GPA Board Looks Towards Bright Future


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Andrea Van Grinsven, for GPA -- Members of the Global Philadelphia Association’s Board of Directors gathered on May 13, 2014 to discuss Philadelphia’s submission to the Organization of World Heritage Cities, how to attract more international business to Philadelphia and updates on GlobalPhilly2015.

Six guests joined the meeting as panelists in the discussion about international business: Robert Cheetham, founder and president of Azavea, Chris Laing, Vice President of University City Science Center’s Science and Technology programs, Javier Dragone, Vice President of Business Development, Information Systems and Global Solutions at Lockheed Martin, Mike Brown, President of Environmental Construction Services and Shinjoo Cho, Director of International Business Investment at the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce.

World Heritage City Project

Alan Greenburger, the City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Director of Commerce and Barry Eiswerth, Senior Principal of H2L2 Architects, presented an update on the World Heritage City Project. On April 28, the City submitted its proposal for Philadelphia to become the first World Heritage City in the United States to Denis Ricard, Secretary General of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC). Ricard requested this proposal as a potential model for reworking OWHC membership applications.

Philadelphia is currently an observer member of the OWHC. Usually, World Heritage Cities gain admission to the OWHC by applying and getting approval from UNESCO. Since Philadelphia is not yet a World Heritage City, the City must seek alternative entry methods to the OWHC. This proposal is key to accelerating Philadelphia’s elevation to voting membership of OWHC before UNESCO recognizes it as a World Heritage City.

Philadelphia’s Global Mission

The panelists from the May 13 meeting are all involved in internationalizing Philadelphia’s business community and engaged the Board in a discussion about how the GPA can help the city’s players improve the region as an international business hub. Cho, who accompanied Mayor Nutter on his recent trade mission to the United Kingdom and Israel along with Greenburger, Brown and Cheetham, expressed that the mayor’s mission confirmed that the world didn’t recognize Philadelphia as prominently as it should.

Offering a solution to this obstacle, panelists and GPA Board members reiterated the importance of face-to-face meetings in attracting and securing international relationships. Brown raised the concern that it is especially hard to convince small businesses and their employees to have meetings abroad, but insisted that it is a necessity to make Philadelphia a competitive place for international companies and people to do business. Laing also advocated that face time is critical over the years, drawing on his experience interacting with those abroad. In addition, David Briel, Executive Director of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Center for Direct Investment, and Dragone both advocated that improving Philadelphia’s capacity for air and maritime travel is critical in making the city more accessible to the international community.

To The Future

Cho expressed that as Philadelphia grows as an international hub, she wishes to see more diversity not just within the city but also in who works with Philadelphia and why. Revamping Philadelphia’s image on the forefront of global innovation is critical for attracting diverse international business to the city. Krista Bard of the Consular Corps Association of Philadelphia conveyed that the Consular Corps is happy to be working with GPA to show how Philadelphia has changed into a global city. The new generation of consuls will be a force spearheading the promotion of Philadelphia’s global image.

GPA’s Global Gateways initiative is also at the forefront of transforming Philadelphia’s image. As the connecting initiative between GlobalPhilly2013 and GlobalPhilly2015, Global Gateways’ current objective is to bring the city’s international aspect to Philadelphians. GPA will achieve this by publishing a compendium detailing members and non-members who are international players in this region. GPA plans to present this tool of reference at the Global Ideas Summit in December.