MAYOR Nutter's recent op-ed piece,

"Philly's Science Boost,"

rightfully takes great pride in the achievements of Philadelphia's research community.

But it also inadvertently reveals a missing element in the city's economic-development strategy.

The fact is, research activity is responsible for hiring relatively few people, and most of those are at the highest level of academic accomplishment.

It matters little to most Philadelphians whether a product is discovered here or not, eventually they will have the benefits of it, whatever it is.

On the other hand, if a product discovered here is also manufactured here, that could matter a great deal to Philadelphians. Manufacturing products, even high-tech ones, generally doesn't require elite skills, employs more people and - most importantly - puts Philadelphians in line for a second round of jobs that stem from the product improvements that result, in large part, from the experience gained in the manufacture of the initial product.

Unfortunately, local public policy does little to ensure that products discovered within the city limits are also produced here. Similarly, the city does little to link those working on those discoveries to programs that try to keep, or make, those discoverers city residents.

As we all face stiff local tax increases to deal with the city's current budget woes, the real question facing city residents is not what do we do now - there are few good choices in the short term - but rather how will this problem be solved in the years to come.

If the answer is not simply a return to flipping overpriced real estate to each other, then the answer must be using our competitive advantages in ways that maximize job opportunities and capture more of the region's middle-class residents. We are not there yet, but we could be.

Dan Hoffman