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Philadelphia: The Next Major Innovation Hub

Posted September 18, 2017 By Daniel Broderick

Philadelphia may be just as rich in early American history as Boston and New York City, with equally passionate sports fans, but the City of Brotherly Love has a vibrant personality and culture distinctly its own.

Through its soul music and cheesesteaks, the Rocky underdog spirit can be felt from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art all the way to the Liberty Bell. While the city currently doesn’t employ the same number of “company heavyweights” that Manhattan and San Francisco do, the startup scene in Philadelphia is growing fast – quickly becoming a destination that companies are getting excited about. Amazon may even consider a second headquarters there.

What’s going on in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia has traditionally been known as an “eds and meds” town due to its huge network of renowned universities and hospitals. A remarkable 38 percent of the city’s workforce is employed in these fields. In addition to the abundance of talent in the health industry, more than 340,000 students — the fifth-most in the country — are enrolled in University of Pennsylvania, La Salle, Temple, Drexel, and other local colleges and universities.

But the deep talent pool of bright, driven minds and experienced professionals isn’t just limited to the Life Sciences industries or Philadelphia proper. There are 14 Fortune 500 companies stationed in the region, which includes the suburbs of Pennsylvania and Camden, plus New Jersey. Next-door neighbor Delaware provides a pipeline to the corporate-friendly financial sector in Wilmington and engineering talent at University of Delaware. Talent commuting from the nearby suburbs have the reliable Septa and New Jersey Transit trains, and New York City and Baltimore are just a two-hour Amtrak ride away.

A burgeoning talent pool

With a lower cost of living when compared to many sister cities as well as robust resources for entrepreneurs, Philadelphia has now begun to climb the lists of best cities for startups and technology companies. The talent pool has been nurtured by a technology community of more than 5,000 members and the Philadelphia Business Journal who’s raised further awareness with their very first list of 50 fastest-growing companies in the area.

The newest startups often come from those who have studied and trained in Philadelphia’s “eds and meds” elite. The “innovation district,” the area from 17th Street in Center City to 44th Street along Market in University City and South along the Schuylkill River is home to very strong research capabilities and funding. According to the Brookings Institution, this district brings in more than $1 billion in federal research dollars and accounts for 74 percent of total research funding in all of Philadelphia.

How flexible work options are supporting local innovation

This growth and innovation needs space to house it, and Philadelphia is responding. The Market Street neighborhood in West Philadelphia alone added more than 160,000 square feet of workspace in 2014-16, more than the most popular neighborhoods in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

In Center City near the Philadelphia Convention Center and Rittenhouse Square, Convene’s CityView venue will soon expand to occupy another floor in the building in early 2018, adding 11 new meeting rooms a suite of private, fully-serviced and flexible workspace options for 2-50 people.

Even firms who have outgrown co-working spaces in nearby towns are reinvesting in Philadelphia by buying buildings in the city to be closer to the action. The definition of collaborative space — from leased desks to dynamic and flexible meeting and event venues — has expanded over the last decade, and Philadelphia is proving to provide not only the talent and infrastructure but also better meeting and work spaces to continue to support the city’s growth and innovation initiatives.


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