Economy League's 2014 World Class Summit: Tracking Philadelphia’s Progress on Growth and Opportunity

Aesha Desai, for GPA -- On July 9, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and its partners hosted their fourth annual World Class Summit.

The Economy League expressed their ideas on how cities can become smarter, institute better planning, structures, education and transportation. Ideally, with enough support and investment from the corporate, government and non-profit sectors, this could be a realistic future for Philadelphia. People and investors seek services, employment, well-being and prosperity and that is what the Economy League and the speakers at the summit want to improve.

The 2014 World Class Summit had a roster of speakers that included the chair of its board Robert J. McNeill; its executive director, Steve Wray; Josh Sevin, its managing director of regional engagement; Michael J. Dixon, general manager of IBM’s global smarter cities business; Rick Altman, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Radian Guaranty, Inc., and Kevin Dow, Senior Vice President of Impact and Innovation at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

The goal to create a city of growth and opportunity started in 2009 and since then, the Economy League has developed strategies to improve education and talent in Philadelphia. In a partnership with the United Way, the CEO Council for Growth and the Urban Land Institute, the Economy League has developed a world-class global positioning strategy to research and gather data on priorities and focus on areas that need change. Some examples of the areas that need attention discussed at the summit are early and secondary learning, start-up and growing businesses, global export and investment opportunities, the development of global and national connections, the region’s transit and road networks and sustainable systems to enhance quality of life.

During the program, education was stressed heavily, shedding light on the connection between education and the growth of cities. Only 34 percent of children in low and moderate income families are enrolled in public pre-kindergarten programs. The third grade reading proficiency rate in Pennsylvania is behind that of students in surrounding states. In a trend that runs through other metropolitan centers, Philadelphia has a low percentage of youths in school or employed. On the brigh side, per research done in 2012, 39.9 percent of Philadelphians aged 25 or older have a Bachelor’s or advanced secondary degree, which ranks 5th in the nation’s leading metro areas.

Armed with this data, the Economy League has a vision that the Greater Philadelphia region will field a talented workforce, in which workers have the resources and abilities to compete in the global economy. Education is the core system in supporting economic development, therefore the agenda is to improve primary education teachers’ effectiveness, create a stronger connection between education and career opportunities, improve postsecondary access and completion rates and expand workforce efforts.

There are thorough ideas and plans behind business growth, infrastructure and global and national connections in the works at the Economy League. For business growth, the focus discussed is one that will strengthen entrepreneur networks, support cluster-focused talent development, connect industry and universities to drive technology transfers, advance the region’s position as a hub for global business and market to assets and success stories. The plan for infrastructure is to improve inter-city rail connections, develop the Philadelphia International Airport as a world class facility, enhance energy infrastructure, preserve and expand regional parks and open spaces and upgrade roads and bridges.

All these visions will construct a link to the international community and with all these efforts, Philadelphia could become the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the world.

Photo courtesy of Aesha Desai.