Pitching Philadelphia to the world
The city is thirsty for more global commerce. That was the message delivered by business leaders as they met with international representatives Wednesday night at The Rittenhouse Hotel.
“The city has historically had a good long-standing relationship with the Consular Corps,” said Harold Epps, Philadelphia's commerce director. “This is especially true regarding our efforts to increase its global presence and advanced international opportunities.”
Given its history, Philadelphia is home to many of the oldest or firsts in the United States. One of these is the oldest association of foreign consuls in the country: The Consular Corps Association of Philadelphia.
Peter Longstreth, who serves as the Honorary Consul of Uruguay, is the president of the Consular Corps. He explained that the organization represents the 40 different countries with diplomatic missions in the region.
“In the city there are consulate-generals and honorary consulates,” he said . “In the simplest of terms our goals are two. One, develop relationships between the countries we represent and the City of Philadelphia. You can see us as part of the organizations in the city that promote business and commerce. And two, we also help with visits. These would be visits involving dignitaries who come to the city.”
The larger consulates, Longstreth said, are also responsible for providing diplomatic services to citizens. Things like issuing visas and notarizing documents.
The event taking place Wednesday was a post-meeting reception for the organization. Epps, along with Rob Wonderling, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Both men presented a case for mutual partnerships between the countries represented and the city government and business community.
“At the global scale, our city is poised for success that we could never have dreamed of,” said Wonderling. “Of course part of that is going to be driven by the networks and opportunities that we have to work together. Those of you that are representing sovereign nations from abroad, keep those opportunities coming to this city. And, of course vice versa, let us know how we can help you, your citizens, your governments and your commerce sectors.”
The push to make the city more competitive globally has been a major effort of the new administration. During his address to the chamber last week, Mayor Jim Kenney touted his meetings with visiting diplomats from China and Quebec as well as announcing that the city will be hiring a Director of International Investment.
Epps invited the consuls to communicate frequently with city government and commerce to improve the city’s competitiveness. One way the city will do this he said, was to leverage Philadelphia’s new World Heritage City designation.
“We would like to talk to our sister cities as well. What we want to do is connect with them so [other countries and cities] end up picking Philadelphia over cities like Washington D.C, New York or Boston to come visit or do business with.”
Epps said the commerce department is planning a large marketing campaign when a delegation travels to Germany for the World Heritage Meeting in September.
Along with talking about how the Consular Corps could work with the city to promote international relations, Epps also spoke on how his first few weeks as Commerce Director have gone. For the most part, he remains positive of the direction the city is going in.
Mentioning the city’s declining unemployment rate (last at 5.4 percent) and the increase in visitation and hotel occupancy the city has seen in the last year, Epps said Philadelphia had a lot of things going in the right direction.
“”However, my first statement to my staff coming in was ‘more, bigger and faster,’” said Epps. “We still need to create more jobs. Those in the chamber know this, Rob [Wonderling] knows this. In spite of those numbers, we still have way too many Philadelphians without a job or not employed at a level that is sustainable.”