So what’s Philadelphia’s claim to fame?

    Philadelphia is a city of ups and downs, lots of treasures, and some trash.
    But as WHYY’s Chris Satullo explores in this week’s Center Square, a new study has given the city an enviable ranking as a science and education powerhouse.

    More Information: To learn about an ambitious plan to make Philly number one in “Eds and Meds” visit It’s Our City.

    Listen: [audio: satullo20090802.mp3]

    Whenever a new list comes out, ranking America’s cities on some criterion, Philadelphians have learned to duck. This usually means we’re in line for abuse.

    We’re the ugliest city in America. Or the most hostile. Or the most out of shape. Or we’ve gone the longest without a championship parade.

    Hey wait, we fixed THAT ONE last October, didn’t we? Yessss.

    So, anyway, a new list came out recently. Done by the Milken Institute, it ranked the most vibrant life sciences clusters in the nation. Life sciences – as in, hospitals, medical research, pharmaceuticals, biotech.

    Guess what. The Milken folks ranked the Philadelphia region No. 2 in all of America. Who was No. 1? Boston.

    Up in the city that calls itself, oh so modestly, “The Hub,” the reaction was probably, “Boston, numero uno? What else is new?.”

    In Philadelphia, city of civic complexes, the reaction was more like, “Huh? Us, good at something? You sure?”

    Yes, Philadelphia, you really are home to one of the most impressive clusters of medical know-how in the entire world. Tied to that is a vast, varied array of universities. They call this combination “eds and meds” – and Philly’s version is the envy of most regions.

    Our only problem is… we don’t seem to know it. Not one Philadelphian in 30 could identify eds and meds as the engine of our economy.

    We’re too mired in nostalgia for a lost industrial legacy, waiting fecklessly for the factory and the shipyard to reopen. Meanwhile, parents, students, even schools seem clueless about the good eds-meds jobs that await those with the right skills.

    Instead of treating these institutions as invaluable anchors, we give them town-gown grief. How dare they close off that sidestreet, or bite off a bit of that park!

    Class envy is not good public policy. Maybe that’s why, on another national ranking, Philly ranks only middle of the pack for how well it converts its research brainpower into innovations, investment and jobs.

    It’s about time we Philadelphians figured out who we are. We are an eds-meds powerhouse. We could become to life sciences what San Jose is to computers, Houston to oil. That’s our ticket to a decent future.

    We need to say: Look out Boston, here we come.

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