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Bob Turner

“The strength of this region is health care.”

If the face is familiar, it's because cable TV powerhouses such as Bloomberg and CNBC have been turning to Bob Turner regularly for market insight recently.

His Berwyn-based company, which he co-founded in 1990 with his brother, Mark, and one colleague, had $22.2 billion in assets under management as of Sept. 30, including pension funds for the Philadelphia Public Employees' Retirement System, Sheet Metal Workers' Local No. 19, and Thomas Jefferson University.

Bob Turner senior, Bob and Mark's father, was a pipe-fitter for Caterpillar Inc. and a member of the United Auto Workers.

More of the same, which is actually encouraging.

"I feel like it will look like it evolved from where it is currently, and it's actually nicely situated.

"The strength of this region is health care, and the socioeconomic trends favor it. The baby boomers, at 70-plus million, are all getting older. So that's an area where, as strong as the region is now, it will be stronger in 10 years.

"Another area is financial services. It isn't, say, a huge employer - although out our way it is. But it's a very stable unit of our economy. Vanguard at this point is probably the largest mutual-fund complex in the world. You've got SEI, which is just doing extraordinarily well, and Lincoln. Then you have groups like ours.

"As people get older, they save more, invest more. So financial services is an area that could continue to be very supportive of growth in our region.

"This is very minor, but we're also seeing some growth in alternative energy. There's the steel mill in Bucks County that now has Gamesa out of Spain [manufacturing wind turbines]. It's encouraging. We're never going to be Silicon Valley, but the region has to keep its eye on what these newer technologies are.

"Another area that I think could do quite well is tourism. In terms of employment, there's only so many park rangers you could have. But it kind of seals the identity of the region. You know, this was the birthplace of the country, and it's really probably an underexploited aspect of this area. I mean, how many times can you go to Disney World?

"Another real, real strength is the new urbanism concept, where people want to be entertained, go out to eat, and work in concentrated areas. Fuel costs are going to do nothing but promote that, and this new urbanism is really, really going to take hold - big-time. And it plays right into Philadelphia. Cities like Dallas that really don't have downtowns are the ones that are going to struggle.

"So I would say that, even with all the issues that are out there - and we all read the headlines about crime and the budget issues - the region has tremendous assets that can allow it to be more prosperous 10 years out than it is now."

1. Use economic zones to lure and support targeted industries. "Of course, there are limited budgets, but with the budget you have, this is what you've got to focus on," Turner said. "Thank goodness we've got health care and not automotive or financial services and not aerospace. You just have to nurture those the best you possibly can."

2. Rein in malpractice costs for the region's doctors. "I'd say that's the biggest threat to health care," Turner said. "You're going to have doctors get trained at the hospitals here and then leave if this insurance situation doesn't improve. That's probably the linchpin to success with health care."

3. Control crime. "No question. Look at New York. Their tourism is up dramatically because you can walk all over Manhattan and not feel threatened. I'm not sure you can walk all over Philadelphia and feel that way."