Philadelphia hearing seeks to strengthen city's international ties

Mayor Nutter (left) reviewing an economic-development model on trade mission to China last year.
Mayor Nutter (left) reviewing an economic-development model on trade mission to China last year. (JENNIFER LIN / Staff)
Posted: March 01, 2013

In the hallway outside Philadelphia City Council's ornate chambers, Martin Judge Jr., founder of the Judge Group staffing company in Conshohocken, was ebullient.

In 1995, the Chinese Basketball Association began in China. Now, he claimed, it's a $4.5 billion business.

That's why he thinks the $5 million he's already invested, plus $15 million he says he's on track to raise from partners, will yield much more in his venture AFL Global L.L.C., which intends to bring arena football to 1.3 billion Chinese.

"Everyone likes football," Judge said.

Judge had just been in Council chambers, where Councilman David Oh and State Sen. Michael Brubaker, a Republican representing the 36th District in Lancaster and Chester Counties and chairman of the international commerce caucus, had been shepherding a hearing on trade.

Judge introduced Oh and Brubaker to David Wu, president of Ganlan Media International, the entity the AFL created to field six teams in China, starting in 2014.

Judge's proposed venture tied in with the theme of the hearing - how to build a business environment in the city that would support global partnerships, trade, and investment.

Panelists were drawn from health care, education, manufacturing, and energy.

The first set of panelists to testify represented Philadelphia's existing international trade community, and they agreed that Philadelphia has many elements making it a good city for global trade.

There are 20 international chambers of commerce and 30 consulates represented in the city. The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic District Export Council can provide technical expertise for exporters.

But, the panelists said, Philadelphia doesn't put enough resources into trade missions, such as the one Mayor Nutter made to China in December.

And the local groups aren't hospitable to trade missions that come here, said E. Harris Baum, honorary consul for South Korea.

In contrast to Nutter's experience in China, where he was treated royally, 18 mayors from Korea visited Philadelphia recently and there was no money to take them to dinner, he said.

His law firm, Baum said, ended up footing the bill.

"Trade missions are very important," he said. "They have to be paid for by the state and the city. In the Asian point of view, businesses aren't done by Skype."

Merritt "Terry" Cooke, chair of the China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia, said the mayor's trip to China was appreciated.

"The challenge for Philadelphia is to create a pipeline of business relationships in China that are not [one-shot deals], but that are high-placed, enduring, and building toward the levels of export flows, job creation, and inbound investment that China [is] desperately looking for in the U.S.," Cooke said.

All said the city's international organizations and city government needed to do a better job coordinating their efforts.


Contact Jane Von Bergen at 215-854-2769, jvonbergen@phillynews.com, for follow @JaneVonBergen on Twitter. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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