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Who’s responsible for bringing people to Philly? PHLCVB, Visit Philly, & Many More

Last week I wrote about how awesome it is to live, work, and start a business in Philly. Over the course of my travels for business and leisure I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince people and businesses to come to Philly. These efforts have led me to come in contact with many of the people and organizations that help bring people to Philly. It also led me to propose, and then help start, an effort called Amplify Philly (more on that below and in my next post). I’ve never found a great list of these groups anywhere online, so I figured I’d put one together.

Please feel free to suggest additions- I’ll try to keep this list as up to date as I can.

Philadelphia Hotel Tax Funded Groups

Most cities have a single organization responsible for attracting people, businesses, meetings, and conventions to the city. But, for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, Philly has three separate-but-related organizations focused on different aspects of attracting visitors and meetings to Philadelphia. Each of these organizations receives funding via Philly’s 8.5% Hotel Tax.

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (aka PHLCVB, fka Discover PHL) is a membership organization (that you too can join) that handles:

Visit Philadelphia was “founded in 1996 as Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia and The Pew Charitable Trusts” and is responsible for:

  • Domestic tourism and promotions. If you’ve seen the “Philly is better when you stay over promotions” or any of the domestic advertising campaigns for Philly, then you’ve seen Visit Philly’s handiwork.
  • The awesome uwishunu blog.

The Pennsylvania Convention Center. While the PHLCVB is responsible for booking the PA Convention Center, it’s still its own organization.

Other Governmental or Semi-Governmental Groups

The Hotel-tax funded organizations aren’t the only taxpayer funded initiatives. Some of the other local governmental agencies tasked with bringing businesses to Philly include.

  • The Philadelphia Department of Commerce. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Commerce has been extremely helpful to Zivtech, and if you’re considering moving a business to Philly you should really contact Commerce Business Services.
  • The Philadelphia Office of Special Events. This is department of the city’s government that deals with, you guessed it, special events. Some of the notable events that they deal with are the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic and the Made in America Music Festival.
  • PIDC — if a company is moving to Philadelphia, and especially if they’re building something as a result of that move, and double especially if they’re building something in an underserved community, then it’s likely that PIDC is involved. They’re also super helpful if you’re already here.
  • Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP-SEPA)- BFTP is a state funded angel investment fund, and it invests in a very large number of the companies that raise angel or Series A rounds in Phill, thus helping to bring a lot of capital and investors to Philly that might not otherwise make its way here. It also has a hyphenated name that’s longer than mine, which is always a plus in my book.
  • The Greater Philadelphia Film Office. Is responsible for helping attract films to be filmed here in Philly, and not just Rocky movies either.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) — a state program devoted to helping Pennsylvania companies expand and international companies find and locate in Pennsylvania.

Non Governmental Groups

It’s not just tax funded groups that try to convince people to come to Philly, there are a whole host of non and for profit organizations that also bring people to the city.

  • Chamber(s) of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia has a number of programs and affiliated orgs that help attract businesses to Philly, two of which are mentioned below, and we also have a very active and helpful African-American Chamber, Asian-American Chamber, & Hispanic Chamber of commerce too.
  • Select Greater Philadelphia, is a Chamber-affiliated org that helps attract businesses to the Greater Philadelphia area. When we’ve brought in some of our international clients, Select was super helpful getting meetings set up for their trip with potential customers and allies.
  • Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technology (PACT) — another chamber affiliate is mostly known (to me) for bridging the cultural and company divisions between Philly and its neighboring suburbs, but they also bring in a good number of companies and investors for their awesome annual conferences, like ImPACT & Phorum.
  • International Business Organizations. There are a lot of organizations in the Philly area that help businesses doing business in other cities, and helping businesses from those area do business in Philly. Global Philadelphia is a group dedicated to organizing these groups, and also spearheaded the efforts to have Philly designated as a World Heritage City. Some of the country-specific organizations I’ve come in contact with include the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce, & the British American Business Council.
  • The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia- the Economy League is & they run several initiatives that “brings together leaders and organizations across all sectors to address the most challenging issues facing the Greater Philadelphia region.” Several of the Economy League’s initiatives are relevant to bringing people to Philly. Their Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (GPLEX) is one of my favorite annual events, which brings together leaders from across private, public, and non profit organizations to explore how other cities are “doing things” to improve life and business in their cities. On alternating years, GPLEX is held in Philly and brings the other cities experts and leaders to Philly.
  • UCity Science Center- I’ve mostly dealt with the Science Center viaevents held at their Quorum space, as well as their always helpful KIZ program staff, but they also run a version of InBIA’s “Soft-Landing” programs. As per a SC press release, “The University City Science Center was selected for the program because of its slate of business services for nondomestic firms and its demonstrated success at helping firms enter the U.S. market.”
  • The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians — a non profit that provides information and services to recent immigrants to Philadelphia, as well as information for those considering immigrating.
  • USA250 — whose mission is to help celebrate USA’s 250 birthday here in Philly.
  • Universities & Research Centers. It seems rather obvious, but by far the biggest attractors of new people to the Philly area are our many universities and research centers. In addition to those, we have the awesome Campus Philly “a nonprofit organization that fuels economic growth by encouraging college students to study, explore, live and work in the Greater Philadelphia tri-state region.”
  • Businesses. While there are a lot of very smart people in the Philly region, there are times when a business has to try to recruit from outside of the Philly region (for example when we need a staff member with extensive experience in a specific software framework). At Zivtech we have a “move to Philly bonus” and we also bring potential staff members to Philly to give them a taste of life in the city. One of the people we brought over for a visit from the Pacific Northwest didn’t end up working at Zivtech, but he still ended up moving here with his wife and three kids.
  • Bigger Businesses. With bigger needs, bigger companies bring bigger numbers of staff in from areas outside of the Philly region. Two of the larger companies I see recruiting a lot outside of Philly are Comcast and URBN, but I’m pretty sure that any company recruiting for tech and tech management positions is trying to recruit people to come to Philly.
  • Museums. The US Constitution Center, Independence Hall, The Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Jewish History. Yes, we have a lot of great museums, and they attract a lot of people to visit Philly.
  • Concerts & Festivals. Philly has an amazing music scene that attracts people from all over the region, and we’re especially lucky to have an amazing independent promoters scene, led by R5 Productions (no word on if Sean’s planning on changing the name to Paoli/ThorndaleProductions any time soon). with some having national or international reach. Some festivals that I see bringing lots of out-of-towners, outside of the ones on the Parkway, to Philly include The Roots Picnic, This is Hardcore Fest, the many Burning Man inspired Philadelphia Experiment (aka PEX) parties, & the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Amplify Philly. Of course, I had to save my favorite for last. Amplify Philly started from an idea I pitched on the Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) email list to have Philly companies represent at SXSW Interactive, and we had our inaugural efforts at SXSW 2016. Here’s our mission, from

Amplify Philly is bringing the best of Philly business, culture, and tech into the international spotlight through SXSW 2017.​

A large delegation of local startups and community builders travel to Austin annually for South By Southwest, where they represent the city on a national stage.​

Our mission is to attract the best talent, clients, and consumers to live, work, and play in Philadelphia.

The effort is being organized under PSL’s flag, and led by PSL’s Yuval Yarden& RECPhilly’s Dave Silver, who had organized a Philly showcase at SXSW Music in 2015. Amplify Philly was supported a bit by the Philly Department of Commerce’s StartupPHL initiative, but it was otherwise a “grassroots” event that brought together big Philly businesses like Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, and UPenn, as well as startups and tech businesses like Guru, Chariot Solutions, and more.

As far as I saw, Amplify Philly was the only effort out the many regional marketing efforts at SXSW that wasn’t supported or run by one of the official tourism agencies, and while I feel a sense of immense pride at the ability of our business and startup communities to come together to execute on this idea, it has also provided another example to me of the need for the startup and tech communities to get more involved with the “official” organizations that are responsible (and many who receive tax dollars) for bringing people to the Philly region. And that is the subject of my next blog post, coming later this week.

Thanks to Eamon Gallagher & Archna Sahay for their feedback and suggestions on an earlier draft of this post.

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing