Monday, August 29, 2005

Alternative Fuel Industry Expands

According to PennFuture, Spanish turbine-blade manufacturer Gamesa has decided to accelerate the opening of a second production line at its new facility being constructed in Ebensburg, PA. The plant will employ nearly 200 by next April, with room for two more production lines if needed. Gamesa officials have said that the Pennsylvania’s Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard law, heavily influenced their decision to locate in Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 26, 2005

John Dougherty's Union (Local 98) Accussed of Harassment

According to the Philadelphia Tribune, a local community activist is upset with one of the City's most prominent union leaders - John Dougherty, whose members have allegedly been harassing African-American contractors working at a School District of Philadelphia construction site. Activist Sacaree Rhodes said union members working under Dougherty of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 98) allegedly threatened the African-American contractors and "encouraged" them to join their union.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Take the Money and Run?

In his most recent op-ed, Mark Allen Hughes has a thought provoking suggestion for residents of gentrifying areas with rapidly increasing home prices (and property tax burdens): “many should consider cashing out altogether and selling their houses. The proceeds from such sales…would generate a transfer to lower-income people that's long overdue.” Mr. Hughes notes that - since 1995 - housing prices have increased by 97% in North Philadelphia (above Girard), 183% in Kensington, and an incredible 233% in South Philadelphia (below Washington).

Another Random Philadelphia Treasure You’ve Probably Never Heard About

The Wagner Free Institute of Science is a natural history museum and educational institution that has remained as it was in the 19th century. It offers free public education courses on science - now in their 143rd year. These programs are the oldest free adult education classes in the United States. Incorporated in 1855, the Institute is named for its founders, William Wagner (1796-1885) and Louisa Binney Wagner (1814-1898) who wanted to provide free educational resources through public lectures, a library, and a museum. The museum is located in North Philadelphia, about two blocks from Temple University’s main campus; for more information, please see their website.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Philadelphia International Airport: Ecomonic Powerhouse

According to the July issue of the Pennsylvania Air Service Monitor, Philadelphia International Airport’s total economic impact was over $14 billion last year. This accounts for 63% of the Commonwealth’s $22 billion total economic impact from air service in 2004. The $14 billion figure includes direct spending by airport and airline employees, indirect spending by Pennsylvania visitors arriving by air, and “induced” spending from the multiplier effect of the direct and indirect amounts being re-spent in the Philadelphia region.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Record Year for Passengers and Cargo at PHL

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Philadelphia International Airport set a record in fiscal 2005, which ended June 30. The airport reported 31.07 million air travelers, up from 26.19 in the previous year. Additionally, 4.12 million international passengers came through the airport, a 6.4 percent increase from a year earlier. Philadelphia International also handled 599,758 tons of cargo last fiscal year, up from 586,924 tons last year.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"It's Costly Being Poor": An Article from the Economist about Philadelphia

This article came from the August 11th, 2005 edition of the Economist.

THIS week saw the start of yet another campaign to boycott Wal-Mart. In Philadelphia, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) joined two teachers' unions to urge parents not to buy their school supplies at the big store, which doesn't recognise unions. “Low wages mean more poverty,” announced the UFCW's local chief.

Yet the poor might benefit from low prices. “The Price is Wrong”, a recent report from the Brookings Institution, a think-tank based in Washington, DC, found that Philadelphia's poor pay more for almost everything than the city's rich folk do: they pay more for loans because their credit history is patchier, more for insurance because their neighbourhoods are rougher, and more to cash cheques because they don't have bank accounts and go to extortionate cheque-cashing stores that can bite $450 a year out of a household income of $15,000.

And they pay more for their groceries because they shop at places like the Thrift Discount store on Girard Avenue. Wal-Mart, it ain't. There's not much choice, the soup cans are grimy with dust and the nappies are 57% dearer than at a big store in the suburbs.

Why doesn't somebody undercut Thrift Discount and its sort? One reason is the powerful lobby against big stores, such as Wal-Mart, opening in cities. Another is that small entrepreneurs don't like working in rough neighbourhoods. “It's not so bad round here during the day, but you hear gunshots every night,” says Patrick Park, a member of the Korean-American family that owns Thrift Discount. Armed robberies are fairly common in the area, he says, and shoplifting is “a big problem”.

Brookings says the risks of running shops in poor areas are exaggerated, citing a Department of Agriculture report that found no statistically significant differences in operating expenses between grocery stores in poor and rich areas. Poor densely populated areas also contain more potential shoppers. Heidi Hwang, Mr Park's sister, who is minding the till, says she is astonished how many $50 hair extensions she sells.

One intangible and awkward cost glossed over in the Brookings report is the daily experience of racial tension. “They don't like us watching them,” says Ms Hwang, “but then you turn your back and they steal something.” Black shoppers have a different perspective. Ice Cube, a rap artist, once released a song called “Black Korea” that included the lyrics: “[D]on't follow me up and down your market/Or your little chop-suey ass 'll be a target” and “[P]ay respect to the black fist/Or we'll burn your store, right down to a crisp.

Such threats are very rarely carried out, of course, but they are another reason why shopkeepers shun the inner cities. Mr Park's family moved to the suburbs as soon as they could afford it. And Mr Park says he won't take over the family business unless he has to. He's planning to be a lawyer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Center City Hotels: Still Strong

Center City hotel occupancy was up 7.4% through June, a larger percentage change than other East Coast downtowns, according to Smith Travel Research. Center City hotels were at 73.9% occupancy for the first half of the year, compared to Baltimore (70.2%), Boston (71.2%) and Washington (76.4%).

In June, Center City hotels were at 86.4% occupancy, up 5.9% from 2004. RevPAR (revenue per available room) was up a strong 15.9% for Center City hotels in the first half of 2005.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bio Conference a Success

According to Select Greater Philadelphia, July's BIO 2005 Conference was a smashing success: 18,700 attendees from over 60 countries came to Philadelphia and spent approximately $35 million in the region.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cough, Cough - Got a Minute to take a Poll about Smoking?

The Mayor of Philadelphia wants your input about smoking and whether you'd support a ban on indoor smoking in restaurants and bars; go take the on-line poll.

Germantown Deserves Better

The Daily News has an interesting but sad story about the Central Germantown Council, a three-person community development agency that has spent $1.4 million in City funds since 2000 to enhance the business district on Chelten Avenue. Critics - including some CGC board members – contend that the CGC has little (or nothing) to show for the money, that it operates under a shroud of secrecy, and that the City (via the Commerce Department) should conduct a performance audit to find out what’s really going on. On a related note, the CGC’s former president (Steve Vaughn, former aide to City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller and most recently of “Federal Probe” fame) is doing time for unrelated federal corruption charges.
I live in East Falls, right next door to G’town; I’ve been on Chelten Avenue in the business district and you can get a palpable sense of the grandeur and resplendence of what “Downtown Germantown” used to be like. The residents and business of Germantown deserve so much better than what they’re getting from the CGC. Want to take some positive action? Please e-mail Stephanie Naidoff – the City’s Commerce Director at and ask her to conduct a full scale audit of the CGC’s operations and finances so that we can find out where the money went and how it can be spent more effectively and efficiently in the future.

Philadelphia's “Brooklynization”

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times about the influx of young/young at heart, creative types from the Big Apple. These folks are leaving New York City and coming to the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection) for the same reasons their kind once moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan; they’re attracted by a thriving arts/music scene and a cost of living 37% lower.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Better Models for Development in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ("DCNR") has released a new publication that will assist local government officials and other decision makers in creating greener, more prosperous and appealing communities. "Better Models for Development in Pennsylvania" is designed to help officials to conserve natural/cultural resources and better manage growth and development.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why Can't (or Won't) American Car Makers Do This?

According to PennFuture, Toyota has announced the introduction of 10 additional gasoline-electric hybrid car models by early next decade. One of the models will be a hybrid pickup truck. The world's second-leading automaker is also aiming to sell at least one million hybrids a year worldwide, and to have hybrids account for 25 percent of Toyota's annual U.S. sales.

Rankings, Shmankings

A new study, "Grading Places: What Do the Business Climate Rankings Really Tell Us?" indicates that many of those ranking studies can be biased and misleading. The study identifies examples of shoddy work, such as identification of Las Vegas as having the best airport infrastructure in the country, while New York City is ranked 40th. However, Las Vegas has only one large commercial airport and New York has three. What should we conclude here in Philadelphia? If our City comes out being ranked well in a survey, believe it. If Philadelphia is poorly ranked, the survey is dubious and should be ignored (see story).
Thanks to T. Madres, Board Chair of Young Involved Philadelphia for this tidbit.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Philadelphia County: We're #23!!

According to a recent report by the Census Bureau, Philadelphia County - coterminous with the City of Philadelphia - is the 23rd best paying county (out of 3,141), in terms of payroll per employee (see story).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Councilman Mariano: Don’t Read this, It’ll Bum You Out

Philadelphia politicians under federal scrutiny are not alone; the Feds are taking a hard look at public officials in places like Atlanta, San Diego, and Chicago. The Justice Department's Public Integrity Section - which prosecutes political corruption cases - reports 43 convictions or guilty pleas at mid-year, compared with 51 for all of 2004 and 48 in 2003

According to research by The Dallas Morning News, the Public Integrity Section has a proven record of effectiveness. Between 1984 and 2003, they achieved convictions for 20,393 of the 23,320 people they indicted. That’s an 87% conviction rate. Success is predicated on the propensity of federal prosecutors to indict only when the evidence is strong and its probative value provides a high likelihood of conviction (see story).

Indy Racing in Philadelphia?

Paul Newman (the salad dressing guy and actor) and representatives from “Champ Car World Series” are scheduled to meet with senior City officials this afternoon to discuss holding an Indianapolis Speedway-style race on Philadelphia streets. Champ Car draws international media coverage and an average of 150,000 fans per event and could generate $25 million to $50 million in revenue, including 10,000 room nights at local hotels (see story). Watching a bunch of cars rip around Philadelphia streets; can’t we already do that during rush hour? But seriously, if it’s good for the Philadelphia economy, America’s Hometown is for it (and would probably go down to watch it).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005, a Federal political action committee based in Philadelphia, has endorsed the campaign of New York City Council candidate Gur Tsabar as a model for all Democratic campaigns. recruits and assists Democratic candidates who use public service in their campaigns. These campaigns highlight Democratic values, earn positive media, and strengthen the Democratic Party’s ability to turn out voters.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel to get a 44-Story Neighbor

The “Residences at the Ritz-Carlton” will be a $250 million, 44-story condominium project on the former Meridian Plaza office building site at 15th and Market Streets in Center City. Shovels will hit the ground this Fall and project completion is scheduled for the Spring of 2008 (see story).

Monday, August 01, 2005

Philadelphia Housing Market Not Risky?

A list of the 13 riskiest housing markets and Philadelphia is not on it...

Greenhouse Gas Reductions and Economic Vitality

According to PennFuture, new data from Portland (OR) indicates that it is possible for a City to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions without a negative impact on the economy. Portland has reduced its emissions below 1990 levels, the standard for the Kyoto accord.

To view the City's progress report on global warming, visit this site.

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