How Does Philly Claim Its Place in The Global Economy?

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Philadelphia is getting noticed as a great city. How do we leverage that to improve our position in the global economy?

By Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director at Global Philadelphia Association

Philadelphia has always had a huge amount to offer, but for a long time it has been something of a best-kept secret. We Philadelphians know we have something great going on, but – perhaps due to the strong streak of Quaker diffidence in our culture – we don’t promote ourselves as much as we can.

But you can’t keep a good thing down, and gradually the news has started to spread. Global companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Deloitte, have opened offices here. Immigrants from all over the world come to our communities and make this city their home. Our prestigious universities have built international reputations for research and teaching. Groundbreaking destination marketing campaigns by our tourism organizations – Visit Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau – have attracted more and more people to our region.

Little by little, our reputation has grown as one of America’s great cities, and in recent years, accolades have been coming Philadelphia’s way thick and fast. In 2015, Philadelphia was designated the first World Heritage City in the United States – a place of universal historic and cultural value. Lonely Planet announced Philadelphia as its top US travel destination for 2016. And in 2018, Philadelphia was named GQ’s City of the Year for its political, cultural and social impact across the United States and the world.

How can we build on this incredible momentum, and continue to grow our city’s global visibility? As a proud Philadelphia resident for almost a decade, it is exciting to witness the great progress we’ve made in recent years, but I think there are four ways we can improve our position in the global economy.

First of all, we need to spread awareness in our communities of Philadelphia’s growing reputation, and develop promotional messaging for our city that all residents can believe in. Steps are already being taken towards this with the Philadelphia Global Identity Project, a joint effort led by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce and The Brownstein Group. Running until December 31, project’s online survey offers residents the opportunity to contribute their thoughts on what makes our city special, to inform the development of a new global brand identity for Philadelphia.

Secondly, we need to build on our existing assets and networks to grow our city’s global visibility, and increase international awareness of everything we have to offer. For instance, our World Heritage City status provides an excellent platform to promote Philadelphia as an international tourist and business destination, and gives us an automatic connection to 300 World Heritage Cities around the world. Our universities are also developing new international relationships that can be used to spread the word about Philadelphia. To name just a few examples, the University of Pennsylvania has created Penn Global, a dedicated unit to direct and support its international activities; and Drexel University’s Global Classroom initiative connects its students with their peers at partner universities in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

Thirdly, we need to make bold moves to enhance our region’s international profile. A Korean soap opera filmed in Quebec City, a fellow World Heritage City, has inspired a new wave of tourists from Asia to visit this historic place. Encouraging international TV and films to be made in our city could be a new way to capitalize on Philadelphia’s unquestionable visual appeal, and drive tourism and business.

The fourth, and perhaps most powerful, thing we can do is change our mindset. When I visited the Penn Museum’s newly opened Middle East Galleries earlier this year, the first thing I saw was a map that showed Philadelphia in the context of the wider world. Something I’ve encountered working with many organizations across Philadelphia is that whilst they recognize their standing within the North Eastern United States, they don’t always realize the role they can play in a global context. We need to rethink our positioning, and see ourselves as we would appear on the Middle East Galleries’ map – not only important to our region, but important to the wider world.

As we move forward into 2019, we need to keep the words of Russell Conwell, founder of Temple University, firmly in mind. In his famous ‘Acres of Diamonds’ speech, Conwell stressed that everything we need to achieve great things is present in our own community. We have diamonds at our very feet in Philadelphia – all we have to do is recognize them, and make them shine. If we can do that, the results will benefit everyone.

Zabeth

Zabeth Teelucksingh currently leads the Global Philadelphia Association, a non-profit designed to put Philadelphia on the map as a global city. With more than 25 years of international business, b2b and non-profit experience, Zabeth is highly skilled in all aspects of Marketing, Communications and Branding with a global vision. Her network of strategic alliances stems from prior professional appointments including marketing for Time, Inc. in Paris, Marketing Director at the World Congress, in Boston, and several years in advertising with J. Walter Thomson in Greater Miami. She serves on several boards including USA250, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Advisory Committee, PA Humanities Council and @GoUNESCO – Make Heritage Fun! Born in Carthage, Tunisia, Zabeth was educated in boarding school in the UK and the French Lycee in London, graduating from Lancaster University with a triple major, she studied French Civilization at the Sorbonne in Paris.