Industry Leaders Form Economic Policy Advisory Group

April 15, 2011

With Pennsylvania’s difficult budget season ahead, Urban Affairs Coalition head Sharmain Matlock-Turner isn’t holding out hope for much more funding for those things she cares most about. But, as one of the chairs of a new advisory group, she’ll at least be able to weigh in on issues having an impact on the region’s economy.

Nearly 30 area business and industry leaders in all comprise the Economic Policy Advisory Group, which was put together by Senate Minority Appropriations Committee Chairman Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. Others are in the process of being brought on board.

“I formed the group because with my new responsibility as chair I wanted to make sure that I had good advice and counsel from individuals who I have respect for around economic policy issues and state appropriations,” Hughes said.

The group met for the first time last month and will be meeting quarterly to discuss issues related to the region’s economy, including job creation. They’ll also convene by conference call, when relevant, as matters arise, Hughes said.

The state budget, which must address a projected $4 billion deficit, is the most pressing issue for the group, which is also chaired by Brandywine Realty Trust President and CEO Jerry Sweeney, Vision 2020 Co-Chair Rosemarie B. Greco and Payne Brown, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for Comcast Corp.

“From a budgetary standpoint there are a number of pots of money [that] specifically could impact both job creation and job training and those types of vital opportunities to this area,” Brown said.

The group is getting to hear and communicate firsthand with city and state officials on matters, as well as each other.

“All of these decisions are tough and all of these issues are extremely hard,” Matlock-Turner said. “Having those conversations across sectors gives us all a sense of what people are grappling with.”

Even after state and city budgets are adopted, many challenges remain, including work force development, making sure the population is work ready and attracting companies locally, Brown said.

“I think the main thing we want to commend the Senator for is being willing to seek a number of various views and being open to that and for support,” Brown said of the group, which includes Independence Blue Cross President/CEO Daniel Hilferty, Aqua America Inc. Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis, Drexel University President John Fry and Mayor Michael Nutter’s Chief of Staff Clarence Armbrister, among numerous others.

The group is a positive step for the region with longtime powerhouses like Gov. Ed Rendell now gone from Harrisburg, said Joseph P. McLaughlin, director of the Institute for Public Affairs and assistant dean for external affairs for the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University.

“These are folks who have expertise, they have a track record of getting things done and they represent a good cross section of interests,” McLaughlin said.

Athena Merritt
Philadelphia Business Journal