Global Conversation With: Matt Cabrey, Executive Director of Select Greater Philadelphia

Alison Vayne, for GPA -- Matt Cabrey is the executive director of Select Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit organization that is part of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Starting out as a journalism major at Penn State, Cabrey has worked in a variety of industries, finally settling as a strong asset in the marketing and communications field. Cabrey is now helping Select Greater Philadelphia attract businesses, business growth and job creation across the 11-county region of Northern Delaware, Southern New Jersey, and Southeastern Pennsylvania.

What is your role at Select Greater Philadelphia?

At its core, Select Greater Philadelphia is a marketing, branding, image development and communications organization. Its focus is on business attraction for the 11 counties of Greater Philadelphia. The emphasis on marketing and communications is key right now to attract new businesses here. We tell the story to the world about the unique assets Greater Philadelphia has to offer, not only from the quality of life perspective, but also from a business and civic perspective.

We spell that out and if we market and communicate well about the region, the phone will ring. That’s where our business expansion services team comes into play. That team will listen to the criteria, to the needs of the team on the other side of the phone. Sometimes that individual is a company executive, a real estate professional, site selectors and they’re calling to find out more about Greater Philadelphia because they’ve heard about it and they are thinking of expanding their offices here. We also connect them with economic development leaders and other business partners who can facilitate and add value to that conversation.

One of the other things we do is provide research services. Based on what that prospect needs, we can provide data that will allow them to make a more informed decision about their choice to come to Philadelphia or not. We are a region and a collective community.

We are totally funded by investors and when we say investors we are really referring to companies who believe in what we are trying to do. They have a passion for lifting the economic vibrancy of the region and they appreciate that when that tide rises, it lifts all the boats. We want to provide value to our investors and partners by attracting more companies to come here. The most important example is the economic development teams in each of the 11 counties. We work with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the State of New Jersey and the State of Delaware to really be their voice and communicate the assets of Greater Philadelphia.

What do you think of Philadelphia as an international city?

It’s on the rise. The image, the reputation, the success of Philadelphia is infectious and continues to be communicated in a passionate way, not only by folks like Select Greater Philadelphia, but by people who experience life here. They are frankly our best champions. Folks who come here to visit, to learn, will not only stay, but they will also advocate on behalf of the region to others and inspire them and encourage them to come to this area as well.

Philadelphia is uniquely positioned. We’re close to New York, we’re close to Washington, D.C. and the reason that’s beneficial is that we’re not New York, and we’re not Washington, D.C. The quality of life that exists in this community allows people to grow their business, raise their family, get a great education and enjoy the history, the culture and the art that is present here.

That’s not the only real benefit from the fact that we are strategically positioned in the heart of the East Coast. This region is also a gateway to Europe in terms of shipping. There are three major ports that are very attractive for international companies that want to bring products into this region and that also want to use it as a gateway to move products out of this region.

You said Philadelphia is on the rise as an international hub. What could be done to improve the international aspects of the city?

Ironically, it is enhanced communications about the features and benefits that make Greater Philadelphia such a special place to live and work. We are often our own worst enemies. Those of us who are natives of the Greater Philadelphia region generally speaking, often times will be the most critical. They’ll see the glass half empty. Colleagues who relocate to this area are optimists who see the glass half full. They see and appreciate the assets that many natives take for granted. We need to change that mindset. From my view, one of the biggest opportunities is to lift the profile of the positive and the optimistic opportunities that are present across the Greater Philadelphia region. Human nature causes people, I think, to complain about a variety of things. Very rarely do you see somebody willing to take that and make it an opportunity for change. And that’s what we are trying to do.

What are your plans for the future of Select Greater Philadelphia?

It’s a redefining and reenergizing of our mission. There had been some confusion about the purpose of Select and that confusion was tangled up in real estate, site selector and economic development messaging. What we do is tell the story about the region and then we connect candidates to real estate professionals, business advisors and the economic development teams who have the ability to make the transaction happen, who have grant dollars and tax incentives to entice companies to choose a specific region over another. The plan for the future is really to fine tune that marketing communication approach and continue to provide the services that we have already been providing. That will allow us to more appropriately connect and collaborate with our economic development teams and our investors who add value to the conversation with prospects from outside this region.

Image courtesy of Philadelphia Business Journal.