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3 gigs Philly needs to spark economic development

Cupcakes. July 5, 2017 Category: ColumnFeaturedMediumMethod

Tivoni Devor’s “Getting Good Done” column focuses on new models of enacting impact.


Philadelphia’s latest jobs numbers aren’t great: At six percent, we have the highest unemployment rate of surrounding counties.

How to fix that?

If we accept that we are in the gig economy, here are three gigs — three types of flexible entrepreneurial job categories — that, with a few minor tweaks, the city could introduce (or reintroduce) to unleash a wave of opportunities for those out of the current labor market.

1. Bring back pushcarts.

Specifically, produce pushcarts.

You want to solve the problem of getting fresh vegetables into the deepest parts of food deserts while creating jobs? Right now there’s an annual pushcart license fee of $300. That alone is a serious ding into the thin margins one receives by selling produce on the street. By reducing the cost of a pushcart license, if not forgiving it if one operates in an area devoid of alternatives, more of the profits go directly to benefitting the vendor.

You could also easily Uber-ize it by putting the pushcarts on GPS and letting people ping them to go to directly to their houses to deliver farm fresh veggies.

2. Develop a cottage food industry.

Philadelphia is the only county in the area that does not allow people to have a home-based food business. In surrounding counties, if you have a clean kitchen, storage space and working appliances, you pay a small inspection fee, and you can produce food in your kitchen and sell it commercially.

Philly loses in many ways because every home cook who sells some cupcakes on Instagram has to leave the city to have a legal, tax-generating home business, and when some of those home-based bakeries go brick and mortar and make their first hires — it’s all outside the city.

From our Partners

There are some kitchen share places in the city, but it’s another margin killer on a home business if you have to leave the home that has a kitchen and pay to use another kitchen.

3. Bring back newsies.

What was once a classic first job, newspaper carrier, is all but extinct in Philadelphia. It’s one of the few jobs that youth as young as 11 can get this gig. The city can’t do this directly — but they can encourage it by limiting where newspaper boxes are distributed in the city, giving the newsies some territory. The city could also use the new “Best Value” language in its bidding process for lucrative ad buys.

Also, now that the Inquirer is nonprofit (sort of), maybe its operators could develop a newspaper carrier workforce development youth program which could double for a distribution system.

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Some light hacks of a few city codes and a little investment could unleash a wave of entrepreneurship on every block in the city. From getting fresh produce delivered to my door via pushcart, which I then use to create fruit leathers that I sell on etsy and in ads in a local newspaper that you see when you bought it off a neighborhood kid for fifty cents.

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Getting Good Done

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