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Sunrise over the skyline of central Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Unsplash.
Sunrise over the skyline of central Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Unsplash.

The Inclusive Growth Coalition, advocating for a more inclusive business community and job creation in Philly

A number of diverse chambers and organizations have come together to address the city’s need to reduce poverty and create good-paying jobs.

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In Philadelphia, there is a vast community of diverse business owners. However, some disparities exist that make it difficult for some to grow, scale or even sustain their businesses. 

A new partnership — the Inclusive Growth Coalition — has come together to help address this reality and advocate for more inclusive business growth and job creation across the city.

“The Inclusive Growth Coalition really is a coalition of business organizations that are trying to raise more awareness and bring some action from City Hall regarding growing the city economically in all demographics,” said William Carter IV, vice president of local government affairs for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. 

The Coalition currently consists of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, the African American Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council, the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc., and the Independence Business Alliance. 

With the nation being in the third year of the pandemic and still in a crucial recovery period, the necessity to grow the economy, reduce poverty, provide quality services and good-paying jobs is of even greater importance, especially in this city.

A Break Down of Philadelphia

Historically, Philadelphia has had difficulty growing local businesses and attracting new employers.

Many factors play into this, one of which being that Philadelphia has the highest wage tax rate in the nation.

Philly’s wage tax is 3.8398% for Philadelphians, and 3.4481% for nonresidents. 

“For context, our wage tax on just regular folks is higher than New York City’s highest earning wage tax rate,” said Carter. “That says a lot.”

“If you’re trying to attract jobs or businesses to a city, businesses don’t want to move somewhere where their employees are going to have to pay more in taxes,” he added. 

Philadelphia is also the only major city in the U.S. that double taxes its businesses through a Business Income & Receipts Tax (BIRT). As a result, many employers and employees have elected to start or move their businesses outside of Philly. 

In a recent 2021 survey conducted by the diverse chambers of commerce, the BIRT was determined to be one of the primary indicators of business growth and scaling. In addition, 80% of respondents expressed that lowering those taxes would be one of the most favorable actions the City can take. 

“If you’re trying to attract jobs or businesses to a city, businesses don’t want to move somewhere where their employees are going to have to pay more in taxes,” said Carter. 

A reduction in these taxes can result in business expansion and attraction, more job opportunities, increased business activity, and an overall more prosperous economy in Philly. 

In addition to those distinctions, Philly also has the fewest small and midsize businesses per capita compared to other metropolitan areas, other comparable cities outpace Philly in private sector job growth, and saw a more than average unemployment rate increase in 2020.

These concerns have been relevant long before the pandemic, and the Inclusive Growth Coalition will seek to produce positive results from that data. 

Taking it to City Hall

As someone who worked in City Council for 16 years prior to joining the Chamber, Carter has great insight on how to ensure the Inclusive Growth Coalition can make a true and lasting impact.

“Generally, if you try to get something done in City Council… you have to have a campaign around it, you have to be very vocal around it,” he noted.

Individually, the diverse chambers will commit to being an extension of the voices of the business communities throughout Philly. 

Collectively, the organizations that comprise the Inclusive Growth Coalition will raise their concerns and recommendations to council members who can create policies that go towards attracting more jobs and business opportunities in Philly. 

“This coalition is essentially a giant funnel to help get those voices to City Hall so they can be heard and considered,” said Carter.

He added that one of the biggest efforts is to get tax reductions included in this year’s city budget. 

A City in Recovery

The pandemic continues to have a profound impact on businesses citywide.

Carter highlighted the Chamber’s main goal: to make Philadelphia a good place for business and economic development. 

“Of course the pandemic was a health emergency and economic emergency, so we were really instrumental in working with the City to help get information about programs to businesses that would help them plan for relief and get relief,” he said. 

“Some businesses were prepared for a downturn and some weren’t, and the biggest thing we could do during that time — because there was a lot of misinformation getting out there — was to make sure that we were a source of accurate, reliable information getting out to the business community.”

While the economic impact — resulting in temporary or permanent shutdowns, layoffs, furloughs and moves to digital platforms — were prominent, some positives have come out of the pandemic, as well.

Through determination, commitment and resilience, some business owners have been able to see their businesses not only survive, but excel. 

“These are everyday people building companies that are part of our ecosystem, yet their success did not come overnight,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, president & CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“There was a lot of hard work, countless trials and tribulations, sleepless nights and tears — and probably more than they care to admit,” she continued. 

Through it all, a number of business owners were able to gain momentum and hire workers to help towards creating success.  

The Inclusive Growth Coalition will aim to create those opportunities, making Philly a more attractive city for all businesses. 

“That growth is what I want for every Philadelphia business owner citywide and in every neighborhood,” said Rodriguez. “Especially during this recovery period, we must focus on policies that promote inclusive business growth and create local jobs.” 

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This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.
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