A coalition of Philadelphia business leaders and public officials said Friday that they plan to focus on racial equity, job training, and health and safety to revive the regional economy from the harm done by the coronavirus.
A task force organized by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia released a report calling for short-term actions needed to put the region on track for recovery. Those include developing a region-wide testing and contact tracing program, reskilling unemployed workers, and supporting Black and brown businesses by buying their goods and services.
“We reached a realization that once the pandemic passed, we were going to need an accelerated recovery plan to bring our region back,” said David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president at Comcast Corp. and a task force member. “The sad truth is, in the recovery from the 2008-09 recession, Philadelphia lagged the recovery of most other major cities.... We did not want to repeat that.”
The unemployment rate in the region soared to 14.1% in July from 5% in March. Gross domestic product tumbled between 6% and 9%, while consumer spending plummeted nearly 38%, according to the report from the Philadelphia Regional Recharge and Recovery Task Force.
The coalition, representing 160 leaders, announced a few initiatives already underway. One is a “Skills to Succeed” program led by consulting firm Accenture in partnership with nonprofits Philadelphia Works and Graduate Philadelphia. The program aims to give new skills to the city’s workforce in areas such as health technology, entrepreneurship, and information technology, said Nicole Tranchitella, a senior managing director at Accenture.
About 735,000 people in the region had recently lost work or were in vulnerable occupations as of May, said Rob Wonderling, chamber president. The good news is there are about 140,000 vacancies in sectors such as banking, financial services, and technology, he said.
The goal of the initiative is to quickly put vulnerable workers into those occupations, Wonderling added.