Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Business execs warm to Phila.'s business climate

A new survey of local executives finds they feel a lot better about local conditions than the national economy.

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is not just the name of a cable-TV show.

It describes the positive thinking that seems to be catching in the executive suites of Philadelphia-area companies.

A new survey by KPMG LLP shows local executives to be fairly bubbly about their companies' prospects and the city's business climate.

A whopping 90 percent of the 106 senior executives polled said the Nutter administration will have a positive impact on business conditions here.

Given that the survey was conducted in February and March, some of those good feelings could just reflect the honeymoon the new mayor is enjoying.

Jerry Maginnis, managing partner of KPMG's Philadelphia office, said he thinks there's more to it. "It's one thing to be a cheerleader for the city," he said, but Nutter has an ambitious agenda that has kindled a "sense of optimism" that the challenging business environment will change.

You and I could predict that the biggest thing businesses want is lower city taxes. But the KPMG survey also asked businesspeople what they would do to help the city. Forty-eight percent said they would hire summer interns, one of Nutter's pet programs.

In February, the mayor challenged the business community to double its commitment to hire summer interns. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which has been championing the effort, set a goal of 2,000 internships compared with the 1,049 provided by employers in 2007.

Given the downshift in the U.S. economy, I thought it would be really tough to nail that. As of Wednesday, the chamber had identified 1,039 internships, which will start June 30.

Maginnis said KPMG is doing it part, doubling its summer internships this year to four. But its survey makes it clear that the chamber has its work cut out to meet its goal:

Forty-six percent have not hired summer interns in the past, and 29 percent said it would be hard to raise their paid-intern ranks this year.

But maybe next year. The survey indicates that 60 percent of these regional companies expect better company performance a year from now. They say this even though 68 percent think it's likely the United States will slide into recession in the 12 months.

Maginnis noted that dichotomy. One possible explanation is that the Philadelphia economy is such a diverse one with a substantial number of jobs tied to education and medicine — sectors that weather downturns well.

I take every survey with a canister of salt. What people say and what they do are often very different things.

But we've been fairly insulated from the housing market collapse and job destruction being experienced in other areas of the country.

Philadelphia's been a good place to be for these executives. No wonder they see even better times ahead.