Business leaders pushing next mayor to make Philly more job friendly

 Members of Philadelphia's business community gathered Wednesday night for a forum on attracting -- and keeping -- businesses in the city. The meeting was held at WHYY. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Members of Philadelphia's business community gathered Wednesday night for a forum on attracting -- and keeping -- businesses in the city. The meeting was held at WHYY. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

With an eye on this year’s mayor’s race, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce held a forum on Wednesday about making Philadelphia more business-friendly.

Some of the panelists argued that there has been an exodus of jobs from Philadelphia fueled by the city wage tax, and, they argued, because the city isn’t offering companies generous enough incentives.

One of the panelists, CEO of Environmental Construction Services Michael Brown, said the Philly area has trouble keeping businesses.

“New Jersey is sucking, Camden is sucking people away left and right. The incentives, tax incentives they’re getting. Tax credits,” said Brown, citing what he sees as the reason some employers are lured to neighboring cities.

One proposal discussed: lowering the city’s wage tax and balancing it out by raising property taxes.

Panelists argued that the city is over-reliant on the roughly 3 to 4 percent tax on most city earners.

Starting with Mayor Ed Rendell, city administrations have been trying to slowly ratchet down the wage tax. But it’s still unattractive to many employers, most of the panelists agreed.

Nilda Ruiz from APM, Associacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, a nonprofit that works with struggling families, said cutting back the wage tax and increasing property taxes might not work for all residents

“We have to face reality. We do not have a middle-income class here in Philadelphia. The majority of folks here are low-income, below the poverty level,” she said. “If you do that, it’s not a good strategy. You’ll fix one thing and hurt another.”

Yet when the audience of mostly business types was polled on their most important issue, the majority of them said reducing business and wage taxes

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