Sorry folks, the winter blast pushed my schedule all out of whack, so I wasn't able to get stuff together to post this week. However, next week I'll have my first interview! My guest will be Christina Arlt of DVRPC. Check back next week to see what she has to say about Planning, Philadelphia, and cooking classes at the library!
SSC Solutions is proud to announce that it is has been engaged by Chris Landtroop and Queerality LLC to provide business and financial coaching services.
Queerality is dedicated to creating, supporting, and stewarding art and education to influence a social shift that inspires intersectionality and inclusivity.
Please show your support by visiting their Facebook page and their store at 1042 Pine (corner of 11th & Pine)!
As part of this blog, I wanted to get insight from people who don't normally get interviewed in the planning world. So, I'm looking for nominations, either for yourself or for another person, who doesn't normally get invited to speak publicly or on record in planning journals and magazines.
The overwhelming majority of planners/economic development practitioners out there barely get noticed outside of their own organization - I'd like to change that! So, in the coming weeks and months, I intend to do an ongoing interview series that focuses on these individuals. Questions will range from the mundane (why did you get into planning?) to the fun and quirky. This series is designed to showcase each person's individual personality, since that's more fun to write and to read!
Please nominate yourself or another person you want to hear from below in the comments or through a direct email with contact information.
Thanks and please come back next week for the first interview!
No post this week, as yours truly has come down with the flu. Stay healthy everyone!
In case you've been living under a rock for the past few days, the Eagles won the Super Bowl, beating the Patriots 41-33 in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played. I can't say best because with 3 missed extra point attempts, a missed field goal, and enough defensive lapses to fill a swimming pool, the word "sloppy" came to mind more than once in the first half. Eventually though, the game found its groove and the Eagles showed what quality, aggressive coaching can achieve at the highest level of the sport. It's not an easy task, beating 5x champions on a neutral field. Doing so on a championship stage while having previously lost their starting quarterback, left tackle, and utility man Darren Sproles over the course of the season is a tremendous accomplishment.
Living in Center City, I had the unique opportunity to be a part of the revelry and merriment that followed after the historic win. Below are a few pictures I managed to get while walking through the horde on Broad Street.
As the pictures show, there was something magical about the city after this win. It wasn't that dissimilar to the excitement I experienced after the NFC championship victory, which had probably about 30% fewer people out in the streets celebrating (and with far fewer pole climbers). Of course, the size of the crowd isn't what matters (cough) - it's the attitude of the people there that count. For Philadelphia - that attitude felt like...hope? No, it wasn't hope - that was two weeks ago. It was pride - but more than that. It was confidence. Sure, many residents didn't do their city any favors by committing various acts of property damage (flipped cars, smashed windows, destroyed Ritz Carlton awning) - but overall the celebrations were loud, peaceful, and fun. For a city that for decades has been the butt of so many jokes, derision, and legitimate economic concern, the ascendance of the Eagles put a loud exclamation point on the past 10 years of Philadelphia's progress. Philly is no longer a city that can backhandedly be referred to as the "6th Borough". Philly is Philly, and should be proud to call itself such. New York will always be bigger. LA will always have Hollywood and better weather. Washington DC will always be more important - and all of that is OK. None of that matters, nor should it.
Let this be the moment where the City can take pride and ownership, not just in its history or cultural icons, but in its story and idiosyncratic offerings. Let us move past the cheesesteaks and water ices, as good as they are. Let us move away from touting the Liberty Bell and Art Museum, as iconic as they are. Let Ben Franklin and William Penn be revered - as they deserve reverence - but I urge Philadelphians to let this win propel them into a mindset of hope and optimism for the future and excitement for where Philadelphia is today.
This is something I know a thing or two about as a native St. Louisan. St. Louis shares many historic trends with Philly and other rust belt cities. If there's one thing St. Louisans are good at, it's being nostalgic - particularly the year 1904, when it hosted the Olympics and World's Fair. Somehow though, nostalgia turned to necropathy, as the city's spirit decayed along with its economy and infrastructure. Today, even as the city lurches into the 21st century, long-time residents of the region are incapable of seeing it as anything other than a shell of its former self, with the cry of "back then" preceding a torrent of negative comments about today. This doesn't describe everyone - but it describes a lot of them; and it describes a lot of "Negadelphians" too.
Look, I'll be the first to acknowledge that Philadelphia is FAR from a finished product. Poverty, violent crime and drug abuse rates are way too high, the public education system has systemic issues, and the local taxing structure needs serious overhaul. But each of those have been moving in the right direction for years - even if at a glacial pace, they're improving. It's time for everyone in the city to embrace that narrative.
If Philly was going to win a championship, other than beating New York, is there a better city to beat than Boston? Truly - Boston has been everything Philly hasn't over the last 20 years. A booming hotbed of economic resurgence. Home to championships in every major sports league, with a few repeat winners. But now? This win places a flag at the top of a mountain of progress that's been growing for years. William Penn over Paul Revere. Penn over Harvard. Cheesesteaks over Clam Chowder.
Eagles over Patriots.
Philadelphia has come into its own this year. Let us all embrace that feeling and forever stop thinking that we've got something to prove. We don't. We won.
Now, join me as I raise my celebratory Wawa sandwich and repeat after me:
Fly Eagles Fly - Philly Philly!
Congrats to the Philadelphia Eagles, who did the unexpected and beat the Minnesota Vikings at home on Sunday to earn a berth in Super Bowl LII (52). After the win, the streets were flooded with fans of all levels of inebriation, celebrating the unlikely win. It was truly a thing of impressive, spontaneous beauty - and yes, some determined pole climbing. But in my opinion, it's a wonderful thing to have an entire city so united behind a single thing - to be part of something much, much larger than one's self. Football has problems to be sure, but if Sunday was any indication, it's that people still want it to matter, and that it matters very much to them.
This is a shorter post than usual due to me being under the weather and also prepping for a trip to Orlando to attend the USA Football Conference. I hope to learn a great deal about how the National governing body of the sport intends to continue making the sport safer while maintaining the physicality that drew me to it and continues to draw me to it today. So, next week there will be no blog post, but expect a big one in a few weeks recapping my trip and other things floating around my mind!
There's been quite a lot happening since the start of the new year, so I wanted to make everyone aware of what's going on with SSC so far in 2018!
1. New Client Update! Right-Sized-Homes
Right-Sized-Homes, a Narberth, PA based consulting firm and realtor has contracted with SSC Solutions to produce its monthly newsletters. Right Sized Homes works with private for-profit and community non-profit developers on their desired projects, as a project manager or joint venture partner, from initial site identification and project feasibility, through planning, design, and construction including marketing of the completed project. RSH also offers realtor services as a home-buying agent, so if you're in the market for a new home, please check them out today!
2. Membership with CCSNJ!
After being invited to attend a Haddon Avenue Business Association meeting by my friend Jonathan Wetstein, I met Lisa Hurd, Membership Director at the Chamber of Commerce - Southern New Jersey. I was so impressed at what she had to say about their organization that I decided to make SSC Solutions a member! So as of Jan 1 this year, SSC Solutions is a proud member of the CCSNJ. Very excited to see how SSC can make an impact on the other side of the Delaware!
3. Engagement with Community Grants, Planning, & Housing!
Since October 2017 SSC Solutions had been working with New Jersey-based planning consulting firm Community Grants, Planning & Housing (CGP&H) on various grant applications, planning matters and site-selection research to support the development of affordable and mixed income housing project throughout New Jersey. That relationship continued to mature in late December, when I was brought on board to be part of CGP&H's staff on a part-time basis. Going forward, I will be working 25 hours a week for one of New Jersey's best affordable housing Administrative Agents and grant writing organizations! If you are a New Jersey-based developer and/or are interested in affordable housing in NJ, please check out www.cgph.net for more information!
Economic development in America was, at the beginning, essentially a by-product of exploitation of natural resources and trade. Companies established in locations, made something out of whatever raw materials were available, and natural economies developed around those industries to serve them. In Detroit, it was cars, in St. Louis, fur trading, in Chicago, it was deep dish pizza.
However, in more recent years, with local economies shifting, withering, and in some cases, dying, utilizing natural resources and labor markets weren't enough to keep a robust economy. Increasingly, cities and states turned to various incentives and projects to try and spur companies large and small to locate in their area, spend money and add jobs to the local economy. Various tax incentives have been used across the country, and increasingly more and more inventive project/programmatic initiatives have been used in an effort to be a panacea for local economic ills.
Among practitioners, economic development varies somewhere between a fad and a trend. Some activities have stuck around for decades (Tax Increment Financing), others less than a few years (remember innovation parks?) And yet, because each attempt works in some degree, there will be a continued effort to try new things to help local areas increase their economic base. While, in this author's opinion nothing is more important than addressing systemic educational inequalities and improving the quality of housing to help improve local economies, it's a lot more fun to talk about what new and fun things cities will try to do to bolster their local economy - despite the fact that few if any of these initiatives actually ever work.
So - what's next for economic development in the USA? I offer two (and a half) ideas for the next half-decade.
1. Micro-manufacturing/maker spaces.
Micro-manufacturing (micro meaning small, not computer chips) and/or maker spaces aren't anything particularly new in the economic development world - many variations on the same theme have been popping up all over the country in one form or another. Kitchen incubators for food, maker spaces like NextFab for manufacturing - these facilities provide needed space for very small businesses to get their foot in the door with limited overhead expense while they explore their business model. It's like co-working spaces for non-office jobs. Philly, already with a handful of these spaces has people interested in adding another in East Falls.
What there isn't - yet - are spaces that bridge the immense gap between a facility designed to help the sole entrepreneur and one made to house bigger businesses - those slightly more mature businesses that have some scale, but don't have the financial backing or track record to get their own space. Particularly in this age of romanticized manufacturing, I predict that many of these smaller maker spaces will generate larger demand for bigger facilities with even more expensive dedicated equipment and technical support, provided by universities. I don't see the typical non-profit managing one of these huge buildings - it's just too much work. However, I point to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Burlington, NJ as an example of one of these facilities - Pennovation is another, though that's more about tech innovation than making physical products. I expect many of these types of facilities becoming more common across the country, particularly since funders want to see their investments resulting in measurable outcomes over time.
2. Experiential Marketing
Millenials are the next big demographic wave, and they're entering prime family formation and career earning years. This means that their dollars are going to be chased harder than an attractive cat in a Pepe LePew cartoon. What does that look like? To understand how the world will market to Millenials, we must first understand the economic forces of Millenials. They're the most educated and debt-ridden generational cohort ever. They're also experiencing delayed adulthood (or extended adolescence, depending on your definition) and are arguably the most anxious generation. So, what does the world provide a group of people with tons of education, no money, and no "chill"? Experiences - especially soothing ones.
Experiential marketing is right now in its infancy and it's only going to get bigger. Millenials now rank parks and restaurants as higher criteria in a city than public schools (not that surprising, most don't have or are even considering child-rearing) or public transportation (quite surprising, but could reflect the popularity of ridesharing). It's no surprise then that parks like the High Line in New York are being copied across the country (including the Reading Viaduct here in Philly). Events around restaurants and food - items with accessible price points for lower-wage millenial workers - are big and getting bigger. In Philly alone there was over 50 food events in 2017 - I seriously doubt there were more than a dozen back in 2000. A merging of public spaces/placemaking (another economic development trend) and restaurants/experiences is a logical extension of this pattern. This will probably be less Shake Shack in Bryant Park and more Dinner en Blanc. Of course, with the continued rise of brewpubs, craft beers, and craft distilleries, these will absolutely be backed by creative alcoholic purveyors.
2.5 - Adult Dorms.
While it's not really an economic development action, I do think we may see a shift in housing, based on a convergence of social activism, environmentalism, and lack of income. A communal lifestyle, more reminiscent of dormitories than independent living is coming. While it sounds far fetched, I can honestly foresee these facilities supported with programs/courses on "how to adult" (such as financial management classes), live demonstrations from the staff at Tasty on how to cook, and an Uber/Lyft contract for transportation and meal delivery services by Blue Apron or Amazon. In an era of on-demand services, this format of living could be the pinnacle of convenient living.
What do you think? Will this be real life? Or is this just fantasy? Am I caught in a land slide with no escape from reality?
Let me know in the comments!
Hello out there! Hope everyone has shaken off the collective hangover of 2017 and is eager to start a good new year ahead of us. I'm still looking to get some feedback on what new ideas you'd like me to address in the coming weeks and months. All ideas will be considered! Have you ever wondered about:
Please leave your ideas in the comment section below!
On this, my last (promise!) post of the year, I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. Thanks again to all of you who have supported SSC in 2017 and I look forward to your continued support in 2018.
In that spirit, I wanted to get some more support from you readers, in the form of new post topics for 2018! In the comments below, I'd love it if you could please leave your ideas for subjects for me to explore next year.
I'll consider almost anything, so let those ideas flow!
General thoughts and musings about the work SSC Solutions does and other things happening in and around Philadelphia