Philly Eyes Its Future as an East Coast Hub for IT Business and Recruiting

The Greater Philadelphia region has a lot of good things going.

For starters, it has a growing labor market, a booming corporate real estate sector, and a steady stream of foreign investment. It also has 83 colleges and universities, a large concentration of pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, and the nation’s second-best air passenger-rated big city airport. All combine to make it an attractive option for economic development.

But the leaders of Select Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit business marketing organization responsible for building businesses in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware, plan to commission a study of the region’s information-technology companies and workforce to learn how it can compete in the IT arena more like Silicon Valley.

“This area is known for its biotech and pharmaceutical area, and it’s very strong in life sciences,” says Thomas G. Morr, president and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia, which was formed two years ago to market the region as a business destination for companies and talented professionals. “I believe [with this survey] we’re going to find out we’re much stronger in the IT area than people would widely recognize.”

Morr says his group plans to conduct the survey this fall, and he expects its findings will document the extent of business activity the region has in IT and what that means in terms of opportunity for businesses and people.

The non-profit’s interest in building the Greater Philadelphia region’s IT footprint and the overall size and quality of its IT workforce comes at an opportune time. A recent Gartner Executive Programs report shows that nearly two-thirds of responding IT companies expect to increase IT headcount now through the end of February, 2007.

For the past five years, the Gartner survey found, companies have been under severe pressure to halt or decrease their investment in recruitment, retention, and development of the IT workforce. However, changing business expectations are now moving IT business leaders to shift from simply managing costs to supporting business growth and competitiveness.

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“In today’s market, enterprises can no long rely on the incremental increase in their overall IT salary budget to keep the turnover rate down,” says Lily Mok, research director for Gartner EXP’s human capital management content development group. “As a matter of fact, pay is only one of the levers used to attract and retain the best and the brightest IT talent. IT professionals are paying more attention to career development opportunities and work/life balance.”

Morr points out that the Greater Philadelphia area already boasts a wide variety of employers across the life sciences, IT, and communications, professional and financial services, and chemical and aerospace industries. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Comcast have a big presence in the region, and others like Siemens and SAP have their U.S. headquarters there.

Morr and his team from Select Greater Philadelphia want more IT professionals and employers to strike the right work/life balance in their region. The results of their impending IT workforce and business survey may give them the data they need to make their case and allow the region’s IT recruiters to draw from a national IT audience.

“We have a significant number of IT service providers here, but also a strong IT customer base,” which should make the Greater Philadelphia region very attractive to employers and IT professionals for years to come, Morr says.


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