A Global Conversation with Jabari Jones, President of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative

Interview conducted by Najah Springer on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

Tell me about what it is you do as President of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative?

I am the Chief convener of both small and large businesses in West Philadelphia. I work with many of West Philly’s small business associations – being able to identify partnerships between organizations and businesses to work together on similar projects.  I facilitate partnerships, report on them, and make sure small business are ahead of larger businesses in terms of legislative standpoints in City Hall. My mission is to use the resources of our small business community in West Philadelphia and other partners to help existing businesses create jobs as well as helping residents in starting new businesses.

With your goal being to bring economic growth to West Philadelphia how do you see this happening?

I ultimately see two spheres bringing economic growth to West Philadelphia. The first sphere consists of ordinary residents that are putting in hard work and determination to make their business ideas a reality, even if they don’t have a business degree. Creating and collecting new resources is a key economic driver for self sufficiency. Additionally its important to hire local workers – our businesses are 85% more likely to hire locally than larger corporations. Sphere two is helping existing local businesses grow, like finding ways that small businesses and large corporations can work together. Its extremely important as well to tear down policy barriers so that small business have access to opportunities.

What should someone who wants to start a business in West Philadelphia do?

Look at all of the resources available, like business associations. My organization has over 250 hours of workshops that are free and open to the public. Take advantage of anything that is being offered, and do research on what is available before buying. A lot of business associations have 10 plus workshops, with 90% of meetings consisting of local business owners. Knowledge Capital helps a person shape and develop their own business plans and take advantage of new business opportunities.

How can an everyday person help with West Philadelphia businesses?

Buy local goods and support local goods, this benefits the neighborhood at large – we need to support folks that create jobs for residents of the community. I suggest making a conscious effort to shop locally. Take a walk on commercial corridor, it can be right down from where you live. For many professionals there are opportunities to join boards or join organizations for business associations to give back to their community as well.

What community-based events are currently happening in West Philadelphia?

Located at the 3500 Lancaster Avenue Historical Community Education Center is the second Friday artists’ showcases and events at 6-7pm, people can experience live music, dance, and theater. Around 4-5 times this summer will be the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, a pop-up event in which various vendors sell their products for a dollar, drawing in thousands of people. The Lancaster Avenue Jazz Festival hosted by non-profit organizations offers free jazz shows at the park as well.

How have you seen West Philadelphia change?

West Philadelphia is currently in an interesting place – there is over a billion dollars in the real estate market,which means that there a plenty of good opportunities for money to be poured into the area. However, there needs to be better investment into the welfare of our neighborhoods.  A major global highlight of West Philadelphia is the large African and Caribbean population in the area, creating diversity and representing nearly every major African country.  We see highlighting this diversity as a way to increase tourism to West Philadelphia

Do you see West Philadelphia making any global changes?

West Philadelphia is a culturally diverse and welcoming community, and it is very beneficial that there is culture in every sector of the area. This diversity leads to lots of businesses looking to import/export goods to other countries around the world. People move to West Philadelphia that have businesses in other countries, and this brings leaders with connections to other countries. A major global significance is the large Afro/Caribbean group in the area, and this diversity attracts many tourists.

How does West Philadelphia engage in the history of a ‘Global Philadelphia’?

The first entrepreneurs in the United States were here in Philadelphia – the City of Philadelphia has innovation everywhere.  The entire country was brought together by the innovative principles of our founding fathers with documents signed here in Philadelphia. It is the responsibility of every economic development organization to keep the legacy alive of helping small businesses, citizens and startup companies participate and thrive in the free-market system. Philadelphia was made the first World Heritage City in the country for this reason among many.  It’s a historic staple for our country.