More than 81,000 West Philadelphians live in poverty. Here’s one way to change that | Opinion

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Matt Bergheiser and Keith Leaphart

Philadelphia’s University City is a neighborhood of aspirational endeavors that make the city and the world radically better places. Groundbreaking advances in immunotherapy at Penn and CHOP undergird a national Cancer Moonshot Initiative to accelerate novel treatments and cures. Commercialization efforts at the Pennovation Center and the University City Science Center in uCity Square promise the launch of new companies like the rapidly expanding Spark Therapeutics and, in turn, create new pathways for regional job growth. And Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust’s big bet on redeveloping 14 acres of fallow land near 30th Street Station into Schuylkill Yards offers a new vision for leveraging Philadelphia’s anchor institutions and transit assets to fundamentally remake the city’s economy.

 University City employers and civic organizations are adding another aspirational endeavor to the list: tackling what is Philadelphia’s greatest challenge – its stubbornly high poverty rate – by unleashing its greatest asset: the talents of the city’s future workforce.

Fueled by a $5 million Lenfest Foundation grant, we are investing in programs that connect University City employers seeking talent with West Philadelphia residents seeking the skills and opportunities needed to transform their career trajectories. In its eastern-most square mile, University City has 80,000 jobs and $5 billion in recent real estate investment, according to UCD’s analysis of 2016 census data and real estate trends. In the five neighboring West Philadelphia zip codes, 81,000 people live in poverty. 

This kind of disparity is unfortunately common in many of the country’s thriving innovation hubs. What is uncommon, however, is our response here in Philadelphia, as our community comes together to fight this unacceptable opportunity divide.

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