As the Executive Vice President of Wilco Electronic Systems, I am very honored to be here today and share a little bit about our story and why Philadelphia is the ideal destination for Amazon’s HQ2.
So I love the City of Philadelphia. (Especially when our Eagles are winning.) But I was born here. My father and mother met in Philadelphia. Pretty sure I was conceived here. And my family proudly continues to call Greater Philadelphia our home.
Now, I did leave for a bit and attend Spelman college in Atlanta, then traveled up to D.C. and attended Georgetown Law School. I could have lived anywhere, worked anywhere, particularly as a young, lawyer specializing in technology and communications law. Silicon Valley or Austin were absolute possibilities to settle down and begin my life. But I chose to come back home to Philadelphia. Because when I was deciding what city would be best for me to work, live, play…and also innovate…Philadelphia was the easy choice!
If you will indulge me, I would like to break that down for a minute:
My family business was started and still resides here in Philadelphia, and has been here for almost 40 years.
My father came to Philadelphia in the 1950s from the cotton fields of North Carolina, and he started and built a cable company called Wilco Electronic Systems. Wilco is now one of the last black owned cable companies in the Nation and we could not be more proud of that fact. So During the 1980s, when there were tons of cable companies, and cable was the NEW technology, we were one of the first companies to bring service to Philadelphia.
And we have been able to stay successful as a business for over four decades because of the city and the region’s numerous attributes, including:
- Location Location Location. Our headquarters are located in Fort Washington, which is in Montgomery County and most of our business is here in Center City. So we consider ourselves a regional company. Best of both. So that gives us access and proximity to a global gateway that includes rail, water, air, highway, and fiber optics. And the fact that we can easily get to New York City and Washington, D.C., has been very important to our success. Location will definitely also be extremely important Amazon.
- We also have a great talent pool. And for a technology company, like ours and Amazon, that talent capital will be critical to their success within the community and the region, and will help in their ability to innovate. For this, I give credit to our world class universities and the fact that our region offers the most densely populated concentration of higher education institutions in the world.
- Speaking of talent: Philadelphia’s Millennial population is growing faster than the 30 top cities in the United States. Which means that Philadelphia attracted more millennials than San Francisco in the last decade. And this is important because Millennials are the most represented generation in the workforce at 53 percent, and for our company and Amazon, access to young talent is key.
We have one of the most diverse, extensive and collaborative tech ecosystems for innovation in the East Coast. And that system successfully connects entrepreneurs with capital, talent, corporate partners and innovation hubs. And it’s only growing.
- But there is also another reason that I love Millennials….they crave diversity. Meaning they are not just the most diverse generation in history…they’re pushing for more diversity, in all applications. So as a minority majority city, what does Philadelphia have? Diversity. For Wilco this has allowed us to be able to hire and train from the communities that we serve, which also gives us a unique advantage to the marketplace. For Amazon, it will surely do the same—access to talent for executives suites and distribution centers and everywhere in between.
- And one of our last work values is our tech ecosystem—and our ecosystem is special. I am proud to be a part of it. And I care about it because we have one of the most diverse, extensive and collaborative tech ecosystems for innovation in the East Coast. And that system successfully connects entrepreneurs with capital, talent, corporate partners and innovation hubs. And it’s only growing. And Philadelphia has had the fastest-growing tech sector in proportion to total job growth of any major region outside of the Bay Area. Companies are literally filling engineering jobs faster in Philadelphia than any other major U.S. city.
Just last week, Philadelphia scored the #3 spot on a yearly ranking of the Country’s top startup cities….that is pretty incredible!!
If you want to be in the epicenter of where it all began, where my family’s start up began, where the country’s first start up began, #Say Yes To Philly #PhillyDelivers! And make us your new home.
For a company like ours, that is plugged into all parts of the technology sector, as an operator, an innovator, and a community provider and engager—like Amazon—the tech and innovation community has been critical to us. And I have no doubt will be an important lifeline for Amazon HQ2.
Now let’s talk about Philadelphia living:
I got married last year. Met my husband here in Philadelphia. We were married at the beautiful Philadelphia Horticultural Center. And there must have been some serious magic in those Fairmount Park gardens, because just four months ago….my new husband and I gave birth to an amazing baby girl. The light of our lives.
And what I am loving right now as a young family is that we can take her to so many places….like parks. Philadelphia has one the largest urban park systems in the nation. And we can bike with her because Philadelphia is one of the most bikeable cities in the nation. And we go visit tons of museums, and involve her in all types of activities—festivals, and public art— and the best part of all of all that is that we can do it affordably.
And lastly, the ability to play in Philadelphia:
My husband and I love a good date night. The fact that we are in one of the great food destination cities in the nation is fantastic. We can go dancing in Old City, head to a hipster hangout in Fishtown, or catch a live jazz show in Northern Liberties. And for Gods sake—we have the ROOTS!! Questlove: one of the best all time hip hop bands and culture creators…in the country!!! And the best part, we can visit all of these attractions, listen to all of this great music, enjoy all of this wonderful culture, by getting around on a top class public transportation system.
So Greater Philadelphia is perfect for Amazon HQ2 because it has the best of both—low cost and high quality of life.
So Dear Amazon, if you want to be in the epicenter of where it all began, where my family’s start up began, where the country’s first start up began, #Say Yes To Philly #PhillyDelivers! And make us your new home.
Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president of Wilco Electronics, gave this speech before a crowd at the Barnes Foundation on Thursday to introduce the video pitch the city sent to Amazon.Header: Tom Ipri via Flickr