is a native Philadelphian
who lives and writes
in Abington Township
There used to be a billboard at North Philadelphia's old Connie Mack Stadium advertising Tastykakes. The rectangular space adorning the outfield wall represented cooperation between neighboring icons: Tasty Baking Co. was housed on nearby Hunting Park Avenue in what then was a thriving commercial area.
Thirty-seven years ago, the Phillies relocated six miles down Broad Street in South Philadelphia, finding a more profitable climate in which to conduct their brand of commerce. Now, Tasty Baking has announced it will follow that same C bus route even farther south, to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The move deserves applause on a couple of fronts.
Tasty Baking's headquarters and plant have been housed in an antiquated - albeit charming and iconic - 85-year-old building. The flow of its ingredients goes through plumbing whose efficiency is compromised by the very logistics of the multistory structure.
Tasty Baking could have carried its pies outside the city - to fresher pastures replete with a better tax environment. But the existence of the Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone in the Navy Yard and its potential for a long-term tax exemption was a great lure.
On the surface, the tax exemption is nothing more than a corporate welfare pie at its finest. But slice through its crust, and one sees that 1,100 workers of Tasty Baking will continue to earn their incomes and pay their taxes within city limits.
A couple of years ago, a more recent Philadelphia icon - Comcast Corp. - considered relocating outside the city. Tax breaks - yes, a scandalous-sounding offering to a mega-profitable company - kept it and its thousands of job holders in the heart of the city. That heart will soon see completed its biggest chamber: Comcast's new skyscraper.
No, rich companies getting richer is not a romantic notion. But neither is the loss of thousands of workers who spend their money and pay their taxes in the city. In the end, they matter most.
The romance of a faded era is always present. The Hunting Park Avenue corridor, which used to contain the Budd Co., Baldwin Locomotive and countless others will now have Pep Boys as its sole major business. But other, smaller entities are springing up in their stead. It is part of the ebb and flow of life.
The Navy Yard is emblematic of that ebb and flow, with the former military land now occupied by such companies as Urban Outfitters Inc., AppTec Laboratories Services Inc., and Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. The area, like others so designated with tax advantages, will continue to grow.
In the recently released German movie The Lives of Others, a repressive environment thwarts creativity and stifles hope. Artists whose hands were tied by provincial thinking are unable to make art.
Philadelphia has been fighting a repression of its own making - that of short-sightedness and an inability to reinvent - for far too long. Now, the ability to consider that which had not been considered - in this case, the tax abatement - is producing a brighter big picture.