Mayor Nutter got a taste of life as a suburban commuter Thursday, getting stuck in traffic for a half-hour on his way to Bucks County to discuss the importance of regional partnerships.
"Next year, make it an overnight event, and I'll get a room and be here on time," the mayor joked with about 150 members of the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce at its monthly meeting at the Sheraton Hotel across from the Oxford Valley Mall.
Making his fourth annual appearance, Nutter said, "Infrastructure is about jobs and economic development, and there's a cost for delays" like he experienced – "time is money." But funding for road and bridge repairs and mass transit, after being put on the back burner this year, should improve next year, he said.
The city can give the economy a boost by resuming cuts to the city wage tax in 2014, he said. The tax was frozen this year at 3.5 percent for non-residents and 3.9 percent for residents.
And the expanded Convention Center can attract more tourists to the city and its neighbors, he said.
"The region is tailor-made for tourism, given its history – we don't have to invent or recreate it. Our history is real. To see the Liberty Bell or Valley Forge, you come here."
Regional partnerships "are critically important to the city and the region," Nutter said, "Southeastern Pennsylvania is responsible for 40 percent of the state's economy, yet it receives one-third of the revenue back …. We're the economic engine of the Commonwealth."
The half-hour talk, including answers to questions from the audience, focused on the city's efforts to grow its economy, particularly by improving education. Businesses need a qualified workforce, he said.
"The earnings are different for a high school dropout and a college graduate -- $2 million over a lifetime," the mayor said. "If we increase the education rate, we'll decrease the crime rate."
Chamber members congratulated the mayor on his reelection and praised him for deftly handling the Occupy Philadelphia protesters.
"I met with the leaders and told them they'd find a lot more open space and places to be in Bucks County," Nutter quipped, prompting a hearty laugh from the crowd.
After Nutter left the banquet hall for his ride back to Philadelphia, Kent Lufkin, president and CEO of 3rd Federal Bank, said, "Just his being here reflects the importance of the suburbs. It's just something I think he believes in."