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Keep Philadelphia Beautiful litter convenings continue to draw a crowd

Late last year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) launched a series of what Executive Director Michelle Feldman calls "Litter Convenings." They offer a platform for city agencies and residents to come together to tackle the problems of trash and littering in integrated and transparent ways.

The first session took place in October 2015; consortium members included the Commerce Department, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs and the Philly chapter of the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). There was a follow-up session in January, and on May 11, KPB organized a panel discussion featuring leaders from the Streets Department’s Philly SWEEP, the City’s Community Life Improvement Programs (CLIP), the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) and Philly 311.

Attendees represented groups and agencies such as the Office of Sustainability, the Village of Arts and Humanities, the Friends of Pennypack Park, the Commerce Department, South of South Neighborhood Association, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), LISC, the North 22nd Street Business Association, and Councilman William Greenlee’s office. Feldman framed the discussion as a chance to be "proactive rather than reactive" to issues of illegal dumping and trash in Philly.

The lively conversation on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building included an update on the City’s growing success in removing unlicensed clothing donation bins, which often become a magnet for illegal dumping. These bins can gain permits for placement on commercially zoned private property, but not on public right-of-ways like sidewalks and street corners, where they routinely reside. After a call to 311, L&I may note and tag the offending bins, but it’s the Streets Department that performs the removal.

Participants also discussed efforts to make Philly 311 -- the city’s non-emergency reporting line for civic issues like graffiti, overgrown vacant lots, illegal dumping and litter -- more accessible to the public through a mobile application and better integration of services with agencies who handle 311 tips.

Misunderstandings can arise when Philly 311 reports a case as closed when the issue has not visibly been resolved. This is because the agency can’t report publicly on outcomes like fines, and other agencies (from PWD to the Streets Department) open their own case file on the issue once they receive it, separate from the Philly 311 report.

Updates from CLIP included graffiti removal efforts and a community service program that employs non-violent ex-offenders on city cleanups. PMBC reported on its active work with up to 800 block captains from across the city. The organization provides supplies for cleanups and sponsors clean block contests with prizes ranging from $300 to $1,000 dollars to be used for further beautification of the block.

In KPB news, applications for the organization’s 2016 microgrants are due on May 27; they include two $,1500 grants and two $1,000 grants (guidelines available here). And on June 22, KPB will team with Young Involved Philadelphia for a Cleaning + Greening 101 panel at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening speakers

UE Lifesciences targets breast cancer diagnosis in the developing world

With limited access to screening, staggeringly few breast cancer patients in developing countries are diagnosed at the early stages of the disease, when it is most curable.
 
UE Lifesciences, a University City Science Center company, is working to meet that challenge with a low-cost, portable breast exam device.
 
Mihir Shah founded UELS in 2009 after several friends and family members were diagnosed with breast cancer. In April 2015, the FDA cleared the iBreastExam, a hand-held device that is painless, radiation-free and delivers accurate results in less than five minutes for less than $2 per exam. A few months later, UELS raised $3 million in equity funding. Now the company is using the capital to fabricate the device in Mumbai and scale it across India. Shah hopes to reach one million women there by the end of the year, though "even that would be a drop in the bucket," he says.
 
"iBreastExam is a game-changing technological breakthrough for countries and regions with rising breast cancer levels, most cases detected at late stages, and limited to no access to early detection for most women," explains the company on its website. "iBreastExam harnesses the power of innovative sensor technology, software computing and smartphone revolution, such that a doctor or any health-worker can offer objective and effective breast examinations, with ease and comfort."
 
The portable device is UELS's second invention. Its NoTouch Breast Scan, cleared by the FDA in 2012, is a contact-less and radiation-free screening tool, targeted at certain categories of women, including those at high risk for breast cancer.
 
Science Center spokeswoman Kristen Fitch calls UELS a poster child for the campus. Its core sensor technology was invented at Drexel University. The Science Center supported early prototyping through its QED program. UELS is also a graduate of the Center’s Digital Health Accelerator and continues to work out of the Center.

"They've been very flexible with the use of space, subsidized rent and great introductions to people," enthuses Shah.
 
Besides the equity funding, Shah reports that UELS has raised $1 million-plus in grant funding and $1.5 million in revenue.

"We are just getting started," he says. "We are looking to broaden our innovation portfolio and tap the huge unmet need for highly prevalent cancers in underserved markets. UELS is now a 30-person organization spread over two countries and growing fast."
 
WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Worried about lead? The Academy of Natural Sciences asks 'What's in Our Water?'

Last week, the Academy of Natural Sciences hosted "What’s in Our Water?," a free town square discussion and expert Q&A for Philadelphians wondering about the quality of their drinking water after harmful lead levels in Newark, New Jersey and Flint, Michigan made headlines.

David Velinsky, Academy vice president of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research, led the presentation. He introduced Debra McCarty, commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department; Lynn Thorp, the national campaigns director for Clean Water Action; and Dr. Jerry Fagliano, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Velinsky touched on the source of Philly’s drinking water: the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, and the history of human use of lead in urban and residential infrastructure and industrial products, from Roman aqueducts to batteries to lead paint and leaded gasoline.

In the 1970s, lead in paint and gasoline accounted for relatively high blood lead levels in the first ever large-scale American survey. According to Fagliano, back then, the average child had a blood lead level of 15 micrograms per deciliter. Now, it’s less than two micrograms per deciliter, thanks to sweeping federal legislation to keep lead out of our homes and fuel.

"Lead is a potent neurotoxin," especially for young people, he explained.

"Water is not the primary source of lead for children," added McCarty: It’s dust and paint from houses built before 1978. There is no lead in any of Philly’s 3,200 miles of water mains. But on the private side, PWD estimates that about 10 percent of Philly homes have lead service lines from the water main to the house. This is likely only in unrenovated homes built before 1950. These homes may also have lead in old plumbing pipes, soldering or fixtures.

PWD works with any concerned client to test, monitor and offer affordable fixes for elevated lead levels that come from private plumbing.

McCarty said those worried about lead in their pipes can simply make sure to run the tap for a few minutes before drinking the water, which flushes out any liquid that might have been sitting in the plumbing lines for more than a few hours. The City also has a program offering zero-interest loans to customers who want to replace private-property lead pipes. PWD has a dedicated webpage for lead inquiries as well as a phone hotline: 215-685-6300.

"Flint is an incredible tragedy in many, many ways," said McCarty as she explained why the same scenario will never happen in Philly. For example, Flint officials changed the source of the water itself, with none of the anti-corrosion treatments residential pipes in Philly have, and did not comply with EPA standards for sampling and reporting lead and copper levels.

"Treatment decisions are always made on the best science," she insisted.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: David Velinsky, the Academy of Natural Sciences; Debra McCarty, the Philadelphia Water Department

UPenn's BioCellection may hold the key to plastics pollution worldwide

As high school seniors in their hometown of Vancouver, Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao had some big questions -- and answers -- for a planet that produces enough plastic every year to circle itself in Saran wrap four times over.

Yao recently graduated from the University of Toronto and Wang is finishing her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Biology. Together they founded BioCellection. Now their team (which also includes Alexander Simafranca, Eric Friedman and Daniel Chapman) is the first undergraduate team ever to take the $30,000 grand prize at Wharton’s annual Business Plan Competition. And that's only the beginning: They also took home the Wharton Social Impact Prize, the Gloekner Undergraduate Award, the Michelson People’s Choice Award and the Committee Award for Most "Wow Factor." No other single team has ever taken five prizes in the competition.

Wang and Yao began studying riverside soil samples back in high school. They wanted to find out what the ecosystem itself might be doing to survive pollution from plastics. Traditional plastic products are made from fossil fuels, which come from carbon. Humans run on carbon, too -- our source is glucose.

"Could there be bacteria that have evolved with plastic chemicals as their carbon source?" Wang recalls wondering. "The answer is yes…Nature is very much evolving to recover itself. There is a solution in this biology, it just needs to be tapped into. Potentially this could be a large-scale commercial technology used to clean our drinking water."

Wang and Yao focused on how bacteria could be harnessed to break down potentially carcinogenic components of some plastics (like phthalates) that aren’t otherwise biodegradable. Their work won them the 2012 National Commercialization Award at Canada’s Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge and led to a popular 2013 TED talk.

In the labs at Penn, that work grew into BioCellection.

"Instead of tackling derivatives or additives in plastic, we’re [now] tackling the polymer of the plastic itself," explains Wang. "What if we can take this really big problem of the polymer, and try to solve it on a modular basis?"

BioCellection developed a way to engineer bacteria that produce an enzyme which, when combined with problem plastics in a proprietary portable chemical process, can convert that plastic into water and carbon dioxide. This patent-pending technology is still about two years away from the field, but its future application in plastic remediation at landfills, industrial sites, oceans and beaches could be tremendous, with annual revenue projected to reach $100 million by 2020.

A little further down the road in their business model, BioCellection hopes to launch a centralized processing plant that will use this enzyme to convert discarded plastics into a bio-surfactant necessary for textile manufacturing. With the help of collaborator Parley for the Oceans -- which is helping BioCellection connect to brands like Adidas that want to incorporate recycled plastic into their products -- the company hopes to sell this "upcycled" surfactant at $300/kg. It’s an estimated $42 billion market.

The issue of used plastics is a global problem: Because current recycling methods don’t generate enough revenue, over 90 percent of our cast-off plastics (even those going for recycling) end up in landfills, or incinerated, which compounds pollution. 

According to the company, "We can’t expect to change consumer habits overnight or integrate new materials immediately. It’s time to tackle the plastic pollution that currently exists, and that we’re continuing to produce, to save marine wildlife, keep the planet’s food chain intact, and protect human health."

Besides the $54,000 in total prize money from Wharton, BioCellection has earned $90,000 in grants and $240,000 in investment. The company is relocating to the San Jose BioCube in June 2016 for further development.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Miranda Wang, BioCellection 

Keystone Edge is back!

In August, our sister publication Keystone Edge -- dedicated to covering what's next and best in Pennsylvania -- went on hiatus. The goal was to retool and relaunch, and we're happy to announce that the day has arrived. Lee Stabert, editor of Flying Kite, remains at the helm of both magazines. Check out her note below and click here to subscribe.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 13 million residents across nearly 50,000 square miles, 67 counties, and countless communities. But if the writers, publishers, and partners at Keystone Edge have learned one thing covering this vast and diverse place since 2008, it’s that the small stuff makes the biggest difference. Stories about unique towns, passionate educators, creative scientists, engaged community groups and indefatigable entrepreneurs have been enjoyed and shared by more than 1,000,000 readers and counting.

But we can always do more. In the past few months, Keystone Edge has reinvented itself to better cover the things that make PA a great place to live and work: from the successful startup founder taking time to mentor the next generation, to the fledgling brewery transforming a small town’s main street, to the river that used to carry the instruments of industry now carrying kayakers and daytrippers.

We’ve got a new look and a new publishing schedule. In our (now) monthly magazine, you’ll find features on higher ed, urban rebirth, growing companies, travel destinations, products made in PA — from wine to medical devices to robots — cozy hamlets and evolving cities. You’ll also see a news section covering events, awards, local leaders and intriguing inventions.
Overall, Keystone Edge aims to offer an in-depth look at the ways the state is moving into the future.

Click here to meet the team.

Lee Stabert
Editor in Chief
Keystone Edge
 

Weckerly's Ice Cream to open its first retail location in Fishtown


Philly ice cream connoisseurs have something to look forward to. Currently, if you want some top-rated Weckerly’s Ice Cream, you have to buy it by the pint (or sandwich) at a local cafe, food retailer or farmers' market, but now the company is gearing up to open its very own brick-and-mortar location on a bustling stretch of Girard Avenue in Fishtown.

Fronted by husband-and-wife team Jen and Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s launched in late 2012 in West Philly’s Spruce Hill neighborhood. In 2014, the micro-creamery moved to Port Richmond’s Globe Dye Works.

"At that time, we really did want to open a retail shop eventually in West Philadelphia," says Andy. But the search proved difficult, so they broadened the hunt. With some help from New Kensington Community Development Corporation, they discovered a 350-square-foot shop at 9 West Girard Avenue, and knew it was the perfect place (they’ll still make their ice cream at Globe Dye Works).

"We definitely wanted a neighborhood," says Andy. "We wanted to be amongst families and homeowners, and people who engage in activities in their neighborhood."

Jen is an experienced pastry chef (her maiden name, Weckerle, inspired the company's moniker). A former bicycle mechanic, Andy eventually left his job to focus on the business full-time.

"[Jen] is the reason we make ice cream and have an ice cream company," he insists. "She’s the heartbeat of everything."

The company is known for unusual flavors such as buckwheat sour cherry and lemon verbena black raspberry, but "we do embrace the classics," he adds. "There’s a place for a vanilla ice cream made with grass-fed milk and cream and good-quality vanilla bean…that tastes like ice cream would have tasted 50 years ago."

Weckerly’s more adventurous combinations are inspired by the company’s mission to source seasonal ingredients from local farms. This is partly why the Satinskys need to grow their business with a retail location, rather than increasing wholesale production. With their own shop, they can stick with their model and showcase small batches of exclusive flavors -- perhaps only five gallons at a time.  

"There are aspects to the way we operate that don’t lend themselves well to a rapidly growing wholesale business," explains Andy, noting the difficulty of scaling up while still working exclusively with local farms.

The new Girard Avenue shop will be open year-round seven days a week, offering a selection of signature ice cream sandwiches and hand-dipped cups and cones, with six rotating ice cream flavors and two sorbets.

They couple isn't sure of an opening date yet, but hope to launch by late summer or early fall. Fans can follow along for the latest @Weckerlys on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s 

Jewelry company Riot Alliance builds a business plan designed to give back


As the Master of Social Work (MSW) supervisor at the University of Pennsylvania's Child Advocacy Clinic, Sara Schwartz quickly realized that the toughest dollars for hard-working social justice nonprofits to raise are general operating funds. She decided to combine her after-hours passion for jewelry-making with a business plan tailored to give back.

Schwartz founded Riot Alliance in early 2014, making custom jewelry and teaching community jewelry-making workshops. The company partners with a different nonprofit every quarter, donating 10 percent of sales towards the organization's operational costs, while also using online platforms and social media to promote the nonprofit and its events.

"After I got my MSW, I started thinking more seriously about starting an independent artist business that was connected to social justice from its inception," says Schwartz. She focuses on nonprofits working in areas such as immigrant rights; criminal justice advocacy and reform for youth and adults; economic justice; and youth leadership.

"I really wanted to focus on working with organizations in Philly who may have a more difficult time obtaining operational funding," versus grants earmarked for a certain program or purpose, she explains. The Riot Alliance money is available for crucial day-to-day expenses, supplies for community events, or stipends for community workers. For many of these smaller nonprofits, a small amount of money can go a long way.

Looking forward, Schwartz hopes to grow her model in several ways. She aims to make Philly arts fairs more accessible to those who can’t afford the cost of their own tables by purchasing a table herself and sharing it with an artisan from her current partner organization. She also wants to expand her community jewelry-making programming, and look into a stipend-based community or student internship to help her scale up production. Pursuing various independent arts grants and other funding will enable her to donate more in the future.

She also plans to expand her partnerships with other social justice and arts-based businesses via pop-up shops, like a recent one at W/N W/N Coffee Bar.

Riot Alliance's current partner is Juntos, a South Philly-based immigrant rights organization; in May, they'll begin working with Youth United for Change.  

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sara Schwartz, Riot Alliance

Science Central: 5 questions for Whose Your Landlord


Social media makes it possible to review -- or rant about -- everything from movies to books to Uber drivers. But can you post reviews about landlords: the good, the bad and the ugly?
 
Whose Your Landlord (WYL), a University City Science Center startup, provides a platform for tenants to hold landlords accountable. The site asks users to refrain from using it as a bashfest, but invites comments useful to prospective renters before they sign a lease. (Note to grammarians: The company uses the possessive form of the word "who" because, "we’re giving renters ownership of their situation by putting housing in their hands.")
 
The site also functions as a platform for landlords to post rental listings, connect with renters and respond to reviews.
 
We asked Ofo Ezeugwu, the self proclaimed "chieftan" at Whose Your Landlord, to tell us more.

What is your big idea?
 
WYL is a web platform bringing quality to the rental experience by using the power of peer-generated reviews, quality listings and community engagement to connect renters and home providers. Through extensive peer insight from other renters, city data amassed from years of research, and quality listings, we’re ensuring that all WYL renters have a smooth and all-encompassing experience when they're looking to find their next home.

For home providers, we’re streamlining the way listings are uploaded and shared -- making it simple to vet and reference tenants -- and bettering communication lines with the renters of today. 
 
What is your company's origin tale?
 
WYL came out of necessity. In 2012, I ran for vice president of the student body at Temple University. I often heard from renters about the issues with landlords within the local community. I thought, "What if renters knew what to expect before they ever signed a lease?" The idea stuck and the following year, we launched.
 
What is your timeline?
 

We've been live to all users since September 2013. We have over 95,000 users on the platform and experienced 156 percent growth from the previous year (2014). We've bootstrapped thus far and are now in the midst of our seed round.
 
Forty percent of our user base is in Philadelphia and we've been able to start generating real revenue via strategic partnerships with the likes of Roadway Moving and Allstate. And we've just opened up our free beta for home providers to post listings to our community for free.
 
WYL has sparked change right here in Philadelphia: Companies have fired poor performing staffs, universities have partnered with WYL to make the lives of their students better, and residents have found new homes that they can be proud.
 
Why does the marketplace need your company?
 
We primarily target millennial renters -- young professionals and college students. While these individuals move more than any other demographic and comprise 52 percent of total renters nationwide, they are not having their needs met by current rental sites. The issue with the current climate of the rental ecosystem is that "quality" is not the standard. We're here to restore that and to make everyone better residents, home providers and community contributors.
 
What is your elevator speech?
 
WhoseYourLandlord (WYL) is a web platform created to bring quality, accountability and transparency to the rental experience.

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Startup 101: Look before you leap into crowdfunding


For startups, crowdfunding might seem a foolproof way to raise capital. Wrong!
 
Entrepreneurs are hereby warned that it takes exhaustive preparation: building a network, maintaining a robust online and social media presence and, above all, having a viable idea. Companies that fail to meet their funding goals can appear tainted in future investors’ eyes. Equally worrisome are companies that fail to deliver the pre-orders or perks they promise.
 
Speaking at a recent "Smart Talk" session at the University City Science Center’s Quorum, William Duckworth, a founder of FeverSmart, put it succinctly: "It’s a 30-day process that takes a year to do."
 
FeverSmart is actually a crowdfunding success story, raising $65,000 in 2014 -- 157 percent of its goal -- in 35 days on Indiegogo, one of several popular platforms. The company, which makes a "smart" wearable thermometer, raised 75 percent of its initial $40,000 goal in the first 24 hours, winning a coveted space on Indiegogo’s home page.
 
At Quorum, ROAR for Good co-founder and CEO Yasmine Mustafa described how, in a case of cold feet, she lowered her company’s goal from $100,000 to $40,000 just before launch. The company, which makes a wearable personal-safety device, raised $267,000.
 
"Crowdfunding was a validation that people would buy [our product]," she said. "It was a test about whether we really had a company."
 
Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital, an early investor in Indiegogo, added that "crowdfunding has truly democratized the funding world."
 
And now, crowdfunding is taking a giant step. Effective May 16, new rules will allow startups to raise capital by selling equity shares in their company.
 
"The risks are acute and there will be a lot of stumbling blocks," argued attorney Matthew R. Kittay, who specializes in crowdfunding at Fox Rothschild. "But 1,000 people will share a $1 billion lottery ticket. It will happen and it will be a big story to tell."

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

The Enterprise Center launches a new fund to provide equity to businesses that need it most


Mid-level minority and women-owned businesses can often access financing through debt but not through equity investments. To remedy that problem, The Enterprise Center (TEC) has launched the Performance Fund through its Capital Corporation.

According to TEC, a Federal Reserve Bank of New York study revealed that "low-income populations and communities of color were being forced to engage in high-cost financing options for themselves and their businesses, as a result of limited access to basic financial services." This gap is due to a lack of community banks where they’re most needed and inequality in lending practices.

"Traditional [venture capitalists], they don’t look at deals that require less than $3 million," explains Chris Chaplin, TEC Capital Corporation director of public and private capital. "To a great extent, we recognized that there was a demand -- a need in the marketplace for companies to get at least some access to equity to take it from one level to another."

The funds for TEC’s first two Performance Fund equity investments came thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). One of them is a $211,000 investment in Jidan Cleaning LLC, owned by Patricia Claybrook, with offices in Medford, N.J., and Philadelphia.

When vetting companies for these inaugural investments, TEC targeted businesses with revenue of at least $250,000 annually.

"A lot of these companies, they can get debt, but they need equity support to take it up to the next level," says Chaplin. For most women-and minority-owned businesses of this size -- already hampered by a lack of financial and social resources more easily accessed by white male entrepreneurs -- "getting equity is next to impossible."

TEC helped to finance Jidan’s growth in the past with a loan, which the business serviced well. The company has a long relationship with the West Philly organization: They clean its building and those of its partner organizations.

"What we’ve found is they’ve been growing rapidly," with larger and larger contracts, says Chaplin. "We recognized Patricia needed some financial support…but we didn’t want her to be caught in a situation where she was just servicing debt."

Over a three-year period, the $211,000 equity investment will help Jidan grow its full-time staff by 14, its part-time staff by 17, and provide benefits to employees. Chaplin predicts that with this investment, the company will surpass TEC’s staffing estimate.

"The focus of our work with HHS with these investments is not only to create wealth," he adds. "The real focus is to create jobs...sustainable jobs with benefits."

TEC is already looking toward the next cohort of Performance Fund recipients. While TEC may approach HHS with its decision by the end of April, the new cohort won’t be announced until September. 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Chris Chaplin, The Enterprise Center

Local to Global: The Greater Philadelphia Export Plan wants to boost billions in business


How can a local economy make a global debut? In December 2014, Flying Kite spoke with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia about the launch of its Greater Philadelphia Export Plan, conducted in partnership with the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia. After more than a year of market analysis -- along with surveys and interviews with local businesses -- the finalized study and a plan of action were released this month.
 
According to the Economy League, 86 percent of global economic growth is projected to happen outside the U.S. between now and 2020, but only one percent of U.S. companies currently export, with a small majority of that one percent exporting to only one market. Philadelphia already boasts $32 billion in exports annually, but with the right support, that number could grow significantly.
  
This metro export plan, made possible by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, convened experts (including business leaders and state and federal trade officials) in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware.
 
The initiative got an important boost in January 2015 when study partners learned that they’d be among seven other U.S. cities to join the 2015 cohort of the Brookings Institute’s Global Cities Initiative (in partnership with JPMorgan Chase), designed to support U.S. metros in developing customized trade and export strategies. Philly joined Baltimore, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Fresno, Salt Lake City and St. Louis in a nationwide conversation.
 
The Economy League attended the Global Cities Initiative’s first national workshop last February, which focused on how to launch a large-scale export study, and a second workshop in July. By that time, the Philly project’s in-depth market assessments were complete. According to Josh Sevin, Economy League managing director of regional engagement, the focus then became, "How do you convert that [research] into a strategy with some momentum?"
 
Through those assessments, the Economy League got a clearer picture of what it already knew: Philly is often dubbed a post-industrial city, but a highly specialized manufacturing sector remains, with plenty of potential for global growth.
 
When it comes to exports, we usually imagine freighters packed with stuff, but the definition of an export is broader than that. For example, if a cardiology team from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia travels to set up a new facility in Dubai, that’s a Philly export. Same story if a local architect designs a building overseas.
 
"When we talk about a good or a service export, think about where the dollars are coming from, not the point of service," says Sevin. That means any time someone from outside the U.S. comes here for school, or for medical care, or utilizes Philly legal or financial services, that’s an export, even if the office, classroom, or hospital room is right in our city.
 
He hopes the action plan can help spark "a virtuous cycle": the more businesses engage with the global market, the more business owners take note, and say, "Why not me?"
 
The Economy League is considering another opportunity to join a Global Cities cohort geared specifically to developing a foreign direct investment strategy.
 
Later, we’ll take a look a more in-depth look at the new metro export plan through the lens of a participating Philly firm.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Josh Sevin, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

 

PCDC celebrates 50 years of giving Chinatown a voice


In the 1960s, the Chinatown community banded together to oppose a planned expansion of Vine Street that threatened to bulldoze the Holy Redeemer church and school at 10th and Wood Streets. That action led to the birth of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), which has become an essential neighborhood institution. 

Now PCDC is getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary: a major milestone for an organization that has supported a city-wide hub of commerce, culture, community and healthcare. (In 2015, Flying Kite’s On the Ground residence at Asian Arts Initiative wasn’t far from PCDC’s current headquarters at 9th and Vine Streets.)

PCDC got its start via a neighborhood town hall headed by Cecilia Moy Yep, George Moy and Anthony Wong, who all remain on the board of directors today. It was founded in 1966 and officially incorporated in 1969. Since then, its advocacy on behalf of local residents and business owners has spanned fair housing provisions for residents of homes razed in the path of the Convention Center expansion; successful opposition to a new sports stadium in the late 1990s; and a voice in other development projects from the Gallery Mall to Independence Mall. Now, the organization is moving forward on its massive Eastern Tower development.

"This was considered a blighted community at the time," explains PCDC's Sarah Yeung of the group's early days. "The city had cited Chinatown as a place for redevelopment. Chinatown was in and of itself a thriving immigrant community. It was full of families and businesses."

"The core mission was to ensure that this community had a voice in its own future," she continues. About 10 years after its founding -- and successfully scaling back the city’s plans for the Vine Street Expressway -- "they turned toward helping Chinatown to plan for its future as a neighborhood." An initial master plan in the 1970s led to a series of affordable housing developments that are important anchors today.

In 2000, John Chin became PCDC’s executive director, growing and diversifying the organization’s offerings, and leading the 2004 Chinatown and Callowhill Neighborhood Plan process.

Over 8000 people live in Chinatown, says Yeung, and PCDC services directly reach over 1000 clients a year, with a staff of just six people.

"Chinatown has become not just a resident-based community, but also a hub for Asian Americans in the region," she adds. "We serve as this home base for a greater population in the Delaware Valley region. We’re the only Chinatown in the state."

PCDC will celebrate its 50th birthday with an anniversary gala at the National Constitution Center (525 Arch Street) on Friday, May 6 at 6 p.m.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sarah Yeung, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation


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On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Philadelphia makes another prime showing in latest Knight Cities Challenge


After nabbing more project grants than any other U.S. city in the Knight Foundation's inaugural 2015 Knight Cities Challenge, Philly has more reasons to be proud. As announced at an April 12 celebration at Reading Terminal Market (RTM), local winners received the largest share of the national grant program’s $5 million pool for 2016: over $873,000 for four local initiatives.
 
This year’s contest, which invites individuals and organizations nationwide to submit their ideas for improving city life, drew over 4,500 applicants. That was narrowed down to 138 finalists and 37 grantees. Philadelphia's winners include the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) for its 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses; Reading Terminal Market Corp. for its Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers; Little Giant Creative for its Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship, and Benjamin Bryant for his Little Music Studio.
 
Caitlin Quigley of PACA spoke at the celebration. Her organization will use its $146,000 grant to launch 20 book clubs in 20 Philly neighborhoods. Attendees will focus on studying cooperative business models, and then use what they’ve learned to launch a co-op business serving a need in their community.
 
Quigley hopes the initiative will "activate Philadelphia residents to be lifelong agents of change in their neighborhoods."
 
RTM General Manager Anuj Gupta spoke on behalf of Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers, recipient of $84,674. According to Knight, the project will build "cultural bridges to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities with cooking classes celebrating ethnic food," led by RTM chefs.
 
RTM is one of the city’s most diverse public spaces, explained Gupta, and it’s known "as a place where one can expect civility," no matter where you come from, over the common enjoyment of food.
 
Tayyib Smith's Little Giant Creative is receiving $308,640 for its project that boosts "economic opportunity by using hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups." As Smith noted, one third of our city’s population lives in poverty. With a GED and two semesters of college, he’s now the founder of four businesses, and he wants to see Philadelphia's entrepreneurial community talk as much as they can about local poverty.
 
Bryan's The Little Music Studio, which netted $334,050, will be a "traveling playground for musicians," making musical instruments accessible in public places to anyone who wants to sit together and play. The "project is not about performance," says Bryan, but about diverse people connecting through spontaneous jam sessions. (He’s leading the project through his role as director of planning and design at Group Melvin Design.)
 
As Knight Foundation Philadelphia Program Director Patrick Morgan put it, "Each of these ideas represents the best of Philadelphia."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Patrick Morgan, Knight Foundation Philadelphia, and Knight grant recipients 

 

State dollars double Career Wardrobe's budget, making way for a five-county expansion

Thanks to a huge new contract, April 2016 is the biggest month yet for the Philadelphia-based Career Wardrobe, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

But back in 2011, things weren’t so rosy for the nonprofit, which connects jobseekers with professional clothing, career counseling and resume help. Career Wardrobe Executive Director Sheri Cole spent a month in Harrisburg after former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s administration cut funding for PA WORKWEAR, a Department of Health and Human Services program that helps provide career clothing to those living in poverty. Thanks to data showing the program's success in reducing reliance on public assistance, funding for PA WORKWEAR was reinstated that same year.

Fast forward to 2016 and a major new contract from PA WORKWEAR will double the nonprofit’s budget; the money has already enabled them to hire five new employees. Career Wardrobe is also expanding from Philadelphia County into Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Bucks and Berks Counties. As of April 1, Career Wardrobe is operating out of its Spring Garden location in Philadelphia, as well as new boutiques in Chester City and Bristol, while overseeing similar programs in other counties.

Starting with their new fiscal year on July 1, Career Wardrobe’s budget will jump from about $700,000 to $1.5 million. In the coming year, Career Wardrobe will be able to serve up to 7,000 people, 80 percent of whom will be referred through PA WORKWEAR.

The results are real, says Cole of the outcomes Career Wardrobe measures through surveys, conducted at six months and a year after the initial appointment at their boutiques.

"Of those individuals, over half are successfully at work, and only 30 percent of them are still receiving cash assistance," explains Cole. "If you’re a government official looking for programs that move people out of poverty, that’s a great program to be interested in. If we can capture you and help you bounce back into employment before you hit cash assistance, that’s great."

Currently, the PA WORKWEAR dollars -- which Career Wardrobe will administer with the help of partnering county organizations -- will benefit referrals who are on cash assistance. Fortunately, since half of its budget still comes from non-government sources such as corporate, foundation, and individual donations, Career Wardrobe can continue its Philadelphia-based programs, which are open to a wide range of people facing hardship because of unemployment, with a sliding scale of fees ranging from $5 to $20.

People currently ineligible for help through PA WORKWEAR programs in nearby counties can still be referred for sessions within Philadelphia, and Cole hopes that with time, this flexibility will expand to other counties. And while the vast majority of Career Wardrobe clients are women, the new dollars are aiding expansions in programs for men, too.

"We really believe that the cost of a suit should not be a barrier to you being able to go out and market yourself and conduct a proper job search," insists Cole.

To support Career Wardrobe, learn more about donating clothing or volunteering.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sheri Cole, Career Wardrobe

 

Microsoft Innovation Center comes to University City


The Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC), a hub for entrepreneurial activity and community engagement, will open this summer on the ground floor of the University City Science Center’s headquarters at 3711 Market Street. 
 
According to Science Center spokesperson Kristen Fitch, "the MIC will be a place where entrepreneurs, students and community members can convene to use Microsoft tools and technology, get training and advice from Microsoft tech evangelists, sign up for complimentary BizSpark and DreamSpark software packages, and participate in programming to help them advance their ideas and ventures."
 
Bringing the MIC to University City is a big win, she adds.

"The MIC complements and reinforces our focus on making uCity Square a neighborhood that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, access and inclusion. The MIC will complement Quorum programming as it helps bridge the current gaps for startups on their journey to success, such as the lack of access to funding, knowledge and expertise; access to affordable technology; business planning; and exposure to potential markets and customers."
 
A key part of the MIC’s mission will be engaging underrepresented groups with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and careers.

"We plan to seek input from neighborhood and community partners to develop programs and workshops that can help their constituents leverage Microsoft technology and Science Center experience to support their entrepreneurial ambitions," says Fitch.
 
Possibilities include a partnership with the Center's FirstHand program (which engages middle and high school students from underserved schools), technology skills training with Microsoft’s YouthSpark hub, technology camps, and software grants to nonprofits that focus on STEM and computer science literacy.
 
The MIC, a collaboration between Microsoft Corp., SeventySix Capital, the Science Center and Wexford Science & Technology, is only the third such hub in the U.S.; other locations are in Atlanta and Miami.
 
The space will open in time for the Democratic National Convention in July and "serve as a hotbed of Microsoft activity during the convention, with a number of programs and events that explore the intersection of technology and civic engagement," promises the Science Center.
  
"Bringing Microsoft to Philadelphia and uCity Square is a game changer on many levels," said Science Center President & CEO Stephen S. Tang in a statement. "Not only have we attracted a large tech company to our city, but the MIC also offers a means to engage our neighborhood, innovation and entrepreneurial communities, and give them access to Microsoft technology and training."

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 
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