The city of Philadelphia fell way short of local contracting targets in 2021 spending. Local business leaders talked about what that failure means for the economy at a City Council hearing Monday afternoon.
Monique Nesmith-Joyner, the city’s procurement commissioner, said the city’s goal was to have 58% procurement from local companies, but just 26% of contract spending went to local businesses.
She said the city missed the mark “due to a reduction in public works, contracting opportunities, and an overall shift to spending on COVID-related needs.”
Donna Allie, president of Team Clean, Inc., believes the city hasn’t done enough to invest in local companies through buying goods and services.
“Philadelphia leaders have historically struggled to nurture diverse Philadelphia-based businesses, instead choosing to fund the city’s needs for large contracts with even larger national firms,” Allie said. “Other major cities have recognized the economic and social determinants of denying local business opportunities to grow, employ local citizens and reinvest in communities and neighborhoods.”
She believes that local businesses know how to invest the money spent on contracts right back into the city. “These experiences, values, and initiatives are not unique to my business. Local, Black, and people of color-owned companies share these ideas because they know what it’s like to be Philadelphia-made.”
J’nelle E. Lawrence, deputy executive director of the Economy League of Philadelphia said the 34 universities and hospitals located in Philadelphia together spend over $5.3 billion on goods and services every year, but nearly half of these dollars are currently spent outside of Philadelphia. “Capturing just 25% of this half-billion-dollar opportunity would translate into 1,250 manufacturing jobs and over 4,000 indirect jobs here in Philly,” Lawrence said.
Anne Gemmell is a consultant based in Philadelphia who said the city needs to work on expanding E-Commerce, raising income, and closing income inequality gaps.
“Very often collaboration is left to a personality and personal charisma of various leaders who take initiative,” Gemmell said. “We can’t rely on that because when their charisma leaves, then the initiative falters. We need something that we can always rely on.”
She called on the council and the private sector to work together to come up with a concensus-driven and equitable development strategy and vision.
WHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.