join the Chamber’s conference on non-traditional hiring. I was inspired by what I saw and heard from employers about the value these individuals brought to their businesses — becoming some of their most loyal and hardworking employees.

The Chamber has also helped introduce First Step Staffing to its members. First Step, which recently came to Philadelphia from Atlanta, will replicate its innovative temporary staffing model to help homeless individuals, those in recovery, veterans, and people with criminal records.

At a time when vulnerable populations are threatened by policies and rhetoric at the national level, the Roadmap for Growth serves as an important counterpoint: a recognition that humane policies towards all people can enhance, rather than hinder, business development.

One of the greatest examples of the collaboration between the Chamber and the City of Philadelphia is the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

More than half a century ago, leaders of City government and the Chamber of Commerce recognized the need for a non-profit venture that would focus on real estate and financing transactions.

PIDC was charged with attracting public and private resources, and investing them in transactions and initiatives that would drive job growth, investment, and development.

I would like to recognize those PIDC Directors in the room, in particular Walt D’Alessio, current chairman of the PIDC Board, who has served this partnership for more than 40 years. And a big congratulations to my friend John Grady and the entire PIDC team for their tireless efforts.

PIDC has been instrumental in diversifying and strengthening Philadelphia’s economy. By investing over $16 billion dollars in more than 7,000 transactions throughout the city, they have helped to create or retain hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Over the last five years, PIDC has focused its attention on attracting new resources and delivering them to support growing businesses and neighborhood development.

They have loaned more than $103 million to businesses located in 96% of the city’s zip codes. Half of those loans went to minority and women-owned firms.

They have also developed a portfolio of nearly 20 neighborhood development projects representing more than $350 million dollars of investment. These projects include neighborhood health centers, schools, retail centers anchored by supermarkets, community facilities, and mixed-use developments that are driving jobs, services and growth.

The 60-year partnership between the City of Philadelphia and the Chamber of Commerce in the form of PIDC is the embodiment of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors come together to take on the challenges and opportunities that face our city.

I know that the success story of PIDC will continue in Philadelphia for the next 60 years and beyond – helping us to attract new resources and invest them in the people, projects, and neighborhoods that will drive growth to every corner of our city.

Since my first day in office, I have been committed to addressing the deep-rooted poverty that impacts so many Philadelphians. We have been moving in the right direction, with more than 45,000 jobs added since we took office in January 2016, and job growth rates surpassing the national average. Yet we cannot be satisfied until this benefits all Philadelphians.

Right now, this is not the case. We continue to be the poorest of America’s 10 largest cities with far too many residents lacking the skills and networks needed to compete for jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.

This is not a new problem. But it is one that we can no longer afford to ignore.

So, under the leadership of Harold T. Epps at the Commerce Department, and Mike DiBerardinis at the Managing Director’s Office, we established the Philadelphia Workforce Development Steering Committee — the first truly cross-sector, collaborative group of leaders representing all elements of the workforce development system.

The Steering Committee includes members from the Chamber, Philadelphia Works, the School District, Philadelphia Youth Network, Community College of Philadelphia, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

They are joined by other higher education institutions, workforce intermediaries, national and local policy experts, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, and philanthropy.

This group has taken up the charge of making sure employers can find the talent they need and Philadelphia residents can develop the skills required to pursue a career and contribute fully to the economic success of our city.

Their work over the past 18 months has led to what I am proud to announce today: a robust citywide workforce development strategy which will make that vision a reality. We call it Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine.

We are no longer living in the economy of our grandparents, or even our parents.

Many of you in this room were taught that a high school education could get you a good, respectable job — one that could support you and your family. You would keep that job until retirement, and life would be good.

Millions of young adults coming out of school today face a job market that is barely recognizable, even to their older siblings.

The Great Recession, which impacted countless individuals here and around the country, left thousands of Philadelphians reeling; and to this day, many of them are still struggling to find full-time, living wage employment.

All the while, our education and training institutions have been struggling to keep up. And employers are left challenged to meet their talent needs.

It is clear we need to rethink education and training so that our institutions are able to provide students and job-seekers with relevant, employer-driven experiences to compete in a knowledge economy.

Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine calls for more intentional coordination and collaboration across education, job training, and other supportive services to drive economic growth with equity.

We will train Philadelphians with the skills employers actually need, match them with jobs that are available now, and continue to support career advancement in the future.

Since its formation, the Steering Committee has poured over comprehensive industry data provided by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, consulted with peers in other cities, shared ideas across institutions, and generated new solutions to some of our most persistent challenges.

The result is the innovative strategy which we will talk about in a minute. It will also be available online at phila.gov/workforce.

I want to thank the members of the Steering Committee, many of whom are in the room today. Your vision and commitment to this important work has been extraordinary.

We all know that developing a shared strategy is just the beginning. Over the next three years, the Steering Committee will oversee its implementation and has committed to do so with a spirit of passion and urgency essential to activate and sustain the changes we all want to see.

At the center of Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine is a shift in focus from short-term job training and placement to long-term career planning and advancement.

It calls on us to work together across institutions to build a true career pathway system — one that ensures workforce education and training are informed by the needs of business.

Philadelphians of every age will be guided to think beyond their next job, and to focus on the education, credentialing and other supports they’ll need to achieve longer-term career goals.

The full benefits of this type of system cannot be provided by a single program, but rather are delivered via multiple linked and aligned programs.

There are a number of initiatives already established and underway to support career pathway progression. Dual enrollment programs between our high schools and institutions of higher education, job training that leads to industry-recognized credentials, and adult literacy programs that are closely linked to job training and employers.

In order to create a successful career pathway system in Philadelphia, we must build upon these existing programs and work to establish new ones.

I want to commend the leaders of our city’s major institutions — School District Superintendent Dr. Hite, Community College President Dr. Guy Generals, Pat Clancy at Philadelphia Works, Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend from the Philadelphia Youth Network, and others — for committing to the bold goals and recommendations outlined in Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine.

Our comprehensive strategy has three specific goals. The first is to prepare Philadelphians with the skills employers need for a world-class workforce.

We are putting the needs of industry at the center of our efforts, and focusing on talent gaps to drive changes to the workforce system.

We will work hand-in-hand with business leaders to establish or expand industry partnerships in the seven opportunity industries identified by the Economy League in their important research. They include: Healthcare, Retail & Hospitality, Early Childhood Education, Technology Services, Business & Financial Services, Construction & Infrastructure, and Manufacturing & Logistics.

These partnerships will inform education and training opportunities designed to prepare Philadelphians for quality jobs, and support the bottom line of business — including faster hiring, increased employee retention, and greater access to a skilled, dedicated workforce.

Our strategy calls for a dramatic increase in apprenticeships and other industry-driven work-based learning opportunities. Philadelphians need an opportunity to earn while they learn. And employers need to know that workforce training will prepare participants with the skills their business demands.

The key to building a world class workforce, is investing in the success of our young people.

With the full support of Dr. Hite and his staff, we are committing to ensure all Philadelphia public school students are prepared for college and career, and are able to participate in a high-quality work experience before graduation.

The second goal of our strategy is focused on addressing the underlying barriers that prevent Philadelphians from accessing meaningful career opportunities.

For those living in poverty, we will simplify access to work-related supports, including childcare subsidies, mental health services, public benefits and financial counseling.

We will focus intensely on the thousands of Philadelphians who lack the skills needed for a 21st  Century economy.

Our strategy includes a commitment to bridge programming designed to help individuals build their reading, writing, numerical and digital skills, preparing them to succeed in workforce education and training aligned to quality jobs.

In this work, we ensure no segment of the population is overlooked. Opportunity youth, residents returning from incarceration, and immigrants have ample potential to drive positive growth in our city.

We will make sure our workforce system is prepared to address the unique barriers they face, and support them to realize their full potential.

The third and final goal of our strategy is focused on making sure Philadelphia’s workforce system is more coordinated, innovative and effective.

We are committed to investing our public dollars wisely, leveraging our successes to attract new funding, and improving our capacity to make data-informed decisions.

We will also ensure our policy efforts are coordinated and focused on supporting the development of skilled workers prepared for quality jobs.

The public workforce system has many tentacles, and only through an intense focus on coordination can we provide an effective and innovative resource for employers and future employees.

These are the three pillars of Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine — better preparing job seekers with the skills they need, eliminating barriers, and coordinating more effectively.

At a time when we can’t anticipate more resources from either Harrisburg or Washington, we have been conscious of building a strategy that allows Philadelphia’s many workforce partners to use what we already have in a smarter way.

It is not enough for me to stand on this stage today, or for our administration to put out a list of requests, telling employers what we think you should be doing.

We must do more than talk the talk. The City must also walk the walk with our own hiring practices, and we must provide the supports required for the private sector to invest in developing high-quality career pathways that prepare, attract, and retain a diverse and talented workforce.

In 2017, our administration launched City as Model Employer — a pilot program focused on preparing individuals with employment barriers for middle-skill positions that are currently difficult for City departments and private employers to fill.

Currently, 10 City departments are engaged in the pilot, and we recently hired an experienced talent development professional to lead the initiative.

Zakiyyah Ali, our Deputy Managing Director for Workforce Strategies, has been working tirelessly with staff in each of the participating departments to build out their programs. She will ensure that we are taking the proper steps to create true career pathways for Philadelphians who are interested in working for the City.

The Lenfest Foundation is a proud investor in this work, and has committed $250,000 in the first year of our pilot to build out components of the model, including a standard workforce readiness curriculum and common assessment tools.

This year, the City will launch our first Office of Workforce Development, creating a centralized team to work with the Steering Committee and other workforce partners on accomplishing the goals outlined in this strategy. It will also provide employers with a single location where they can turn for support and assistance connecting to workforce resources.

The Office will launch later in 2018, and will be staffed by existing top talent from various City departments who have been deeply involved in building the workforce strategy.

They are a sharp, innovative group, and they are ready to assist you with your workforce needs.

I have always thought it tragic that businesses in this City struggle to find the skilled employees they need to grow and prosper while there’s tremendous untapped potential sitting on the sidelines.

The time for a citywide workforce development strategy is now, and we are thrilled we have been able to share that strategy with you here today.

The success of this plan will require action from all of us. We cannot afford to waste another minute.

When you came in this morning, you should have received a handout which describes what we are calling Model Employers.

Model Employers are those who contribute to the solution of ensuring quality employment for Philadelphia residents. They recruit, hire, retain and advance a workforce that is representative of Philadelphia’s population.

By investing in our current and future workforce, you can help develop diverse, skilled employees who are prepared to meet the demands of growing industries in Philadelphia.

Many of you are already doing this work, and now it is our turn to recognize you for your efforts.

Whether your company is already making these investments or is interested in learning more about how it could benefit your business — we want to hear from you.

You can reach out to our staff, whose contact information is included in the handout, and they will connect you to any of the resources you need.

As the Office of Workforce Development begins operations, it is vital we understand your needs in order to build a system that serves your businesses and our residents.

For your part as employers, you can do a number of things to support our workforce development efforts.

You can provide career development opportunities for employees by offering mentoring or professional development classes, developing apprenticeship programs, and providing tuition assistance.

You can create opportunities for populations such as immigrants and formerly incarcerated individuals, and access existing workforce resources like PA CareerLink.

And you can support local schools and engage young people in work-related experiences by adopting a District school, mentoring young people, participating in career fairs, or hosting an intern.

By taking these actions as a Model Employer, you will not only see traditional benefits such as improved employee retention and stronger productivity, you will also be promised direct support from the City’s Workforce Development Team.

I am aware that this is not a light lift for any employer, and that is why I want to ensure our administration is available and prepared to support you.

Through the creation of the new Office of Workforce Development, our goal is to give you one central location, one group of people within City government, to go to when you have questions.

When I think of the hidden potential that exists here among the people of Philadelphia, I am often reminded of the words of Temple University founder Russell Conwell in a well-known lecture — “Acres of Diamonds.”

He delivered the speech thousands of times during his life, and now new students are greeted with it when they arrive on North Broad Street to begin their college careers.

As Conwell’s story goes, a farmer once sold his land and traveled far and wide with the promise of finding the diamonds he so coveted.

After years of searching, the farmer ended up penniless and eventually passed away.

Yet, back on his old land, the man’s successor unexpectedly plucked a beautiful diamond from the brook in his garden, followed by many more.

The point of the lecture was that while we often dream of fortunes to be made elsewhere, we should instead be open to the opportunities all around us.

Philadelphia’s single greatest resource is, in fact, its people. Today, I ask you to begin mining your acres of diamonds here in your own backyard.

The pool of talent in this city is deep, and it is filled with individuals who are ready to get to work for you and other Philadelphia employers.

Immigrants like Ana Carolina Nuñez, who is enrolled in ESL classes provided by the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, and dreams of getting a professional certification to better support herself and her family.

Young men like Ian Holland and Mikel Woods, who were able to get back on track after being involved with the justice system. Thanks to a referral from our Office of Reintegration Services to PowerCorpsPHL, both gained valuable workplace experience and went on to gain full-time employment — Ian as a foreman at a landscaping firm, and Mikel with the Philadelphia Streets Department.

Mothers like Joyce Bacon and Tamika Lawson, who once struggled to land job interviews, but now are gainfully employed. Joyce as a Program Director for West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, where she was previously a participant, and Tamika with a local nonprofit.

And teenagers like Jihad Heckstall, a graduate of one of our great CTE schools — A. Philip Randolph — who completed the PennAssist program and is now a 1st year apprentice with Local 5 Elevator Constructors Union.

A few of these individuals — who are living proof of what can be accomplished with the help of our workforce system — are in the room with us today. I’d like to ask them to stand and be recognized.

They, and all our residents, share a common desire to use their God-given potential to succeed in a career that allows them to support themselves and their families. We owe it to our fellow Philadelphians to make sure they are prepared to act on that desire.

Sixty years ago, the City and the Chamber recognized the value of public-private partnership to achieve great things for Philadelphia with the formation of PIDC.

We have seen a number of other successful examples of collaboration in the years since, and by all accounts, economic development has been much more successful due to this partnership between business and government.

Now, we have the opportunity to take the partnership among the public, private and nonprofit sectors to the next level in order to see the same success in fueling Philadelphia’s talent engine.

It is important for the future of all Philadelphians, and vital to the success of our city that we do this.

So, now let’s get to work!

Thank you.

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