Philly Deals: Fiberlink adding Center City office

Mayor Nutter has been selling Center City to a number of tech firms in the last couple of years. Cities, he says, "are where the talent is." JULIE FLETCHER
Mayor Nutter has been selling Center City to a number of tech firms in the last couple of years. Cities, he says, "are where the talent is." JULIE FLETCHER
Posted: July 12, 2012

While Gov. Corbett is running around Pennsylvania handing millions to profitable companies that promise factory and warehouse jobs, Mayor Nutter has been welcoming a handful of tech employers to Center City, no strings attached.

Fiberlink, a 300-worker, cloud-based, mobile-device-management firm in Blue Bell, is adding a 30,000-square-foot office at Three Parkway, the former Reliance Insurance building, and plans to add up to 140 engineers, salespeople, researchers, and technicians there, the mayor told me.

Looking for space for new hires and current Philadelphia employees tired of reverse-commuting to the suburbs, Fiberlink called the city Commerce Department on May 14, the day Paoli-based Bentley Systems announced a Philadelphia office at the same tower. The company, like Bentley, hasn't asked for financial incentives, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger added.

Nutter said the city has been easier to sell in the last two years, since construction cranes have risen at Temple, Jefferson, the Buck Co.'s Chestnut Street apartments, and hotels by the Convention Center and Penn, among other projects.

"We're seeing population growth for the first time in 60 years because the 25- to 34-year-olds are living in Center City, Northern Liberties, University City, Manayunk, the Kensington area, you name it," Nutter said. Cities "are where the talent is." Nutter and Fiberlink chief executive James Sheward plan a ribbon-cutting next week.

Small credit

Mountain State University, a private West Virginia institution that targets Pennsylvania police and other far-flung students for midcareer credentials like its master's degree in strategic leadership, is losing its accreditation, effective next month, says the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

In a June 28 letter, the Chicago-based commission, one of several regional bodies that certify a degree-issuing institution's value to students, employers, and tuition-finance programs, said Mountain State "lacks the integrity expected in an accredited institution of higher education." It also contended that Mountain State "has had a culture focused on high-enrollment growth" and "has not demonstrated that it has processes to assure effective teaching and learning across the institution."

As I wrote in 2009, Chester County police union leaders encouraged Mountain State to set up a campus in Tredyffrin, following similar branches near Pittsburgh and State College. Then-Fraternal Order of Police official Tony Giaimo told me he was working toward his Mountain State master's in leadership after dropping a Temple MBA and a California University of Pennsylvania legal-studies degree.

"Education is the key" to getting promotions, he told me. "It makes people more marketable." Giaimo has since been appointed Tredyffrin's police supervisor. Police chiefs in Texas and Western Pennsylvania also report holding Mountain State degrees.

In ending Mountain State's accreditation, the commission cited complaints, including one from Houston, whose city attorney "recently brought to the university's attention the apparent overawarding of prior-learning credits to Houston police officers that does not appear to be consistent with university policy." Mountain State "has not acted to investigate or take corrective action," the commission said.

Mountain State president Richard E. Sours told me he was in a meeting and not immediately available to comment.

Tax for some

Gen. William Lynch, the City of Harrisburg's state-backed financial receiver, has asked Commonwealth Court to force the city council to add a 1 percent earned-income tax surcharge to help pay city creditors. The tax would apply to Harrisburg residents even if they work outside town — but not suburbanites who work in the city, Lynch's spokesman, Cory Angell, told me.

City controller Dan Miller blamed state Sen. Jeff Piccola (R., Dauphin) and other suburban legislators for changing state law to bar a Harrisburg commuter levy.

The city council has complained that the receiver's proposal to boost taxes and fees and sell city assets won't be nearly enough to enable Harrisburg to repay all the money it borrowed for dubious projects.

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @PhillyJoeD.

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