At first blush, businessperson Michael Forman, FS Investments CEO and co-founder, and union leader Ryan Boyer, the first Black business manager of the Building Trades Council, make a civic odd couple. But as co-chairs of the city’s 18-month-old Equity Alliance, the men have become partners and co-conspirators in a high-powered effort to solve a conundrum sorely in need of a solution: How can Philadelphia become the most equitable big city in America?
It hardly bears reminding why this challenge exists: As the poorest of America’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia has a 25 percent poverty rate that has barely changed for decades. Philly’s job growth is slow but steady, but 60 percent of new jobs pay less than $35,000 a year — barely enough to support a family. The wealth gap from neighborhood to neighborhood is reflected in the health gap and even mortality: The average lifespan of a person living in Society Hill is 20 years longer than a person in Strawberry Mansion.
Never did this become clearer than in the summer of 2020, as the city and country woke up to the myriad inequities made plain by Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd. It was then that Boyer and Forman started talking, along with a handful of other civic leaders, on Saturday mornings, looking for an answer to a question they all had: What can we do?
They launched the Equity Alliance with the aim of driving “equitable, inclusive, and resilient economic growth in Philadelphia” by joining together business, labor, civic group and government. They also aim to tackle gun violence, education, arts and entertainment and government inclusivity — so, more or less everything.
“What we’re trying to do, Michael and I, is have a story where there’s finally one Philadelphia,” Boyer told The Citizen in September, 2021, shortly after the Equity Alliance went public. “So if Philadelphia rises, everyone rises and we don’t have a city of haves and have-nots like we do now. The only way you do that is by being intentional — that doesn’t just happen.”
On Wednesday morning, June 15, Boyer and Forman (whose FS Investments supports The Citizen) will be joined at Fitler Club for a Business … for Good conversation with City Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. Quinones-Sanchez, a four-term councilperson who represents the poorest district in Philly with a pragmatic progressiveness that leaves room for both social justice and economic growth. The event, in partnership with Fitler Club, will be moderated by Citizen co-founder Larry Platt.
Wednesday June 15, 9–10:30am, Fitler Club Ballroom, 1 S. 24th Street, $5, free for Citizen and Fitler members, RSVP here.
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