Guest Opinion in Bucks County Courier Asks and Answers Why You Should Care About World Class Greater Philadelphia

Why we should care about yet another public policy study?


Thursday, April 5, 2012 

L. Thomas Haertsch


Early last month, nearly 300 men and women gathered in Philadelphia for an update on an initiative that could result in a better future for all of us. It’s called “World Class Greater Philadelphia.” Two years in the making so far, it is encouraging forward thinking and bringing together people in new ways.


What happens with this initiative matters in communities such as Doylestown, Newtown, Churchville, New Hope, Lambertville, Bristol and Burlington. We’re asked to embrace the notion that we should think bigger and broader, and ponder what we’re doing collectively to be world class in a global economy.


Regionalism no longer is the equivalent of a four-letter word. The world is a village and the ties that bind us throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware are stronger than ever, or at least they should be.


Here’s the good news. There’s huge opportunity.


The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia has spent considerable time and energy looking ahead to figure out what it means to be world class in the years leading up to 2026, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.


We score well when it comes to quality of life. We’re in a great location. We have many great communities. We’re relatively affordable. And there’s a wide range of cultural and entertainment options.


On economic measures, however, the prevailing wisdom is we don’t fare as well. We’re not as dynamic. We don’t create as many new businesses. We have confusing and complex government structures with complicated tax systems. Our workforce quality is OK but could be better. We’re not as connected to the global economy as we should be.


So overall we’re in the mix, but we’re not consistently ranking at the top of regions people say are great places.

That’s why the next steps are to consider our future and advance those key success factors and priorities that will effect change in our favor.


More than 1,000 business, nonprofit, government, labor and community leaders have participated in Economy League roundtables, workshops, focus groups and special events to discuss what’s most important to our shared future.


Three areas emerged as priorities for development and collaboration — education and talent development, business growth, and infrastructure. These priorities may not surprise you, yet the resources dedicated to taking each of them to the next level may surprise you.


The Urban Land Institute Philadelphia, with 800 members throughout Eastern and Central Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware is taking a lead role in creating the infrastructure strategy.


The CEO Council for Growth, a group of business executives committed to growth and prosperity throughout nearly a dozen counties across northern Delaware, southern New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, is taking a lead role in developing the business growth strategy.


The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania is bringing the business community, organized labor, public and nonprofit sectors together to create the education and talent development strategy.

Still wondering why you should care about yet another public policy study with implications many years from now? Consider these six guiding principles advanced by the Economy League for this initiative. They’re for all of us.

First, build from strength. Our unique assets, leaders and culture equip us to do certain things well, so let’s recognize and draw on these strengths to achieve challenging world class goals.


Second, think and act globally. Our world is more interconnected and interdependent every day. Let’s anticipate and respond to challenges and opportunities that develop abroad and bring our knowledge and assets to bear on the global stage.


Third, build our image. If we expect to compete globally, let’s do a better job domestically and overseas of building a coherent and compelling image and conveying our success stories.


Fourth, be true to ourselves. Our unique communities, institutions, and culture merit strategies and solutions that recognize what makes us different and special.


Fifth, create opportunity for all. Let’s address the stark differences in achievement, access and earnings across our communities.


Sixth, work together and across boundaries. Or, put another way, ignore all boundaries. This can be done. There’s strength in numbers.


Bottom line? Pay attention to initiatives like this that make good sense. To learn more, visit