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Philly Fed changes business advisory panel

The local Federal Reserve bank expanded the panel made up of area businesspeople to make it more representative of the area.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has created an Economic Advisory Council to replace its long-standing Business Council.

The big difference seems to be the size. With four more members, the new 14-person council draws from the tourism, health-care, retail and food industries, as well as organized labor and the academic world.

Its role is to advise Federal Reserve officials on what its members are experiencing in their businesses and industries.

As spokeswoman Katherine Dibling put it, the members provide "grass-roots information" to Fed researchers who have an analytic view of how the world works. "These people are in the salt mines," she said, of the panel members.

Table-salt, rather than road salt, I would think.

Still it's got to be refreshing for someone who does regression analysis all day to hear from a guy like Mark Wagner, CEO of a livestock and poultry feed manufacturer in Elizabethtown, Pa., about how business is going down on the farm.

Or talking soup (and crackers) with Kelly D. Johnston, vice president of government affairs for Campbell Soup Co.

Or swapping home-improvement tales with Lewes, Del. builder Christopher Schell and Edward Coryell, business manager of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters.

Since six members of the Economic Advisory Council served on the previous panel, this is change is hardly an extreme makeover.

But the Fed says the new council is more representative of the Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware region.

And I'm afraid that's true. On this panel, there are no life-sciences or new-media companies, and only one firm could be considered tech (Oki Data Americas Inc. in Mount Laurel).

Philadelphia has a diverse economy with a heavier reliance on health-care services and education than most other regions. Slow and steady sectors.

The Fed's new panel is not designed keep up with the latest business fad. Rather its makeup says quite a bit about what goes on in this part of the country.