It’s a sad day for our community. Recently, leading newspapers in Israel and Britain wrote about the decline of America, and what city did they hold up as Exhibit A?


That’s unacceptable.

And, frankly, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to the thousands of nonprofits and community activists who every day make life just a little bit better for their fellow Philadelphians in need. To the well-intentioned elected officials and public servants who show up for work ready to make a difference. And to the business and civic leaders who strive to make Philadelphia a world-class city and economic center.

So what do we do about this “tale of two cities,” as the Jan. 23 Inquirer editorial called it?

We start building bridges across the divide. We commit to making Philadelphia the model of a 21st century inclusive American city.

What do we mean by “inclusive”? We leave no one behind.

So, for starters, we all get on the same page. Nonprofits and activists. Elected officials and city employees. Business and civic leaders.

The business community must aggressively join the fray in reducing poverty and increasing opportunity. It must work closely with the city and civic organizations, educational institutions, and organized labor. City officials must collaborate with businesses to foster economic growth. It’s not a matter of pro-growth or pro-neighborhoods. Pro-growth is pro-neighborhoods. And we will trust in the people of those neighborhoods to hold us accountable.

Here is a sample of the kind of efforts that are already underway.

  • The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia’s Roadmap for Growth initiative works with employers to train and employ vulnerable populations, including those recovering from addiction, and we partner with a staffing nonprofit to identify employers seeking to hire those who often face barriers to employment.

  • We collaborate with the city Commerce Department and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. to offer workshops for entrepreneurs throughout the city on access to capital, marketing, and legal issues.

  • On Tuesday, we will gather businesses, health-care providers, and substance-abuse experts at Broad Street Ministry to explore ways to better address the opioid crisis.

There are many others — and there is still more to do. But a pro-growth agenda also requires larger initiatives and the chamber will be working on three priorities in coming years.

First, continue the momentum created with the Grow PA project we began in 2017. We will work with business and civic leaders from across the state, and with elected officials in Harrisburg, on a plan to modernize our infrastructure, transform post-secondary education, and accelerate health-care innovation.

Second, capitalize on the world-class health-care assets that make our city and region a center of innovation not just nationally but globally. One example: the collaboration between Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on understanding the human genome to create better treatments.

Third, we repeat a point we made earlier. In a divided and fractured society, our chamber must capitalize on all of our region’s ideas, talents, and resources. We must tear down barriers and build bridges. Bridges that are inclusive of anyone who chooses to walk across and reach for a hand of help. Or a hand of collaboration. Or a hand of creativity that can change our community.

Such bridges can make two cities one, united in prosperity and opportunity. And newspapers around the world will call Philadelphia a beacon of hope.

Dan Hilferty is CEO of Independence Blue Cross and chairman of the board of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.