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Regionalism : Innovation + Job News

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MilkCrate for Communities helps companies and institutions reward sustainable living

About a year and a half ago, local startup MilkCrate began an incubator residency through Project Liberty. This came after a potent mix of bartering, bootstrapping and crowdfunding helped to launch the sustainable-living app. Now the company is ready to add a major new level to their platform that goes beyond individual users.
 
The free MilkCrate app officially launched in early 2015 as a resource for people who want an easy way to connect to socially and environmentally conscious businesses and services. It has since expanded beyond Philly to Denver, Boston and Asheville. Co-founder and CEO Morgan Berman, who earned a master’s degree in sustainable design from Philadelphia University, was pleased to see traction from the original concept, but the team quickly realized that more was on the table.
 
"We actually took a pretty radical approach to both our business model and our product," she says of the revamp, launching this month.
 
MilkCrate for Communities isn’t replacing the original free app -- it’s an add-on service that companies, universities and other enterprises will be able to purchase and extend as a perk to their employees, students or residents. It will also let buyers quantify and collect data on real-life social- and eco-conscious practices within their organizations, which can be harnessed both for external branding and marketing as well as internal messaging, all while encouraging sustainable living.
 
The company realizes that app platforms aimed at boosting sustainable practices at large institutions or companies already exist, but MilkCrate has a major edge because they already have a comprehensive localized directory and calendar within their existing product.  
 
Berman says MilkCrate for Communities is a premium, private "game-ified" social experience that clients can tailor for their users. Members of participating groups can download the free app and, unlike in the public version, log in and begin earning points for things like checking into a farm-to-table restaurant or fair-trade coffee shop, signing up for a composting service or CSA, or volunteering.
 
Participating companies and schools can use MilkCrate to tabulate the eco-friendly and socially conscious steps users make, and incentivize them with quarterly or semester-based rewards.
 
The first official buyer of the MilkCrate for Communities platform is Berman’s own alma mater, Philadelphia University, which will launch the experience for students and faculty this summer. Other clients are already in the pipeline, including the co-working provider Benjamin’s Desk, home to MilkCrate’s offices. Berman says a customized pilot product for Comcast is also in the works.
 
"We are looking for more corporate and academic clients that want to be part of the big launch this summer,"she adds. Anyone who wants to bring a demo of MilkCrate for Communities to their campus or office can get in touch.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate 

Primal Supply Meats brings sustainably-raised, nose-to-tail products to the masses

Even for farm-to-table chefs who are invested in serving humanely and sustainably sourced meat, connecting to the right supplier is difficult.
 
"It’s just a really broken chain," explains former Kensington Quarters (KQ) head butcher Heather Marold Thomason. Many chefs and home cooks want to minimize waste and know exactly where their meat comes from, "but it’s not easy for anybody to use whole animals."
 
Enter Thomason's new company Primal Supply Meats.
 
Over the last year, the idea for the startup evolved as she got to know her customers at KQ’s retail meat counter. Word was spreading around the city about the quality of the locally sourced meat for sale at this Frankford Avenue retail/restaurant hybrid.
 
"More and more people were approaching us," she recalls. "We had a really awesome relationship with people in the Fishtown area who were our everyday customers." She also began to notice shoppers coming from other parts of town -- from South Philly to Mt. Airy -- saying they wished KQ delivered or had other locations. "I also had a lot of chefs approaching me, saying, 'How are you getting this meat? Can you help me?'"
 
She realized there were farm-to-table chefs all over the city who aren’t able to take a whole animal into their kitchen, but didn't want pre-cut frozen meat either.
 
Primal Supply Meats, while not a retail counter like KQ’s, bridges that gap, acting as a liaison between farmers and chefs. The entire butchered animal is used, but shared among as many as three or four different clients asking for different cuts.
  
"I think that our customers have actually been receptive to what we’re doing and their responsibility as customers," says Thomason. With a fresh, whole-animal model at the KQ counter, part of her job was guiding customers to what was available that would also suit their tastes and needs. "Our customers were super-receptive to that."
 
That’s part of why she has high hopes for the CSA-like subscription model Primal will launch in a few weeks (those interested can visit the website). Individuals or families will be able to purchase meat packages on a rolling month-to-month basis, and have confidence in knowing where their meat is coming from.
 
While she hopes Primal will eventually gain its own space, it’s currently operating in West Philly via a partnership with the new FDA-certified facility 1732 Meats. For trucking and cold storage, Primal is partnering with North Philly’s Common Market.
 
This summer, things are still getting off the ground -- Thomason is visiting farmers one-on-one, learning both sides of the business.

"We’re working on getting all the infrastructure in place, making sure our supply chain works and our production processes are solid," she says. "[That way] we can make sure we’re ready to meet demand as it comes."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Heather Marold Thomason, Primal Supply Meats

Strawberry Mansion celebrates first Schuylkill River Arts Day

The Strawberry Mansion area (our recent On the Ground home) has plenty of artists, but there’s rarely an opportunity for them to come together on their home turf, says INVISIBLE RIVER spokesperson Sylvana Joseph. The Schuylkill River Arts Day (SRAD) on July 16 is going to change that.
 
Founded in 2009 by Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich, INVISIBLE RIVER has been "celebrating our local rivers through live public performances and river advocacy." A mix of art, programming and interactive outdoor offerings serve the mission of engaging the public with both the Schuylkill and the Delaware.
 
For the last few years, Vidich has created one of Philly’s most eye-popping interdisciplinary performance events: an aerial dance suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with audience members watching on shore or from boats on the river below. Beck Epoch, this year’s incarnation of the show (an "aerial exploration of swinging, swimming, swiveling and suspension from above the Schuylkill River") is coming up on Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16. Audience members will be able to watch for free from the eastern shore near the bridge, or they can buy a ticket to watch by boat on the river itself (everyone should arrive by 6:15 p.m.).
 
SRAD will kick off at 10 a.m. at Mander Recreation Center with an interactive drum and dance procession led by the Strawberry Mansion-based group Positive Movement and the African Diaspora Artist Collective. The group will take Boxers’ Trail from the rec center to Kelly Drive, where the arts fest will take over until 2 p.m. Other performers include Kulu Mele, Anne-Marie Mulgrew & Dancers Co, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and many more. (Here’s the full line-up of participating artists.) There will be visual arts, crafts, and even fishing and boating lessons. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic and stay for the day.   
 
"We’re really focused on getting the Strawberry Mansion area and the people in that area to come, to use the Schuylkill River [and] learn about the river," says Joseph. "All of us that live in the Philadelphia live right in proximity to all of these great things, but we never use them. There are many musicians and dancers and artists of all stripes that live in that area but leave the area to perform -- it’s great to have this opportunity to have people from the area perform in the area."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sylvana Joseph, INVISIBLE RIVER

 
Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

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.

What's next for the Philadelphia School District?

Last Tuesday, the latest Exchange PHL Breakfast Series drew a crowd of over forty people for a special conversation on the future of the School District of Philadelphia.

Hosted by the nonprofit-centric co-working space, these morning meetups bring a dynamic group to the Friends Center on Cheery Street. On June 21, attendees represented a wide range of organizations eager to hear Fund for the School District of Philadelphia President and CEO Donna Frisby-Greenwood discuss "Engaging with the School District of Philadelphia.”

Those organizations included People’s Emergency Center, Philly Fellows, Women of Tomorrow, the Fleischer Art Memorial, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, the William Penn Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services, and many more.

Frisby-Greenwood provided a snapshot of the District and its challenges: It serves a total of 135,000 children (not including the 50,000 students who attend charter schools), 39 percent of whom live below the poverty line. It encompasses 149 elementary schools, and 69 middle and high schools. During the 2014-2015 school year, PSSA performance at District schools reached a proficient or advanced level in 37 percent of schools for science, 32 percent for English, and just 17 percent for math.

So what is the District doing to better harness resources for its students?

The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia is a reactivation of the former Philadelphia Children First Fund. Upon assuming his role as superintendent, Dr. William Hite "wanted a more robust fund," explained Frisby-Greenwood. Under its new name, this arm of the School District went from being a passive "fiscal agent" for dollars already arriving at the School District to a much more active development force as well as a way to "identify and coordinate partnerships on behalf of the District."

One major funding goal supports the District’s ongoing efforts to make sure every child is reading at grade level by fourth grade. (Last year, we took a closer look at this initiative for teacher coaching and new classroom libraries, funded in part by grants from the William Penn and Lenfest foundations.)

Other initiatives on deck include the continued roll-out of sustainability and recycling goals within the School District’s GreenFutures program (here’s our piece from earlier this year), and a push to get automatic electric defibrillators into every elementary school, which, unlike middle and high schools, often lack the life-saving devices.

The organization also aims to create a database of Philadelphia School District alumni; develop a comprehensive listing and map of private, nonprofit, and corporate partners for individual city schools; and improve outreach to garner more school partners, especially in schools which currently lack this community investment.

"I’ll remind everyone we’re just a year in as a team," said Frisby-Greenwood of the revamped Fund and its staff -- she envisions good things ahead for the District.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Donna Frisby-Greenwood, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia 

Flying Kite is the media partner for the Exchange PHL's Breakfast Series.

Empowered CDC expands community-driven change in Southwest Philly

Regina Young never set out to found a community development corporation. A New Haven, Conn., native who now lives and works in Southwest Philadelphia, she had a career in teaching and social work before going back to school for her masters in community development.

She says her inspiration for the CDC simply came from living in the neighborhood and interacting with friends and family there. In 2014, she launched Empowered Community Development Corporation out of Meyers Recreation Center at 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue, not far from Flying Kite’s new On the Ground digs.  

Southwest CDC has been operating in the neighborhood for decades, but Young still saw a need for her group.

"The geographic area of Southwest is so large," she says. "It’s just pretty evident that one organization cannot possibly effectively handle all of the community in this particular area."

Young sees Empowered CDC as part of a local matrix that will see success in cooperation.

"This has to be a collaborative approach," she explains. "There’s not anything that can be done that’s sustainable if we’re an island. We have to deal with other organizations; we have to really get the community reinvested in beautifying and building and transforming the Southwest area."

Currently, Empowered holds some programs out of Myers, but because of needed building repairs there, the organization has moved its offices temporarily to nearby Tilden Middle School.

Their health and wellness program is the one Young is most excited about: A recent community garden initiative in a former vacant lot has spurred beautification, education, healthy food access, safe space for seniors and youth, and community cohesion. Empowered obtained a lease for three lots on the 2000 block of Cecil Street, and in the course of a year, formed a community garden club and installed benches and garden beds for flowers, fruits and veggies. This summer, the CDC is launching new educational programs around the garden for youth, seniors and everyone in between.  

"I charged the community with really leading the design of what this parcel of land looks like," says Young.

And the transformation there is spreading.

"It started with the garden," she explains, but now locals are saying, "if we can do this with a parcel of land, what can we do with our own block?" It’s lead to new painting, more street cleaning, a movement to get planters installed, and "really being a more cohesive block. That’s what Empowered is all about."

The organization is still new, but Young has high hopes for building and utilizing the skills of community members.

"Our biggest asset as an organization, being very new, is simply human capital: understanding how relationships matter, how communities have a voice," she says. "That’s what really propels us as an organization."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Regina Young, Empowered CDC


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

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.

Knight Cities Challenge funds the development of 20 new Philly cooperatives

"There are many different expressions of cooperation and mutual aid in Philadelphia, among very diverse groups of people," explains Caitlin Quigley of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA). Now, thanks to a $146,000 award from the national Knight Cities Challenge (check out our peek at the four Philly winners here), the organization hopes to expand interest in co-ops citywide.

PACA’s Knight-funded 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses initiative aims to gather learning groups of six to 12 people from a variety of Philly neighborhoods. The organization will help guide the book clubs through a tailored process to master the building blocks of building a cooperatively-run business of any type, based on the community’s interests and needs.

So what exactly is a "co-op"?

A cooperative grocery store (like Philly’s Weavers Way or Mariposa), for example, "is a business you own with your neighbors," explains Quigley. "You make decisions about the products that are on the shelves, how the co-op should treat its workers; how the co-op should decide how to be in the community.”

The latter includes things like representation at events, education and outreach, and making donations.

"You and your fellow co-owners can decide how you want that business to serve you," she adds.

And while grocery stores might be the most prominent local example, PACA is a consortium of all kinds of co-ops across many industries. These range from banks to housing to community gardens, green space, or land trusts, or child-care or artist co-ops.

The 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses project, operating on a year-long grant cycle from April 2016 to April 2017, will continue outreach this summer, with the goal of organizing project participants by September. Each group will meet twice a month for six months, with guidance from PACA staffers and volunteers, and a comprehensive curriculum of suggested learning materials, from books and comics to field trips and podcasts.

Author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, whose book Collective Courage is a major inspiration for the project, is collaborating with PACA on the study guide.

In March of next year, participating groups will convene at a large event that will include cooperative business pitches. Beyond that, PACA hopes to support interested groups in more intensive business planning, such as drafting articles of incorporation and writing bylaws.

"Not all of the groups that do the book clubs are going to necessarily decide to move onto this phase," says Quigley, but that’s ok. "Even if it doesn’t happen right now…They have a new set of tools and perspectives that they can bring to anything they do in their communities from then on." Ultimately, it’s about building "a strong movement around a just and inclusive economy, with all of these different sectors of cooperatives and their members."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Caitlin Quigley, Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

Meet Broad Street Ministry's new executive director

Last summer, we featured Broad Street Ministry (BSM), a powerful local organization offering an ever-expanding range of services and resources for thousands of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, poverty, housing or food insecurity. This month, BSM is installing a dynamic and dedicated new leader: Michael J. Dahl.

"I had a desire to start working with the most vulnerable in our community at the grassroots level," says Dahl of what prompted him to make this career shift (he’s former senior vice president of Pew Charitable Trusts, overseeing the Philadelphia program). "It became a personal matter -- where do I think I could have the most impact at this point in my life, in my career? I was looking around for what the next chapter could be."

He was impressed by BSM’s model and services. He went and volunteered, and participating himself is what confirmed his desire to get involved.

A Stanford alum, Dahl is taking over for BSM founder Rev. Bill Golderer, who left the organization last November to seek a seat in U.S. Congress (Golderer will remain on the BSM Board of Directors through the transition).

Before his 15 years with Pew -- which encompassed planning, public policy, fundraising, evaluation, research, finance and legal affairs -- Dahl had a hand in two successful business startups spanning strategic advisory, and insurance and financial services software. He was also an economic, tax and policy advisor to Senator Bill Bradley.

Dahl argues that it’s become far too easy for us as a society to "dehumanize" entire populations. He appreciates BSM’s rigorous approach not only to programming (including offerings as diverse as art classes and mail service for people without homes), but to evaluating and strengthening its approach.

"I come from the model that if ain’t broke, fix it," he says of applying ongoing, measurement-based improvements. "How can we do a better job of helping these people, people who are facing hunger or housing insecurity? Can we help them find their way to reclaim their lives and become more productive citizens?"

Dahl especially appreciates the existing Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative, "but I think the real upside is once you gain the trust, what are the fleet of services and supports that can be provided that truly let these people move back into society?" He’s also a fan of BSM's inclusivity as a faith-based organization that’s "open to all faiths, and people of no faith."

Dahl will officially start as BSM’s new executive director on June 13.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael J. Dahl, Broad Street Ministry 

Philadelphia Public History Truck brings 'a houseless museum' to Asian Arts Initiative

How do you get local history out of the museum and into the neighborhood? For about three years, Erin Bernard -- founder of the Philadelphia Public History Truck (PPHT) -- has been exploring the answers: "I had this intention to create projects with people in Philadelphia neighborhoods, as opposed to for them at a museum," she says. 

A traveling oral history and research repository, block party instigator, and capsule of local culture, PPHT and its newest off-road installation are coming soon to the Pearl Street storefront at Asian Arts Initiative (our former On the Ground Home). 

The Temple grad first got the idea for PPHT -- which Bernard calls a culmination of her degrees in journalism and history, her work in nonprofit public relations, and a lot of strolling past food trucks -- back in spring 2013. She approached community groups with her plan. The East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA) proved an enthusiastic early partner; former EKNA president Jeff Carpineta even donated a truck.

PPHT is now on the cusp of completing its third year-long neighborhood cycle -- Kensington, then North Philadelphia, and most recently Chinatown North/Callowhill. Its next project in the Fairhill neighborhood (in partnership with Taller Puertorriqueño) is now getting started.

Each of the truck’s "exhibit cycles" has nine parts, beginning with a neighborhood association partnership, growing into oral history interviews, a storytelling and "neighborhood object"-themed block party, archival research, community art happenings, a temporary exhibit in a neighborhood building, and then a compression of the exhibit back into the truck, to bring the stories to other neighborhoods.

At Asian Arts June 3 through 25, PPHT’s will present, "A Houseless Museum: Home and Displacement Around the Vine Street Expressway." Bernard volunteered at the nearby Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and part of the History Truck’s mission in that neighborhood became researching how to best serve "a transient community."

The exhibit, which features stories from the neighborhood’s homeless community, will have a cabinet with supplies like socks, t-shirts and dry shampoo for those who need them. There will also be a TV installation playing the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation-provided documentary "Save Chinatown," detailing the demolition wrought by construction of the Vine Street Expressway. There will be artwork by Pew fellow and Chinatown North resident Leroy Johnson, and "archival reproductions and text, and space for people to explore actual historical documents," says Bernard.

The show also incorporates work from Bernard’s graduate students in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design program at University of the Arts, as well as local high school students they mentored.

"I’ve found working in this neighborhood extremely difficult, compared to the work in Kensington and North Philadelphia," explains Bernard of her stint in Callowhill/Chinatown North. "It’s a very transitional community…That’s part of the story."

Not all of the neighborhood’s community groups agree on the way forward when it comes to development, including projects like the Reading Viaduct rail park project.

"There are a lot of serious issues of contention as to who owns the space," she explains. "I think that’s part of the reason it’s been challenging to have a history truck here, but it’s always good to learn something new."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Erin Bernard, the Philadelphia Public History Truck


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

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.
 

On the Ground: What does a longtime local print paper mean to Southwest Philadelphia?

Soon Flying Kite will be landing in the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Kingsessing for our On the Ground program, and we’re starting things off by connecting with a publication that’s been on the ground there for a long time: since 1946, to be exact.

The Southwest Globe Times was the inaugural publication of Joseph Bartash's Bartash Printing (a company legacy that continues in Southwest Philly today thanks to Bartash’s son-in-law Sidney Simon and Simon’s son Michael).

From the beginning, the Globe Times focused determinedly on disseminating good news throughout the community. It hit a peak circulation of about 30,000 homes in the 1950s. Bartash, who went on to publish several other community papers, retained the Globe Times for the longest. He ceased publishing it in 2002 and died in 2007 at the age of 93.

"There was a two-year hiatus while various people in the community tried to start it up again," says Ted Behr, a Southwest Community Development Corporation volunteer who manages the Globe Times’s new incarnation. In 2004, Bartash agreed to sell the name to the CDC on the merits of "their unique characteristics as a nonprofit working within the community for its general well-being."

The paper re-appeared in 2005; to this day, Bartash is listed on the masthead as publisher emeritus. The Globe comes out in print and online on the first and third Friday of every month.

"We characterize ourselves as the good news newspaper because we try to only publish the positive activities of people," explains Behr. Southwest Philly "has more than its share of negative [news]. We counterbalance that with stories about people and groups doing things to improve the quality of life here."

Behr is a North Jersey native who moved to Wayne in 1971 after an international career in the pharmaceutical business that also included 16 years of teaching business courses at Eastern University and Beijing University.

He’s a member of Wayne Presbyterian Church and its non-profit community service arm CityLights, which partners with groups in Southwest Philadelphia, and that’s how he began working with Southwest CDC.

"I see my work with the paper as a calling," he says. Globe Times stories typically focus on figures like effective block captains, "outstanding teachers," and neighborhood leaders.

Block captains are integral to the paper’s circulation: For the last four years, they’ve volunteered for door-to-door delivery of about half the paper’s print copies. Other copies are picked up by the public at locations like the ShopRite grocery store in Eastwick -- it's the paper’s largest distribution point, with over 700 copies departing the rack there.

Even in 2016, a hyperlocal print paper is important, argues Behr. When the newspaper re-launched a decade ago, fewer than 15 percent of Southwest Philly homes had internet access. Today, he estimates that percentage has doubled, but there’s still a massive digital divide for many residents.

Southwest CDC is currently working with the 12th Police District and the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee to increase circulation and delivery of the paper. The publication is partly supported by ads from local businesses, but still operates at a loss of about 20 percent a year, a gap that donors at Wayne Presbyterian fill.

"We like to feel that our readers take ownership of ideas behind the paper," says Behr. "There are good people working in Southwest Philadelphia to make the community better. Dedicated public servants; dedicated people from block to block. We feel that’s what life is all about… We believe that our young people and our elderly people need a positive vision for the future."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ted Behr, the Southwest Globe Times


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

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.

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

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

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 

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.

KIZ tax credits expand east to booming Old City startup scene


Old City just got a major boost with the expansion of the University City Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) across the Schuylkill River and all the way to Front Street -- that means some major new tax credits for the neighborhood’s burgeoning tech sector.

Old City-based Arcweb Technologies hosted the March 23 announcement, with featured remarks from University City Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang, Arcweb CEO Chris Cera, and Mayor Jim Kenney.

If you go into a coffee shop near North 3rd Street in Old City -- or as it’s affectionately known, "N3rd Street" -- and "grab somebody that’s sitting there, most likely they’re a technology worker," said Cera. "I don’t think that’s found anywhere else in Philadelphia."

And he went further than that: "My 10-year outlook…is that this is going to be the tech center of Philadelphia, here in Old City."

Expanding that University City KIZ should contribute to that growth, which Tang called "a pivotal moment in our city’s transformation from a manufacturing economy to an innovation economy."

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell instituted the KIZ program "to spur entrepreneurial activity," Tang explained. There are 29 KIZs across the state and three within the City of Philadelphia: the large BioLaunch 611+ zone that spreads north of Lancaster and Girard Avenues and I-95; the Navy Yard KIZ, and the newly expanded University City KIZ.

A KIZ is a special district that offers tax incentives to eligible for-profit companies in the life sciences and technology sectors. The program offers a statewide pool of $25 million toward the credits. An approved KIZ company (applications must be submitted by September 15 of each year) can claim a tax credit equal to 50 percent of its increase in gross revenues in the most recent taxable year over the revenue from the preceding year, earned within the KIZ. This tax credit is capped at $100,000, and for companies whose credit exceeds their tax liability, the credit is saleable for up to $0.90 on the dollar.

In the last decade, 48 early-stage tech and life science companies in the University City KIZ have received almost $8 million in tax credits, with 21 companies nabbing close to $2 million just last year. Now this benefit will extend all the way across the heart of Center City and into Old City.

(For a look at one University City company reaping the KIZ benefit, check out our profile of Graphene Frontiers, working towards big changes in medical diagnostics.)

"As a result of these tax credits, startups are retaining jobs, hiring new employees and developing new products," said Tang. "Not only are KIZ tax credits being invested in our local economy, but they’re also strengthening Philadelphia’s innovation ecosystem."

"It’s very exciting to see what’s happening in Old City," added Mayor Kenney. "The expansion of this [KIZ] will help propel that even faster and further than it has in other parts of the city."

Arcweb is just one company standing to benefit from the change.

"I didn’t want to have a tax credit make me move across town, from people and a place that we call home," said Cera. "I’m glad that we chose to stay and invest here."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: University City KIZ expansion launch speakers
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