The new boss at PIDC wants to robot-proof the city’s economy

The economic development agency’s incoming chief has her eye on creating “family-sustaining” jobs in sectors less likely to fall prey to automation.

Anne Bovaird Nevins, pictured, will take the reins at PIDC. (PIDC)

Anne Bovaird Nevins, pictured, will take the reins at PIDC. (PIDC)

Anne Bovaird Nevins will lead the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., replacing outgoing president John Grady, who announced his departure last year.

Nevins will take the helm of one of the city’s largest economic development agencies after working at the organization in varying leadership roles since 2007.

She served as chief strategy and communications officer prior to the promotion and was one of several deputies close to Grady rumored last year to be in line for the top job. She said her focus as president would center on expanding access to economic growth.

“The first thing for me is going to be ensuring that everyone, internally and externally, understands what our vision is for Philly’s economy. And that is one that is growing, inclusive and diverse,” Nevins said. “PIDC has a really deep focus on the growth of minority and women-owned businesses. And what the role is for economic development in addressing poverty.”

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PIDC was founded in 1958 as a nonprofit partnership between city government and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia that aimed to reverse a trend of postwar deindustrialization. The agency manages several major redevelopment sites, most notably Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, and operates a variety of small business and development financing initiatives.

Nevins climbed the ladder at PIDC with an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and experience working in the Clinton White House. At the agency, she served as a vice president of marketing and business development for years prior to her most recent position at PIDC, in which she helped arrange financing for six downtown hotels and other projects.

Nevins also co-managed the city’s efforts to lure Amazon’s second headquarters and serves on the Mayor’s Refinery Advisory Group. The group, created by the city after a catastrophic explosion closed the Philadelphia Energy Solutions complex, held public meetings and authored a report on the future of the sprawling South Philadelphia site. The document, released by the city in November, predicted the site would continue to produce petroleum products in the short term while recommending the site eventually be reused for “cleaner” purposes.

Nevins sees a need to create “family-sustaining jobs” in sectors that are more likely to resist the rising trend of automation, citing the future potential to grow manufacturing and logistics jobs around life sciences and gene therapy industries.

“We have a competitive advantage there,” she said, referring to the city’s large educational and medical institutions. “Those jobs are less subject to automation.”

Nevins also said she planned to continue a pilot program aimed at promoting “intergenerational wealth transfer” by helping business owners buy commercial properties they may be leasing, with a focus on women, immigrants, and entrepreneurs of color.

Mayor Jim Kenney applauded Nevins’ ascendance at the agency as a move that will help his administration make good on its promise to address Philadelphia’s long-standing wealth disparities and other inequalities.

“During her 13-year tenure at PIDC, Anne Nevins successfully built the partnerships that deliver resources to diverse businesses, nonprofits, and development projects,” Kenney said in a release Wednesday. “She brings focus and attention to connecting growth to the people and places in our city that need it the most.”

PIDC’s most visible asset –– the Navy Yard –– would remain central to the incoming administration. While attracting jobs to the commercial property would remain priority one, Nevins said she supported recent proposals to add residences to the repurposed military base for the first time since the armed forces moved out.

“The addition of residential is intended to be complementary to attracting new jobs and businesses,” she said. “It will help build an amenity base that can’t really be supported by the current, not-quite-24/7 business presence.”

Nevins added that PIDC was also currently engaged in advancing a larger Lower Schuylkill Master Plan, a 2013 policy document that envisions large-scale commercial development and recreational improvements along the industrial stretch of waterfront that includes the PES refinery property. She said the organization was in the process of remediating some 40 acres of land around Bartram’s Garden for this purpose. PIDC recently worked with Bartram’s to help relocate a community-run stable raising horses on its land.

She is married to Mark Nevins, a political consultant at the Dover Strategy Group, who handles campaign matters for Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, among other clients. Nevins lives with her family in Fairmount and serves on the board of directors of the Friends of Bache-Martin, the neighborhood public school.

She will assume her new role on Jan. 27, following Grady’s departure. The outgoing president will head Wexford Science and Technology, the Baltimore-based development firm behind the uCity Square development in University City.

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