We’re not sure when Craig Carnaroli sleeps.
He’s Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania, he’s Chair of the University City District and he serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Penn Medicine, and The Connelly Foundation.
Now, the Wharton alum says that he’s leveraging his roles to strengthen Penn’s relationship to the rest of University City, and helping to create connections across the various institutions.
And a big part of that connection is physical. Carnaroli led the development of Penn Connects master plan, which he says will help bring together the institutions through the built environment of University City and West Philadelphia, with initiatives like Penn Park.
We spoke to Carnaroli by phone to talk about how the built environment can ultimately impact Philadelphia’s technology community, and more, after the jump.
You’ve served on the board of the Science Center since 2005. What have you been up to and what do you want to see change?
One of the important things we’ve achieved over the last 5 years is reconnecting the Science Center to its “shareholder” academic institutions. I particularly want to continue to endorse how we get commercialization opportunities that are worthwhile of incubating, get funding behind them, and as they grow, we have space to help them grow. We’ve seen a number of good examples at the Science Center, like Avid Radiopharmaceuticals.
Avid is a good example because even after investment, it will remain in the city. There was a ChicagoBusiness Crain’s Special Report recently was about how large companies in the suburbs there are wanting, and are, relocating back to the city.
I think it’s something we should strive for. There are challenges with the city’s tax structure. That’s an inhibitor because it’s a challenge that’s not easily rectified. But we need to get away from the tax argument to the benefits we have, like access to post-docs from various academic institutions. Young folks like the urban environment, so how we can take advantage of that? It would be great to build up the city’s tax base.
You serve on a number of boards of directors, including the University City District, PIDC and Penn Medicine. How do these connections help the Science Center?
It’s important [for Penn] as the largest private employer that we’re engaged with partners. One of the things that I see in Philadelphia is great leadership running these organizations. The boards are committed. My work with Science Center is largely around making sure that there is a connection to all of these institutions. Part of it is putting a vision out there, trying to get people to buy into that vision.
“We need to get away from the tax argument to the benefits we have.”
You’re often involved with urban development at Penn and in your various board roles. How important is the built environment to the future of University City?
I came to Penn in 2000 in a finance role, and I was later asked to see a broader portfolio—facilities, real estate and other operations. One of the thing they asked me to lead was this campus master plan, Penn Connects. We’re trying to improve our partnerships, like with Brandywine Realty Trust, which has helped to build out some of the eastern edge [of the campus]. Penn Park coming online will be another example of the connectedness.
The Science Center board is an interesting choice for you given your focus on urban development. Why science and technology, too?
If you look at what drives the economy and what will drive innovation, technology is very important. There’s a lot of things to exploit at these institutions. I view my role as a connector of ideas and opportunities, so given that we’ve received the largest amount of research funding of any university in the area, it’s good to have Penn’s presence and involvement there. We also want to make sure that faculty have access to commercialize their discoveries.
We’re increasingly curious about job retention in Philadelphia, and we hate to see a Wharton alum, like yourself, leave the city. How did you end up here, and do you have any thoughts on how to keep talent?
Data is showing that we’re doing a better job retaining grads. In the end, we’re linking people with opportunities for being able to be employed. I had the bug. I went to New York and San Francisco. These are great places to be, with great mentors, but for me, ultimately all roads lead back to Philly. I had a great opportunity at Penn. In terms of retaining people, to be honest, it’s efforts like Technically Philly telling so many great stories out there not being told.
One our students founded a company and was incubated at Science Center. When he needed next round of funding, the investor said ‘we want you to move to Silicon Valley.’ On one hand it’s so great that we produced this guy, but on other hand we’re bummed that he relocated.
Sometimes, the factors aren’t always in our control.
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