The French Connection: A Strength of Philadelphia's International Profile

Maria Johansson, for GPA -- French expatriates living in Philadelphia make up one of the largest groups of foreign-born people in the region. And it makes sense, as Philadelphia offers them many reminders of home. The Ben Franklin Parkway was modeled after Champs-Élysées in Paris and was designed by French landscape architect Jacques Gréber. Moreover, the area between 17th and 19th streets and Walnut and Sansom streets is considered Philadelphia’s own French Quarter.

Last July, Mayor Nutter, his wife Lisa and a delegation of business leaders from Philadelphia travelled to Lyon and Paris to promote the city and positive exchange with the French nation. On January 28, 2015, the French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) hosted Mayor Nutter at Estia Restaurant (1405 Locust St.) for a report on this trade mission.

At the luncheon, Mayor Nutter explained the importance of expanding the French-American network in order to attract business to the city and raise its profile.

“Especially in the global environment of the 21st century, every now and then you have to travel,” Mayor Nutter said.

True to his word, the Mayor has completed a number of trade missions over the last few years: to China, Italy, the United Kingdom and Israel. What he learned during those missions, he said, is that people want to hear more about Philadelphia. He sees this as a great opportunity to tell the story of our city.

While in France, the Mayor visited some of the companies who are already doing business in Philadelphia, such as Saint-Gobain which has offices in Valley Forge. In addition to fortifying these existing relationships, the Mayor and his delegates also formed new ones. In the long run, this will contribute greatly to Philadelphia’s economy and help connect the city internationally.

Sapna Bhatt, Director of International Business Investment for the City of Philadelphia, explained that part of the aim of a trade mission is to “introduce the strengths and opportunities available in Philadelphia.” Moreover, she said, “there is a lot of continuity between Philadelphia and France,” with multiple touching points between the Mayor and business leaders. For instance, relationships that were started during the trade mission have continued in Philadelphia, with French business leaders having travelled here to investigate the opportunities available in the area.

The work of the FACC and the coordinated effort between the city, state and private sector in a great variety of countries across the globe is helping Philadelphia grow. Philadelphia is now stronger and more focused than ever, offering a business-friendly environment with an unusually large population of millennials and immigrants.

As the Mayor jokingly put it, “we are pretty much the biggest thing going right now.”

To continue these positive trends, more international corporations should be encouraged to come to the area, bringing jobs and boosting the local economy. The work of organizations such as the FACC is a very important part of that, contributing greatly to the appeal of Philadelphia as a business destination. At the January luncheon, the Mayor bestowed upon the FACC a citation from the City, honoring its 25 years of promoting bilateral trade between France and Philadelphia.

To see more photos from this event, visit GPA's Flickr page.