Residents hope Philadelphia Airport expansion jobs benefit city’s unemployed

Over the next 15-years an estimated $6.5 billion dollars will be spent to expand Philadelphia’s airport. This week, an interfaith group in Philadelphia called on the city to ensure that some of that largess trickles down to the city’s unemployed.

On Monday, more than 300 individuals convened at St. Raymond’s Catholic Church in Cedarbrook for Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild’s (POWER) third forum on economic justice.

Reminiscent to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, the nine congregations that comprise the northwest quadrant chanted “Yes we can” after being asked if they could connect 10,000 Philadelphians to jobs through The Philadelphia International Airport’s Capacity Enhancement Program.

It will include a new runway, two runway extensions as well as new terminals and cargo facilities. The expansion will take approximately 12 to 15 years to complete.

In attendance were Elton Cannon, Reggie Smith and Nathan Bowman-Johnston who all shared their stories about how they became unemployed: two were thrust into it by no fault of their own and one through poor decisions when he was younger.

Cannon worked in the radio business for 20 years before becoming a corporate salesman for Borders, but due to the company’s bankruptcy in 2011, he was left without a job. Smith is a convicted felon who considers himself “a jack of all trades” because of the necessity to do multiple odd jobs to be able to provide for his wife and son.

Bowman-Johnston, an employee at Philadelphia Corporation of Aging, said he never thought he would be in this predicament and feels a bit humiliated because his job was eliminated due to budget cuts.

“I hope the audience saw that unemployment can affect all different types of people,” said Bowman-Johnston who is expecting his second child with his wife. “It can happen to anybody at any time and it’s an experience that a lot of people go through and that is why POWER exists”

Councilman Jim Kenney spoke about the impact of what he refers to as “negative dollars” which are things the city shouldn’t have to spend money on such as police and prisons on the work force.

“The young man with a pistol in his belt who may kill before he is 25, who because of him, we need to hire police and get prison space and do all the things we need to do to put him in jail, would not be necessary if that young man was going to work every morning,” said Kenney.

In addition to supporting the organization, which was illustrated by a red check on a presentation board, he stated the group should also get a check from the director of aviation, Federal Aviation Administration and Mayor Michael Nutter. He also emphasized the importance to reelect President Barack Obama by stating “if you don’t re-elect the president of the United States, we are never going to get this done.”

City council members Cindy Bass, Marian Tasco and Dennis O’Brien were also invited to the event, but did not attend.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.