ULI Philadelphia Blog

WLI February Meeting Recap

The February meeting of the Women’s Leadership Initiative of Philadelphia Urban Land Institute took place at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Council (PIDC) offices – an appropriate place to hear from Anne Boviard Nevins of PIDC and Sylvie Gallier Howard, First Deputy Commerce Director at the City of Philadelphia about Philadelphia’s Amazon HQ2 bid, lessons learned and the path forward for Philadelphia.

When Amazon announced their plans for headquarters expansion, cities across America scrambled to bid. Anne said Philadelphia wasted no time in putting together a dream-team of city advocates. Sylvie touched on our WLI theme of “balance”, saying, “There was no balance in those weeks.” Anne and Sylvie and the team researched, met and strategized – trying to get into the mind of Bezos. As the shortlists came out, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh made the top 20, making Pennsylvania one of only two states with two locations in the top 20 (joining Texas).

The most visible product of the intense collaboration was the Philadelphia Delivers video. Visit the new Philadelphiadelivers.com page for a re-cut video and facts and figures and interactive maps.  As we know now, Philadelphia wasn’t selected by Amazon, but the message has been repurposed into a new invitation to get to know Philadelphia and a vision to improve our city and our message.

So why didn’t Amazon select Philadelphia? Anne tells us it was NOT all about incentives, stating that Philadelphia was never going to give Amazon a pile of money – their incentives were to be earned over time based on performance. Both Anne and Sylvie said the number one criteria was a ready and trained work force.

So how is Philadelphia moving forward?

We are refining our message that Philadelphia is open for business and how Philadelphia is special. As part of a Philadelphia Global Identity Project, stakeholders participated in discussions with other cities in the Brookings Institute Global Cities Initiative Global Identity Cohort and found out it’s hard to tell cities apart when we start touting our assets.

“I’ve got great restaurants, beer gardens and open spaces.”

“Hey, so do I!”

Philadelphia is more than restaurants and beer gardens. We are our neighborhoods, our history and our unique people. Look for the Brookings Report report coming out soon.

Sylvie emphasized that the path forward is more than marketing, it’s about improvement. We have many higher education institutions, but the challenge is to keep people here and focus on our early education and community colleges, and to narrow the education gap for people living in Philadelphia now. We’ve got to be attentive to affordable housing considerations to address and need to keep our laws and taxes attuned to smart growth. Transportation and infrastructure will be important to our future connectivity and the importance of Philadelphia International Airport’s expansion and projects like the implementation of Amtrak’s 30th Street Station masterplan are key to our future. There is a lot on the horizon and we are all glad that there are talented and dedicated women like Anne and Sylvie (& so many more) leading these efforts.

Special thanks to PIDC for hosting our event!


This article was contributed by Charlene Drake. Charlene is an Environmental Redevelopment Specialist at Langan Engineering and one of the Co-Chairs for ULI Philadelphia WLI.

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