Nutter abroad: Philadelphia more than 1776 and cheesesteaks

Mayor Nutter visits a Tel Aviv flea market on the second leg of his tour. He has bigger business targets on his trip to the U.K. and Israel, too: He hopes to lure companies that want to do business in Philadelphia.
Mayor Nutter visits a Tel Aviv flea market on the second leg of his tour. He has bigger business targets on his trip to the U.K. and Israel, too: He hopes to lure companies that want to do business in Philadelphia. (KAIT PRIVITERA / City of Philadelphia)
Posted: November 10, 2013

TEL AVIV - Mayor Nutter says he has learned some lessons. His commerce chief thinks he has some fish on the line. Business owners traveling with Philadelphia officials on this two-nation marketing tour say their expectations have been more than met.

That is the synopsis of the self-graded report card for some of the principals in the mayor's 10-day trade trip, which started in London before flying on to this city Thursday.

With the trip not to end until Monday, the consensus among participants is two thumbs up.

Certainly that is the feeling of Bob Moul, president of the software company Artisan Mobile, who traveled on the London leg of the trip in part as an ambassador for the city and a dealmaker for his own firm.

Moul had been pursuing relationships with five United Kingdom companies before the trip, he said, but he used the trade mission "as a catalyst to getting the meetings scheduled." Coming with the mayor, he wrote in an e-mail, "added a bit of gravitas, for lack of a better word, that lent an air of importance to our efforts. . . . We are exploring no less than five partnerships as a way to expand our reach into the U.K.," wrote Moul, who returned to Philadelphia on Thursday. "The prospects are so intriguing that I plan to make another trip back in the coming weeks."

Renold J. Capocasale, chief executive officer of FlowMetric in Doylestown, and Paul Trenholm, president of Derbyshire Machine & Tool Co. of Philadelphia, reported similar successes.

"FlowMetric was able to establish strategic ties with an exciting mix of U.K. Biotech clients," Capocasale wrote in an e-mail sent from his next stop, Milan, Italy. "FlowMetric was also able to strengthen ties with existing partners GSK [GlaxoSmithKline] and Huntingdon Life Sciences."

Trenholm said he was able to get his company, which builds systems for large ships, to be certified to bid for business with the Royal Navy.

They represented three of the 17 businesses that made the London portion of the trip. There were 11 with Nutter in Israel.

Businesses finding partners and new business was only a portion of the trip's agenda.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger and his staff were charged with finding overseas firms that might be interested in setting up shop in Philadelphia.

Among dinners, receptions, and other mission duties, Greenberger and his staff were scheduled to meet with nine firms. When he was interviewed Friday, Greenberger had completed six of those meetings and was cautiously optimistic that at least two to three were showing serious interest.

It is not an overnight process, he said, but one in which these initial face-to-face get-togethers are important for establishing if Philadelphia makes sense to a company and for creating a personal comfort level that can seal a deal.

"You look for companies where their needs and yours align," he said. "Then you push hard." The next step is to persuade the companies to pay Philadelphia a visit.

One company Greenberger was high on had developed a process to recycle used tires by separating the rubber, steel, and the carbon black that colors the rubber. Philadelphia, as an older East Coast city with more than its share of old tires, seemed a good fit for the firm, he said.

Ultimately, Greenberger said, it will be a great success if the city can land three of the nine firms he targeted.

"If we get two, that's not bad." he said. "If we get one, OK."

The star of the trip has been Nutter, who has wowed every group he has spoken with and impressed when working a room one-on-one.

His message has consistently touched upon the city's resources and renaissance.

While his reception has been enthusiastic, Nutter acknowledged there remained an image problem for the city. Overseas knowledge of Philadelphia seems to consist of 1776, cream cheese, and cheesesteaks.

"This has reaffirmed for me that we need to do a better job marketing the city and selling our story," he said. "The world wants to come to our door. We can no longer afford to be myopic and parochial." To do that, the city needs to be willing to find the resources to sell itself, he said. Its current budget for international marketing is an insignificant $1 million.

"We have a rightful place in the world," he said. "We have to embrace and promote it."

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