Hip Trip: Nutter taking his sales pitch to London, Tel Aviv

Mayor Nutter and a city delegation begin their overseas sales pitch and networking tour on Monday in London.
Mayor Nutter and a city delegation begin their overseas sales pitch and networking tour on Monday in London. (CHRIS RATCLIFFE / Bloomberg News)
Posted: November 04, 2013

Philadelphia's salesman-in-chief launches his international pitch Sunday at London's iconic Savoy Hotel, which boasts itself as "brilliantly reinvented for the 21st century."

That's not quite Mayor Nutter's claim for Philadelphia, but not terribly far from it.

For the next eight days, first in London and then Tel Aviv, Nutter and a small armada of area agencies, boosters, and businesses will sell Philadelphia as a world-class city open, as the mayor says, for business.

Nutter and his contingent, among other things, are looking to persuade overseas companies to expand to Philadelphia and consider partnerships and sales agreements with firms in the area.

"This is a true business-exchange trip," Nutter said in an interview last week. "I want more Philadelphia-based businesses to have an international presence, do more international business, and, at the same time, raise the profile of Philadelphia."

Beyond the mayor, the entourage includes the likes of Bob Moul, a local entrepreneur who will sing the city's praises while pursuing his own business leads; and Beth Cohen, a lawyer whose firm, Greenberg Traurig L.L.P., represents Israeli venture capital firms and start-ups looking for Philadelphia connections.

"It is one thing for the mayor to talk about entrepreneurs and the start-up community, but it is quite another to have an entrepreneur there to do it," said Moul, CEO of Artisan Mobile and president of Philly Startup Leaders.

Said Cohen: "Our goal is to let the venture capital in Israel know how welcoming Philadelphia is. If their portfolio companies are looking to launch in the U.S., we are there to help."

Organizations represented on the trip include Drexel University, Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Barnes Foundation, US Airways, British Airways, and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Select Greater Philadelphia, a regional marketing agency, will cover travel costs for Nutter and other city officials. The rest are on their own.

Nutter described the trip as "action-oriented," which is no exaggeration: working days - a mix heavy on business with some sightseeing - typically begin before 8 a.m. and end as late as 10 p.m.

Monday starts with a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Matthew Barzun, followed by an official welcoming of the delegation; a briefing on the United Kingdom's economy; tours of Parliament and Big Ben; a business networking lunch/seminar; a visit with Prince Edward; a speech by Nutter on doing business in the United States; a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Mark Group, a British firm with its North American headquarters in Philadelphia; and, finally, a reception at the Museum of London hosted by Lord Stephen Green, minister of state for trade and investment.

The trip's remaining itinerary might as well read: Wash, rinse, repeat.

Nutter will take a hands-on role selling the city Tuesday, when he will spend 90 minutes at the Philadelphia booth at the World Travel Market, a convention expected to draw 47,000 travel professionals.

Can he make a difference Tuesday and beyond?

Well, during a trade trip last year to China, Nutter said he discovered an interesting twist: Though U.S. mayors might get kicked around a bit in their home towns, overseas they have "a mystique."

Jack Ferguson, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, concurred, if with a bit of hyperbole.

"It is like bringing the president of the United States," he said. "American mayors are well-recognized for their importance in their communities."

Nutter can be expected to pitch his city for its abundance of attributes: history, bustling nightlife, easy access to New York and Washington, an expanding international airport, a vibrant port, modern rail and highway systems, great universities and research hospitals, and a growing start-up and high-tech community.

The closer, however, might be what he describes as the city's "concierge" approach to business attraction.

"When a company relocates to your city, you can say, 'Great, thanks,' and move on," Nutter said. "We have a different approach. We stay in touch: 'What else can we do to help you?' "

The Mark Group certainly is a believer. The British weatherization firm was wooed by Nutter's crew, and in 2010, it established its North American headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

"You hope the people you meet during the courtship give you the same level of attention once you move in," said Jeff Bartos, the Mark Group's chief executive officer for North America. "Our experience [in Philadelphia] is that everything they say when you meet they mean. When we've needed guidance or have an issue or a question, the deputy mayor will take the call. The same for the mayor. We weren't the flavor of the month."

In Nutter's words, "It is all of a piece."

"It is how you treat people," he said. "The more businesses we can attract, the more jobs we have. Which lowers the poverty rate. Which helps us lower the crime rate. Which helps us assure a young person a better future. If you can do all those things at the same time, at the same level of energy and integrity, you can actually make a big city work."


chepp@phillynews.com215-854-2594

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