Saturday, August 16, 2014

How does Philadelphia truly become a global city?

For starters, let's define what the term "global city" actually means.

Here are a few different definitions I found:

A city in a position to realize the economic coordination of complex activities at a global scale. It is through economic coordination that a city will gain a strategic position in the global economy, and the concentration of this function makes it different from other cities. - Research Gate

What constitutes a global city, is an emphasis on the flow of information and capital. - Saskia Sassen

A city generally considered to be an important node in the global economic system. Globalization can be understood as largely created, facilitated, and enacted in strategic geographic locales according to global finance and trade. - Wikipedia

Although it may seem a bit complex after reading those textbook definitions, the concept is relatively simple.

Does Philadelphia play a role in the global economy? Some say "yes," others "no."

The article that inspired this post was from the Philadelphia Business Journal, and it discussed how Philadelphia needs to get better at retaining its talent. The article states:

"Home to some of the world’s best universities, medical institutions, arts and cultural organizations, research centers, booming legal, business, finance sectors, and a steadily growing tourism industry, Philadelphia is the perfect place for talented young graduates. They can give back to the city that nurtured them while they pursued their educational dreams and interests. Opportunity abounds!"

Okay, so what's the problem then?

If we already have enough opportunity, and are already attracting young talent through the aforementioned channels, why are we not a global city today?

Well, there are 2 general issues Philadelphia has been up against.

- Education Crisis: If you have not heard about Philadelphia's public school system woes as of late, you must not watch TV, listen to the radio, or read the news. Our public school system is struggling, and the main issue all 3 media sources focus on is funding. I could show you stats, budgetary items of concern, and share articles from local experts, but that's not going to help. Until Philadelphia's local political system and PA's state political system get on the same page with a well thought out plan, the problem will most-likely persist. If the problem persists, how can Philadelphia retain global talent?

- Workforce Gaps: Philadelphia can sometimes be looked at as a tale of two cities, the "haves" and the "have-nots." I know that this is also common in other big cities, but Philadelphia is at the forefront. It's not that people in Philadelphia cannot find work, it's that they have to go outside of Philadelphia's borders to find it. Although many people live in Philadelphia, many of them also have to commute to the suburban metro area for their jobs; and vice-versa. Why is that? I could get into wage taxes, business taxes, pensions, city council, and politically-fueled union issues, but that's not going to help. Until Philadelphia's local political system and the private business community can come together on big issues, the problem will most-likely persist. If the problem persists, how can Philadelphia retain global talent?

Please do not take my points/opinions as the "be all, end all," but rather look at them in your own way and think about ways to improve upon them. These are issues that I see, nothing more.

I do not have the answers, but as someone who grew up in Philadelphia's suburbs for 18 years, and has lived in Philadelphia for 17 years, I can tell you that the strategies, communication, and mindset of both locales are different. Which may be why Philadelphia's suburbs have grown most of the local jobs, and Philadelphia has lagged behind for decades.

I truly believe Philadelphia has all of the tools necessary to become a successful global city. We just need to utilize those tools in a more cohesive way, and give all of the global talent that comes through our great city more reasons to stay.


  1. One of the first steps we need to take as a region is to erase the city/suburban split mindset and convert to a city/suburban unity mindset. Residents in Scarsdale, NY, Summit, NJ, Cupertino, CA, and Bellevue, WA think of themselves as part of the metro area of their core global city. Residents of the Denver metro area all contribute to a regional cultural fund that supports institutions in the city boundaries and surrounding counties. Global cities are metropolitan, meaning they incorporate their region, as they are too big an influence to be contained in their influence and connection by their municipal boundaries. Thanks for starting this conversation.

  2. Excellent points, David! Philadelphia should do more to create better relationships with its suburban neighbors, and vice-versa. Our city and region will always be stronger as one, not as individual cities/towns.