Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.
That's the main mantra of a new community focused coalition aimed at boosting economic development across Northwest Philadelphia and, in turn, the city.
What is it?
The Northwest Leadership Collaborative (NLC) has been established to work to bolster the area's diverse cluster of neighborhoods by leveling the inequalities that exist among them.
As its name implies, the initiative hopes to transform this chunk of the city by getting residents, business owners and elected officials to team up with each another.
"We want to figure out a way to be sustainable," said state Rep. Dwight Evans, who is spearheading the effort. "The only way to do that is to talk to people."
NLC defines its target area as Cheltenham Avenue on the north; North Broad Street on the east; the Wayne Junction Train Station and Wissahickon Avenue on the south; and Ivy Hill Road and East Northwestern Avenue on the west.
Its first meeting
On Monday, the collaborative kicked off that dialogue inside Mt. Airy's Trolley Car Diner.
Between display cases filled with craft beers and juice, Evans and other community leaders introduced the collaborative and what it hopes to achieve.
The group's "Invest Northwest Strategy" lays out three core goals:
— Support changes to state and local tax and regulatory policy to encourage and facilitate business formation, operation and growth,
— Develop workforce skills-training programs to reduce unemployment and increase consumer spending and
— Improve neighborhood-schools performance to produce a stronger labor force and support business formation.
What they said
Collaborative member Anuj Gupta, executive director of Mt. Airy USA, said Northwest Philadelphia represents one of the last strongholds of middle-class residents.
"If we don't make it so that schools are more viable options, so that it's more attractive for businesses to stay, grow and attract here, the economic diversity will continue to diminish over time," said Gupta.
According to U.S. Census data, Northwest Philadelphia's population dropped by 5.3 percent between 2000 and 2010. The city's population grew by 0.6 percent during that same period.
The number of family households in the Northwest also declined at a quicker clip than the city.
In coming months, the collaborative will host similar events around Northwest Philadelphia to introduce the effort and, hopefully, form bonds that members hope will represent the glue of change.
Down the road, the collaborative hopes its process can be used to benefit other areas in the city.
Given that several high-profile elections are on the way (including mayor and president), Evans said it's the perfect time to start pushing the group's agenda.
"It's time to get us in the public debate and raise this as part of the consciousness of addressing neighborhoods," said Evans.