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MilkCrate, a Yelp for local sustainable living, launches on Indiegogo

Morgan Berman was living in West Philadelphia when she experienced what she calls her "first burst of sustainability consciousness," and began attempting to live a life that was aligned with her newfound values.

She joined a neighborhood food co-op, took a job as Grid magazine's director for community engagement, and slowly became more involved in the local sustainability scene.
"But there wasn't a central hub where I could go and understand what sustainability means," recalls Berman. "It didn't feel like anyone had quite created the tool that people need to answer their quick questions about [sustainable living]."
Berman's new app for Android and iOS, MilkCrate, aims to fill that void -- initially here in Philadelphia, and if the app takes off, nationally.
Described by its nine-person team as a digital hub for sustainability, MilkCrate currently exists as a database-style listings service -- not unlike Yelp -- with a collection of more than 1,600 Philly-area businesses that operate sustainably and promote economically responsible practices.

"Everything from fashion to food to furniture [to] energy," explains Berman in a video created for the app's current crowdfunding campaign. "Anything you could possibly want that fits into your local, sustainable lifestyle."   
At the moment, MilkCrate-approved businesses are organized in both listings and map layouts. But with the infusion of the $20,000 Berman hopes to raise through an Indiegogo campaign (launched on August 25), users will be able to write reviews, add news businesses, and search by keyword and neighborhood.      
Perks for campaign funders include MilkCrate T-shirts and tickets to the app's upcoming launch party. Click here to donate. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians receives $692K to establish high-skilled immigrants

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians -- an organization that helps recent immigrants with job-placement assistance and English-language classes, among other services -- has received $692,000 from the Knight Foundation and The Barra Foundation to launch the Immigrant Professionals Career Pathways Program.
According to Welcoming Center Director of Outreach Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, the new program represents a sea change for the nonprofit, which was founded 11 years ago by a physical therapist who had immigrated to Pennsylvania from Ireland. Incredibly, it took her three full years to become professionally relicensed in the Keystone State.   
And so while The Welcoming Center was technically launched to help immigrants who have legal work authorization find jobs of any sort, "it's always been a dream of ours to not just serve people looking for their first American job," explains Bergson-Shilcock, "but people who are looking to rejoin their profession in the U.S."  
"It's one thing to get your foot in the door [as a recent immigrant] and be working for $9 or $10 an hour," she adds. "It's another thing to get your first professional job with a white collar salary."
With that philosophy in mind, The Center's new program will work not only to help immigrant professionals reestablish their industry credentials in Pennsylvania. It will also offer them a range of new services that Bergson-Shilcock likens to an a la carte menu for striving newcomers. Test-prep classes for licensing exams will probably be an option. Immigrants who need assistance having their university transcripts transferred to Pennsylvania schools will also find help through the program.
Ultimately, "[the] program is really about giving people the tools they need to fill in whatever gaps they have, so they can transition to a professional-level career," says Bergson-Shilcock. "That's the mission."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

Two new Philadelphia government and academic initiatives support innovation agenda

Two new Philadelphia initiatives are underway, with related missions for supporting the city’s rapidly expanding innovation ecosystem, entrepreneurship and business development.

The City of Philadelphia's new Innovation Lab is a state-of-the-art 1,600-square-foot space modeled after the research-and-development and co-working facilities found in the private sector and academia. The lab, which overlooks City Hall, provides a central space and technology resources to host classes, meetings, workshops, hackathons and more; it will hopefully encourage collegiality, innovating thinking and creative problem solving in an atmosphere new to City government.

"The Innovation Lab serves as an important symbol to all stakeholders that we are truly in the innovation business," says City Managing Director Richard Negrin, whose office initiated and oversees the lab as part of a larger emphasis on innovation.

Meanwhile, a few miles away in West Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania has launched its Penn Center for Innovation, a new initiative to provide the infrastructure, leadership and resources needed to transfer promising Penn-developed research, inventions and technologies into the marketplace. 

"Most major universities have technology transfer practices that focus predominantly on patenting and licensing," says John Swartley, the new center’s executive director and Penn’s associate vice provost for research. "As we have become more involved in advancing technologies into the development sphere, we’ve also started to engage more and more in complementary activities such as new venture creation and corporate partnering around collaboratively sponsored research projects. What we’ve decided to do at Penn is to combine all those activities into a single organization -- to be a one-stop shop for our faculty, staff and students as well as members of the private sector."

Source: Philadelphia Office of the Managing Director and the University of Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

Mural Arts unveils Shepard Fairey mural in Fishtown

In yet another powerful indication of the City of Philadelphia's extraordinary commitment to public art, Mural Arts recently unveiled a new piece by a world famous artist.

On Friday, August 8, Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden appeared in a vacant lot near the corner of Frankford and East Girard Avenues in Fishtown with the iconic street artist Shepard Fairey, who earned widespread recognition after creating the Barack Obama "Hope" poster during the 2008 presidential campaign. The occasion was the dedication of an enormous Fairey mural, titled Lotus Diamond, commissioned by Mural Arts and brought to life over the course of just three days.
By far the largest Fairey piece in the city, the 29-foot-square Lotus Diamond can now be seen on the side of 1228 Frankford Avenue, a currently unused structure that may eventually become a 125-room boutique hotel, according to its owner, Roland Kassis of Domani Developers.  
Kassis, who's been responsible for a number of recent developments in Fishtown and Northern Liberties, suggested that more wall-sized works of public art may make appearances in the neighborhood sometime soon.

"We're gonna keep on going from here," he says, referring to the momentum generated by Fairey's mural. "We have a lot of walls. We want artists to come."   
According to Golden, more large-scale work from Fairey himself will be appearing locally at some point in the near future. Mural Arts has already commissioned the artist "to do two other projects in the City of Philadelphia that are hugely exciting."
"We're called the Mural Arts Program," sais Golden during her dedication speech, "but [we're] really [about] community-based public art. [Mural Arts] is about tapping into that creative spirit and putting it to work on behalf of citizens everywhere. And that's really what makes our hearts sing."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jane Golden, Mural Arts Program


Germantown United CDC hiring its first commercial corridor manager

In a neighborhood as historic as Philadelphia's Germantown, the Germantown United CDC (GUCDC) is an anomaly: The organization isn't yet three years old.
When it formed in late 2011, the community was still reeling from allegations of severe mismanagement on the part of Germantown Settlement, a social services agency. During its formative months, Germantown United's main goal involved becoming known as a trusted and transparent community partner.
To a large degree, that goal has been accomplished. GUCDC regularly hosts well-attended events and forums, and recently undertook a business district tree-planting campaign.
Now, according to Executive Director Andrew Trackman, the organization is hiring its first commercial corridor manager. The position's first-year salary will be covered as part of a reimbursable $75,000 grant from the Commerce Department.
The corridor manager's responsibilities will mainly involve working as a liaison to the business and property owners of the Germantown and Chelten Avenue business districts. They might listen to retailers' complaints, for instance, or help them apply for development grants such as the Commerce Department's Storefront Improvement Program (SIP).    
"We're looking for this corridor manager to be kind of a defacto business association head," explains Trackman. The new employee will also be heavily involved in business corridor cleanup efforts in coordination with the Germantown Special Services District.
"[Local businesses] need help with capacity and technical assistance," he adds. "We're just trying to improve the overall business climate of the district."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Andrew Trackman, Germantown United CDC

A crime-watch app emerges from Temple's Urban Apps and Maps Studios

Temple University's summertime app-developing program for underserved and minority students, the Urban Maps and Apps Studios, has been active for three seasons now.

The university-wide initiative kicked off in 2012 as part of the school's bitS (Building Information Technology Skills) program, which aims to "engage high school students to examine the communities where they live," according to its website, and to teach those students technology skills that can be applied to problems in their own neighborhoods.
Inside the Urban Apps and Maps Studios, students spend six weeks studying digital design and software application development. The ultimate goal? Design apps that will help tackle community challenges.
One team of 11 students involved in the 2014 summer program has created such an application. Known as Gotcha, the mobile crime-watch app allows users to anonymously post the details of petty neighborhood crimes such as shoplifting, without involving authorities.

Thanks to funding from the Knight Foundation, which will bring a portion of the Gotcha team back during the upcoming academic year to continue its work, the app may eventually become available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

"There's a big gap of content that's related to -- and designed by -- the very youth that [Urban Apps and Maps] engages," says Temple's Michele Masucci. "And so part of what we're trying to do is to take one of the largest blocks of digital content consumers and turn them into digital content producers." 

"[Apps & Maps] is something the kids really love," she adds. "It's a technology they can carry with them into their futures, whether they decide to go to school, or to take more of an entrepreneurial turn. We're trying to address the interest and need that the students have."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Michele Masucci, Temple University

A design challenge brings nation's first mental health screening kiosk to Philadelphia

Many people have had the experience of killing time at a neighborhood pharmacy by checking their vitals at a blood pressure kiosk. But now, at a QCare clinic located inside an East Falls grocery store, customers can take advantage of the very first kiosk in the nation screening exclusively for behavioral and mental health issues.
The kiosk was the result of an annual design challenge organized by the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, a local philanthropic group that works to change how behavioral healthcare is practiced in the Greater Philadelphia area. In 2013, the Foundation's design challenge addressed the stigma of mental health conditions on college campuses. 

Also known as convenient care clinics, the popularity of retail clinics within pharmacies has grown exponentially in recent years. Some experts estimate that as many as 3,000 such clinics will exist nationwide by 2015. And yet nearly all currently exist without the infrastructure to deal with mental health issues.  
The Scattergood Foundation hopes to alter that by bringing its kiosk to other retail clinics in the future. In the meantime, Philadelphians can access the iPad-powered stand at QCare's 2800 Fox Street location, inside ShopRite.   
Gregory Caplan, a foundation project manager, points out that while the results generated from the kiosk don't represent a formal diagnosis, anyone who completes the screening -- the process takes just a minute or two -- will be offered a list of specific mental health resources. To experience the screening online, click here
"The main point [of the kiosk] is to get people to realize that mental health is just as important as physical health," explains Teresa Moore, who also worked on the project.  
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Sources: Gregory Caplan and Teresa Moore, Thomas Scattergood Foundation 


Partial schedule announced for November's 13th annual First Person Arts Festival

It's hard to believe, but Philadelphia's First Person Arts Festival -- a twelve-day-long theater gala known as "the only festival in the world dedicated to memoir and documentary art" -- is about to enter its thirteenth year.
The festival will run November 4 through 15 at four separate venues throughout the city; a portion of the schedule was released last week. The true-life stories shared onstage will come not just from prominent local performers, but also from a number of bold-name celebrities.
Actor Kathryn Erbe of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, for instance, will take part in an onstage reading of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day’s Journey into Night," culminating in a frank audience discussion of themes germane to the play's content. Yowei Shaw, who produces the year-old FPA podcast, will present a live performance. The Obie Award-winning playwright Dael Orlandersmith will stage a reading of her recent memoir, and celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson will host a dinner featuring recipes from his latest cookbook.

In short, as FPA executive director Jamie Brunson puts it, "There’s no other festival out there quite like it."
When Vicki Solot founded FPA in 2000, "she saw the rising interest in memoir and documentary art as a way to foster appreciation among diverse communities for our shared experiences," explains Brunson. Throughout FPA's history, "the festival has always had [a sense of] consciousness about it," she adds.
Visit the FPA website for scheduling updates -- Brunson promises a few surprises as the festival date draws nearer -- and to purchase tickets once they become available.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jamie J. Brunson, First Person Arts

Replica Creative hosts early-morning lecture series with an artistic bent

In mid-May, Flying Kite brought you the story of Creative Mornings, a wildly popular breakfast lecture series that had finally launched a Philadelphia chapter. (The most recent event featured a talk by The Heads of State, a local design team.)

Now comes news that Creative Cafe at Replica, a print and design firm/coffee shop in University City, has teamed up with Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) to offer an early-morning monthly lecture series of its own.

Known as the Creative Cafe Coffee Chats, the events run from 8 - 9 a.m. on the last Monday of each month, and feature five-minute "flash talks" from four presenters. Twenty minutes of intimate conversation follow the talks. And because attendance at each event is capped at just 15 people, the hope is that attendees will walk away with the feeling that they've genuinely learned something new.
Not unlike Creative Mornings, each Coffee Chat is organized around a specific theme. June's inaugural event, for instance, took a look at the state of the creative economy in Philadelphia, and featured speakers including CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia founder Thaddeus Squire and Erica Hawthorne of Small But Mighty Arts, a micro-grant program for early-career artists.  
According to Mike Kaiser of YIP, an all-volunteer group that works to engage young professionals locally, the emphasis of each lecture will revolve around issues and topics that are relevant to Philadelphians today.
"The hope is that this inspires new ideas or a new connection for people," he says. "And that they can leave the event feeling excited as they walk into their day."
Tickets for each Creative Cafe Coffee Chat are $6.25; they can be purchased online.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Mike Kaiser, Young Involved Philadelphia

Calling Local Artists: Frankford Avenue First Friday Fracas wants your work

In the riverward districts of Fishtown and Kensington, Frankford Avenue First Friday events have been showcasing the area's increasingly extensive creative output for some years. And it's not just the boulevard's art galleries, but also its cafes, eateries and boutiques.
According to Joanna Winchester of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), that creative and economic energy has been steadily inching its way northward along Frankford Avenue over the past few years.

"We've been wanting to put a highlight on some of the newer businesses that are coming in on the northern side of avenue," she says.
At the same time, NKCDC has been keen for local artists to become more involved with the avenue's monthly First Friday events. In an effort to satisfy both those goals, a new-and-improved event was born: the Frankford Avenue First Friday Fracas, which Winchester describes as a fairly typical "art stroll-style event, but with a really energetic twist to it."
On September 5 from 6 to 10 p.m., Frankford Avenue between Susquehanna and Cumberland will be closed to traffic for the street party. "We're hoping to have performers, and food trucks, and artists selling their wares," adds Winchester.
NKCDC is currently soliciting applications from artists who may want to perform or sell their work at the Fracas. And while priority will be given to those from the 19125 and 19134 ZIP codes, anyone is welcome to apply, as long as they meet the August 20 submission deadline.

Applications can be found online at NKCDC.org and FrankfordAveArts.org

Joanna Winchester, NKCDC
Writer: Dan Eldridge

It's Official: Philly is more popular than ever with international visitors

Philadelphia has been one of the country's top travel and tourism destinations for decades. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), which has been marketing the city's bona fides for more than a decade, we've got the credentialed travel statistics to back up our bragging rights.
Philadelphia was recently named the 13th most visited U.S. city by international visitors by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI), which ranks oversees travel statistics annually. According to Danielle Cohn of the PHLCVB, that ranking represents a 13 percent increase over the previous year (when Philadelphia came in 14th).
Those rankings have been tracked locally by the Convention & Visitors Bureau ever since 2002, says Cohn, when Philadelphia was only the country's 21st most visited city among international visitors. It was roughly eight years later, in 2008, when those numbers first began showing a significant increase.
"The momentum we continue to see is really based on new and innovative sales and marketing initiatives that our team has in place," explains Cohn.
One of those initiatives is a new international marketing campaign, "PHL: Here For The Making," which emphasizes the city's business and educational opportunities. And along with reps located in target markets throughout Western Europe, the CVB has lately been paying especially close attention to the emerging BRIC markets.
"I think a lot of times people forget that we're traveling around the world promoting Philadelphia because they don't see it here in their backyard," says Cohn. "But it's a very important part of the city's future."    
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Danielle Cohn, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau 

Cooper's Ferry Partnership wins ArtPlace America grant to expand its Camden Night Gardens initiative

Cooper's Ferry Partnership, an organization that has been working for years to revitalize the city of Camden, was recently awarded a $475,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a group that supports creative placemaking efforts across the country.
According to Cooper's Ferry COO Joe Myers, it was largely the success of last April's Camden Night Gardens initiative -- a multi-disciplinary art festival held at the defunct Riverfront State Prison in North Camden -- that led to the grant.   
"We applied to ArtPlace with the idea of creating [a number of] smaller Camden Night Gardens events," explains Myers. The original event, which attracted roughly 3,000 attendees to the 15-acre former prison site and featured BMX riders and a Camden drill team along with art and music performances, created significant buzz throughout the community. "We wanted to use that as a kind of model to do [similar events] in smaller locations."
Those smaller events will take place somewhere within the North Camden and Cooper-Grant neighborhoods, which were most recently considered for redevelopment in 2008, when Cooper's Ferry released its North Camden Neighborhood and Waterfront Park Plan.
And while Myers says the future events might be similar in style to the original Camden Night Gardens, Cooper's Ferry plans to first spend the next four months consulting with the North Camden community.They hope to learn what local residents liked about the Night Garden, for instance, and get suggestions about underutilized sites that could be repurposed for events.  
Assuming that phase wraps up this fall, "I would hope we would begin the process of laying out new dates for these events," says Myers, "and having a conceptual idea of what they would specifically be."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Joe Myers, Cooper's Ferry Partnership

Get psyched for the 2014 Philadelphia Geek Awards

The nominees for the fourth annual Philadelphia Geek Awards have officially been announced -- there are 38 of them, spread across more than a dozen categories.
And at precisely 8 p.m. on the evening of August 16, the show will commence at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Roughly 400 audience members will be introduced to some of the city's most inspirational and unusual passion projects, many of the extremely geeky sort: comic books, mobile video games, YouTube videos, and odd art and science projects, to name a few.
Come evening's end, one of three nominees will be crowned Philadelphia's Geek of the Year, an honor that in 2013 went to Dan Ueda, who ran the robotics program at Central High School .
All told, the upcoming 2014 Geek Awards are shaping up to be the ultimate celebration of an obsessive subculture that has grown exponentially.

"It isn't really a subculture anymore," says Drexel's Jill Sybesma, the event's organizer. "It's just culture."
The Geek Awards began back in 2011 when Geekadelphia co-founders Eric Smith and Tim Quirino approached Sybesma with the idea to create an award that would match their geeky site. 

"The city really didn't have anything that encompassed all its geeky projects," she recalls.

Indeed, many of this year's nominees are not bold-faced names from the science or tech scenes. The creators of an enormous Rube Goldberg machine, for instance, are up for a 2014 award, as is an artist who creates and installs fake street signs.  
"We say that it doesn't matter what you're geeky about," Sybesma explains. "Just that there's more people doing this now."
Tickets go on sale August 1 at phillygeekawards.com.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jill Sybesma, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Federal Donuts crew hopes to use leftovers for good

Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov, partners in the ever-expanding Federal Donuts empire, are looking to transform all that leftover chicken into soup, and that soup into meals for the hungry. They have turned to Kickstarter to fund Rooster Soup Co., an innovative new restaurant venture.

According to a story in the Philadelphia City Paper, when the pair opened their first chicken-and-donuts spot in Pennsport (they are also partners in the upscale Israeli eatery Zahav and Percy Street Barbecue), they were frying 15 chickens per day. Now they're going through up to 1,500 across five locations, including one at Citizens Bank Park. 

That leaves them with a lot of Amish-raised, Indiana-bred, free-range, antibiotic-free chicken backs and necks -- the perfect thing to make soup.

Now they have teamed up with pastor Bill Golderer of Broad Street Ministries to kill two birds with one stone, if you will. The plan is to open a Center City restaurant serving chicken soup made using the stock from those leftover parts. The innovative part is the business model: Rooster Soup Co. will be a nonprofit restaurant with the proceeds benefiting Broad Street Ministries' hospitality services. 

Click here to check out their Kickstarter campaign; they've already raised over $114,000 as of this writing.

In other news, Federal Donuts is currently scouting locations in Washington, D.C.

Writer: Lee Stabert

Pennsylvania wins a Silver Shovel Award for the second year in a row

For the second time in two years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been honored with a Silver Shovel Award from Area Development magazine, a site selection trade publication that annually recognizes the most economically significantly industrial development projects in the nation.
Two of the 10 Pennsylvania-based projects recognized this year are located in the state's southeastern corner.
Included in the magazine's 2014 list was the upcoming expansion of Urban Outfitters' corporate headquarters in South Philadelphia's Navy Yard and the direct-to-consumer fulfillment center the company is developing in the Lancaster County town of Gap.
Along with the 2,500 jobs those two projects will create -- 2,000 of them in Philadelphia -- the capital investment outlay from Urban Outfitters is expected to exceed $200,000,000.     
Also recognized were two new development projects from Axalta, a liquid and powder coatings enterprise. The company broke ground on a new manufacturing facility in Glen Mills and recently moved into a new global headquarters building in Center City. An investment of approximately $11,000,000 and 332 new jobs are the expected results of those projects.
According to Steven Kratz of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Governor Corbett's office is especially pleased that a total of 11 different counties are represented in the 10 industrial and commercial development projects that led to the state's Silver Shovel Award.

"That shows that it's not just one area of Pennsylvania that's seeing growth," he says. "But really, at the end of the day, this means our economy is growing and it means new jobs are being created. And that's more significant than any award."
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Steven Kratz, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
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