Philadelphia jobs commission begins work

Philadelphia has a new commission tasked with figuring out how to create more jobs, more quickly. The panel met Wednesday for the first time to discuss its daunting task.

There’s basic consensus on the nature of the problem, as stated by commission chairman Bob Nelson, who runs a nonprofit in North Philadelphia: The city’s unemployment rate officially stands at 10.2 percent, but that statistic doesn’t tell the full story.

“Those of us who work in the neighborhoods could probably make the case that it is probably double that, if you will, and clearly disproportionate in a number of areas,” Nelson said.

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A solution is not nearly as clear-cut.

One recurring theme was summed up during an exchange between city Councilman Wilson Goode, a commission member, and Patricia Coulter, who testified on behalf of the Urban League of Philadelphia.

“How does government and those agencies involved in job creation and retention help a business retain its payroll?” said Goode.

“They need some kind of benefit of some sort,” answered Coulter.

Goode is advocating an expansion of the federal job creation tax credit program. However, the 2011 annual report said that, to-date, almost half the businesses who applied did not create the new jobs before their credits expired.

The Sustainable Business Network recently completed a survey of its small-business membership. Leanne Kruger-Branecky argued that most of those businesses don’t have the time or wherewithal to do all the paperwork involved.

The solutions, she said, would not fit in an online portal.

The commission intends to develop a set of recommendations to make the city’s initiatives more effective. Its first meeting comes shortly after completion of restructuring of Philadelphia’s workforce development system, now called Philadelphia Workforce, Inc.

On Wednesday, however, the priorities piled up. The commission heard testimony about the need for more educational achievement; prison reform; greater openness to hiring ex-offenders; and more aggressive recruiting of existing businesses — an array that suggests the commission’s task won’t be easy.


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