Pennsylvania and Philadelphia must focus on infrastructure, energy, education and entrepreneurship.
In 2014, Pennsylvania ranked 37th in economic performance and 33rd in economic outlook, according to the Alec-Lifer State Economic Competitive Index. In the Forbes Best States for Business List, Pennsylvania was ranked 30th. This is a third quartile performance in all three measures.
The ability of Pennsylvania to improve to first quartile economic performance depends on our state’s ability, as well as that of our largest City, Philadelphia, to create an environment that encourages existing businesses to stay and grow here, encourages new business formation, and encourages people to choose our state and City as places they want to live and work.
I believe there are four ways for Pennsylvania and Philadelphia to accomplish this:
Transit & Energy
Many of our roads and bridges in Pennsylvania are in need of major repair or replacement. This investment cannot be avoided, and must not be delayed. The longer these projects are delayed, the more expensive they will be. Ignoring this infrastructure will eventually impede the distribution of goods and services, and adversely impact quality of life. These projects provide high-paying jobs and will have an excellent long-term return on investment.
Continued development of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale natural gas is an imperative. It has already resulted in the creation both directly and indirectly of thousands of high-paying jobs and lower costs to heat our homes and run our factories, putting more money into other parts of the economy, stimulating economic growth, resulting in job creation.
Through the development by the oil and gas industry of fracking and horizontal drilling technology, as well as continued development of solar and wind technology, the U.S. will become energy self-sufficient by the end of this decade. Building off of Philadelphia’s existing energy infrastructure, our City has the potential of becoming the East Coast Energy hub, favorably impacting our state and local economy.
Energy development and the need to protect the environment are not mutually exclusive. The technology exists to do both. Rigorous monitoring is needed to insure all environmental laws are obeyed. Protecting the environment is an important focus in oil and gas production, transportation, processing and distribution.
The state of public education in Philadelphia will prevent the City from achieving preeminence. Due to the drain of funds by charter schools, the school district has reduced spending to the point where it has impacted the quality of education of our children. Funding of the Philadelphia school district and how charter schools are funded is an issue that needs to be addressed.
The school district also needs to hold its administrators accountable for providing the best leadership possible at every level. Administrators need to be held accountable for the performance of their principals. Principals need to be great leaders and role models. They need to be held accountable not only for the education of their students, but also for how effectively they lead and inspire their teachers. Principals also need to be held accountable for the tone at the top and the organizational culture they establish within their respective schools. Ineffective administrators, principals and teachers need to be replaced. They should not be protected. They shortchange our students.
Teacher unions need to be treated as full partners in the improvement of the education of our children. Their members are on the front line every day, some teaching in very difficult conditions. One of the things business leaders learn early on is that the best performing organizations have nurtured a culture in which their employees are empowered and feel a sense of ownership in what they do. Schools are no different.
My association with the Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University and its students, as well as with a number of startups in Philadelphia has convinced me that entrepreneurship is a very important driver of economic activity in the region. Philadelphia is a place to be for young college students to stay after graduation to launch their businesses. To keep them here, we need to ensure that the business environment and quality of life is attractive to them.
In an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal on Dec. 1, 2014 headlined “Educational ecosystem is driving Philadelphia entrepreneurship,” I wrote “Philadelphia’s stature as a major hub for entrepreneurial activity will only grow in the future, and its educational ecosystem for entrepreneurs will play a key role. We want entrepreneurs to recognize that this is where they can learn needed skills, tap advice and expertise, start their business and grow them. Few initiatives will have a greater impact on the health and vitality of the region.”
Our state and City need visionary leadership by government, business and labor leaders. Courage is sometimes needed to break old paradigms. I would like to see Pennsylvania and Philadelphia become preeminent places to live and work. I think we are moving in the right direction, but with much to be done.
Stan Silverman is the Leadership Catalyst at Tier 1 Group, a firm of strategists and advisors for preeminent growth, as well as vice chairman of the board of Drexel University, and authors a weekly column on effective leadership in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Stan Silverman is a writer, speaker and advisor on effective leadership. He is the Leadership Catalyst at Tier 1 Group, a firm of strategists and advisors for preeminent growth. Silverman is vice chairman of the board of Drexel University, a director of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and former president and CEO of PQ Corporation. Follow: @StanSilverman. Connect: Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Website: www.SilvermanLeadership.com