An out-of-town trip organized by a nonprofit civic organization is offering small business owners in the Delaware Valley a chance to build their local professional network while learning how to better tackle the challenges facing Philly-area communities.
“I made a number of contacts and connections that have become clients,” said Nancy Dunleavy, CEO of the Plymouth Meeting-based professional services firm, Dunleavy & Associates.
Dunleavy, who manages 15 employees, traveled to Toronto in 2012 and San Francisco in 2010 as part of the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange, which is organized by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.
The trip brings around 100 executives from business, nonprofit and government organizations throughout the region to another city to learn the best practices from outside of the Delaware Valley, while strengthening ties among our local leaders.
Past participants vet the applicants in a competitive process that aims to include local leaders from diverse backgrounds as well as an array of sectors and industries.
Attendees must cover their own travel and accommodation costs for the nearly week-long trip, which includes a full day of various sessions with political, business and community leaders from the host city.
The expense was worth the experience for Dunleavy, who described how a conversation over pasta and red wine at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood led to several long-lasting professional relationships.
“Six of the 12 people at the dinner, who are all from the greater Philadelphia region, continue to get together every six months in our city to share ideas,” she said.
“Strange bedfellows connect personally and invariably we hear several months later about ways that they are working together,” said Joshua Sevin of the Economy League. “It is hard to take the time out, but those who do invariably report back that they got a lot out of it.”
This year the group will travel to Boston in October for sessions on entrepreneurism, as well as early childhood education and community development.
“We want to make sure business leaders are exposed to crucial issues that may not be right in their lane, but are one over,” Sevin said. “Everyone staying in their own lane will keep getting us the same results.”
The redevelopment of Boston’s “gateway cities” and the strength of the Cambridge’s startup scene are two examples Philly area leaders can learn from, he said.
“Gateway cities, midsized former urban centers like Lowell and Lawrence and Chelsea are analogous in our region to places like Camden, Pottstown, Bristol and Chester,” Sevin said.
The steps leaders in the Boston region took to revitalize those cities’ economies and communities could be applied locally, according to Sevin.
Plus a recent report from Philadelphia-based RJMetrics shows Philly trails sixth-ranked Boston for hottest startup cities in the country.
Aside from San Francisco and Toronto, previous exchanges brought Philly leaders to Atlanta and Chicago. But Sevin says the similarities between Beantown and the City of Brotherly Love could prove especially beneficial.
“Both the eds and meds are major parts of our economies,” he said. “It makes it easier for us to see where there are differences and why.”
The deadline to apply for this year’s exchange is Wednesday. Dunleavy lans to submit again and encourages others to do the same.
“Redirect your advertising dollars into investing into this initiative,” she said. “You will meet all the people to help you make the connections to the markets you want to promote your business in and you will learn a lot.”