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City’s diverse Chambers, business owners call for lawmakers to “Give Philly A Raise”

Jensen Toussaint | Al Dia News

Jun 2, 2022

Philadelphia has among the highest wage and business taxes in the nation and is being outpaced in job creation.

Change is being demanded.

On Wednesday, June 1, the Inclusive Growth Coalition hosted a rally near Philadelphia City Hall to call for a reduction of taxes on workers and small business owners.

“Philadelphia is the only major city in America that double taxes working people for their businesses,” said William Carter IV, vice president of local government affairs, for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

In two weeks, Philadelphia City Council will have an opportunity to change that.

William Carter IV believes change is needed to improve the city's economy. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The “Give Philly A Raise” rally featured a number of Chamber leaders, business owners and elected officials who called for a reduction of the wage and business taxes, stressed the importance of ensuring all businesses can grow and thrive in the city, and addressing the city’s poverty.

Regina A. Hairston, President & CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce, detailed that Philadelphia is the second largest U.S. city with a majority diverse population — as African Americans make up 42% of the city’s population.“Yet, we have only 1.8% of business ownership,” said Hairston. “If we are going to make this great city a greater city and inclusive growth city, we have to make sure that we’re taking care of all our businesses [and] all of our citizens,“ she added.

Regina A. Hairston is calling for advocacy toward Philly's business owners to also included African American entrepreneurs. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News

Philadelphia also holds the distinction of being the most impoverished of the major U.S. cities, with more than 20% of the population living below the poverty rate.

“At the Hispanic Chamber, we believe that entrepreneurship is one of the keys to lifting Philadelphians out of poverty,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

She added that families with at least one person in them who own a business are four times more wealthy than those without.

Jennifer Rodriguez says that employing one or two employees can add tens of thousands of jobs to the economy. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

With Philadelphia being so difficult and expensive to do business in, many aspiring entrepreneurs have left the city to start or grow their businesses, which hurts the city’s economy and opportunities to thrive.

“If we really value those 12,000 Latino-owned businesses, if we really value the jobs that they create in the neighborhood, we will give them a raise,” said Rodriguez. Teresa Lundy, principal and founder of TML Communications, is an award-winning business owner in Philadelphia. She also advocates for giving Philly a raise.

“We’ll be able to make additional investments and hire more people in the City of Philadelphia if they lower business taxes… and eliminate the wage tax,” she said.

Teresa Lundy has been a Philadelphia business owner for the past seven years. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Lundy added that those taxes lower Philadelphia’s competitiveness against comparable cities, and limits opportunities for job creation. At the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, it is believed that there is major urgency in this matter.Philadelphia’s status as the city with the nation’s highest tax on workers and businesses hurts both the employees and employer.“This is money that business owners can use to recover, grow and hire,” said Sue Jacobson, chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. “Creating jobs and growing local businesses is simply the best investment we can make in our future.”

Sue Jacobson sees great potential in the region's business communities. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Khine Zaw, President & CEO of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, added: “Tax rates matter… 75% of the city’s revenue comes from small business and job creation. Small and midsize businesses play a crucial role in the U.S. economy.”

Khine Zaw notes the dynamic and multicultural talent just within the Asian business community in Philadelphia. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

With the cost of living going up — gas prices are at near record-highs, inflation is up, interest rates are increasing — Carter noted that, “We need more money in our pockets. We need more money in our workers’ pockets, and we need more money in our business owners’ pockets… money that will be spent locally in our economy.”In addition to the Chamber leaders and business owners, a group of elected officials also added their voice to the conversation. City Councilman Isaiah Thomas spoke on the value of addressing poverty, and how it can be done.

“We can’t fix poverty without getting people applying for jobs,” he said. “When we think about all the problems that we have as it relates to our city, the core of what we need to do is related to employment.”

At-Large City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas wants to see a reduction in taxes, leading to addressing the city's poverty. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News

“If we can change our sectors, if we can brand our city in a way where people will say, ‘I have to go to Philadelphia because that’s the place that’s booming, that’s where I can maximize my potential as it relates to my industry,’ that’s our jobs as elected officials. At the end of the day, it’s up to us,” said Thomas. The Mayor and City Council have a very important role to play in helping the city take a step forward in addressing poverty in the city, and ensuring that businesses and business owners can thrive in the long-term.

Al Dia News | By Jensen Toussaint | Published June 02, 2022

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