By Don Brennan
GNPCC Staff Writer
Three city and three state officials and their staffs participated in what was billed as a “Convention of Ideas” April 7 at the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, 8025 Roosevelt Blvd., to explore a wide variety of subjects all geared to strengthening communication and utilizing the business support organization as a valuable resource.
Philadelphia City Councilmen Bobby Henon and Al Taubenberger, and Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley were joined by Pennsylvania State Sen. John Sabatina and Pennsylvania State Reps. Ed Neilson and Jared Solomon. State Reps. Michael Driscoll, Martina White and Kevin Boyle were expected, but sent last-minute regrets due to scheduling conflicts. Their offices asked for reports of the meeting in order to follow-up.
GNPCC President Pam Henshall explained the purpose of the informal gathering was to update the elected officials on GNPCC activities and events—with a special emphasis on using the group’s website—and to learn more about the priorities and concerns of the group.
Ms. Henshall, who this month marks her second year at the helm of the GNPCC, gave a broad overview of the group’s extensive rebranding effort. She cited the website, the weekly online newsletter inFocus, and the quarterly magazine inBusiness as solid examples of how the Northeast Chamber has dramatically improved communication and public relations.
“We want you to use our website, our newsletter and our magazine to publicize your initiatives. Please use us as a resource for getting your messages out,” she said.
Councilman Henon, who holds the powerful position of majority leader, welcomed the invitation.
“All of us in this room are doing things every day that serve the citizens of Philadelphia. Good things are happening in my district, for example, in Mayfair and Tacony along Torresdale Avenue that lots of people don’t know about. This is a good way of advancing those positive messages,” he said.
State Rep. Solomon agreed. “We have Night Market (street food festival) coming to Burholme on May 11, and one of the things I am working to do is make sure the local businesses in and around Cottman and Rising Sun aves. are not left out. This apparently happened in the past, but we are making sure our community businesses are an integral part of the festivities this year.”
Ms. Henshall said the GNPCC is rapidly forming relationships with a number of groups like the Free Library of Philadelphia, the city’s Commerce Department and SCORE, the small business support group of retired executives, for online cross-promotion of each other’s news and events. She also announced the GNPCC will not hold their annual Business Expo this year, but intends to host an expanded Flavors of the Northeast food tasting event.
In fact, the Flavors event will be staged with additional flair in 2018, she said, when the GNPCC launches “Northeast Philadelphia Restaurant Week” at the same time.
“The restaurant and café owners here are clamoring for it,” she said. “Their complaint is, ‘We don’t get any benefit from Center City Restaurant Week, so why can’t we do our own?’”
State Rep. Neilson said he would like to see more cooperation and spirit among local businesses.
“We have a lot of great businesses in the Northeast, and, frankly, we have some that need to give back a little more. Become more involved in their communities. If we are going to be a regional destination for business, the businesses here have to step up as a group,” he said.
“What we want,” State Sen. Sabatina said, “is a two-way street for communication. We want feedback from businesses. We can’t possibly know everything that’s going on, so we need information. We want to be helpful, but we have to know their concerns.”
Commissioner Deeley said she attends numerous civic gatherings as part of her busy schedule, and information is always the most valuable commodity. “I always ask them, what is happening in this neighborhood? What do I need to know?” she said.
Councilman Henon agreed, and pointed to specific issues in his 6th Councilmanic District.
‘I have three major (supermarket) vacancies, for instance,” he said. “I need the Northeast Chamber to help me with this. How can you do it? I need my office and your office to coordinate with Select Greater Philadelphia, and let’s get these properties on developers’ radar. (Northeast Philadelphia) needs to be a player in efforts like this. The Northeast Chamber can help.”
Ms. Henshall promised to meet with GNPCC board member Sandi King of the city’s Commerce Department about the issue.
Councilman Henon suggested the elected officials assign their chiefs of staff or key staff members to a follow-up meeting to identify “three or four” initiatives that everyone can work on as a group.
“Then we get a plan together, and write it down on paper so we have something tangible and doable,” he said.
Mr. Henon’s chief of staff Courtney Voss volunteered to arrange the next gathering.