• March 2012

The Inkandescent Spotlight Is on the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce

Since August 2009, former Pennsylvania State Sen. Rob Wonderling (R-24th) has been the president & CEO of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

As a Senator, he has been committed to promoting economic development and job creation, modernizing infrastructure, maintaining access to high-quality healthcare services, helping young entrepreneurs and families prosper, and reducing the tax burden on all Pennsylvanians.

Previously, Sen. Wonderling, 47, served as Gov. Tom Ridge’s deputy secretary of transportation, responsible for improving the operation and efficiency of PennDOT’s 5,000-employee highway maintenance workforce.

For the past 10 years, he worked for Bentley Systems, Inc., a privately held software firm based in Exton and for Allentown-based Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. Previously, Sen. Wonderling worked for and rose to president of the PENJERDEL Council (1984 to 1991), where he worked closely with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce on issues involving the region’s economic and environmental prosperity.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell issued the following statement in response to state Sen. Rob Wonderling’s appointment:

“Senator Wonderling has been a great help on economic development projects. He has a great feel from what businesses need to do to strengthen their communities and create new opportunities for Pennsylvania’s hardworking men and women. He is a great choice to succeed Mark Schweiker.”

In the Pennsylvania Senate, Sen. Wonderling served as chairman of the Transportation Committee and is a member of the Community and Economic Development Committee, the Public Health and Welfare Committee, the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, among other assignments.

In addition, he serves on the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) board of trustees. He was appointed to the Pennsylvania Public Television Network board of directors and serves as co-chair to the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges and the Life Science Caucus, which addresses policy issues important to the biotechnology and life-science industry.

Wonderling is a 1984 graduate of Allegheny College and received a master’s degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. He attended the program for Senior Executives in State Government at Harvard University in 1997. He lives in Schwenksville with his wife Kristin and three sons.

Following is our Q&A with the president of the Philadelphia Chamber.

Be Inkandescent: What sets the Philadelphia Chamber apart from other Chambers of Commerce?

Rob Wonderling: The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce truly is the premier business association in the Greater Philadelphia region. Being a member of the Chamber gives your organization access to our extensive network of businesses and professionals throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware. With more than 5,000 members and located in the fifth-largest metro area in the country, the Chamber can help members utilize unparalleled marketing opportunities, enjoy discounted and free benefits and programs, build a network of business contacts, and connect with key-policymakers.

Be Inkandescent: Compared to other cities, how has Philadelphia fared through the recession? Have any industries in the region done particularly well, or particularly badly, because of it? And do you see things picking up? If so, how? And in which sectors?

Rob Wonderling: Compared to other major metropolitan areas, the Greater Philadelphia region has fared relatively well. The 200-mile circle around the center of Greater Philadelphia accounts for 122 companies on the 2010 Fortune 500 list. Our key industries—life sciences, health services, higher education, logistics, energy, and advanced manufacturing—prosper here because raw materials, manufactured goods, and finished products can move easily in, out, and across the region, thanks to one of the most extensive and reliable multimodal transportation networks in the world. They draw from Greater Philadelphia’s large and highly skilled labor force and proximity to 101 colleges and universities. We have remained relatively stable and expect to continue to do so.

Be Inkandescent: Do you think that business will dramatically be impacted by the upcoming election season? If so, how do you think it will impact Philadelphia businesses?

Rob Wonderling: Election cycles are continuous. At the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, we work with all public officials to discuss the issues that are important to the employers of the region—with the end goal of having government at all levels that promotes free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Be Inkandescent: What are some of the leading industries and companies that the Philadelphia Chamber represents?

Rob Wonderling: We represent approximately 5,000 member companies stretching across the 11 counties in three states of the Greater Philadelphia region. Over half our members come from the City of Philadelphia and the rest from surrounding suburbs.

We serve both the large and small business community. The small businesses that consist of fewer than 100 employers make up 85 percent of our membership. The remaining 15 percent represents Greater Philadelphia’s leading corporations. Life sciences and higher education are two of the largest drivers of Greater Philadelphia’s economy.

Other key industries that contribute heavily to the regional economy are financial activities, professional services, and logistics.

Be Inkandescent: The Philadelphia Chamber initiated several leadership initiatives in recent years. Tell us about those, and why you think these programs are important for the future of the region.

Rob Wonderling: As a Chamber, our mission is clear: To attract, retain, and grow jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region. For our regional economy to grow, we must do a better job of educating children and preparing them for the jobs of the 21st century.

The Chamber and members of the regional business and civic communities are working on a unified, deliberate strategy for improving education whether it be public, charter, or parochial in Philadelphia by offering practical solutions in three specific areas.

The first area is leadership: How can we help the School Reform Commission, the Superintendent, the Mayor, City Council, and the Governor in their concerted efforts to improve our schools?

The second area is efficiencies: How can the expertise of the business community help determine efficiencies within the school district, including assisting with an analysis of excess capacity? To date, several Chamber members have stepped up to offer their expertise on matters related to finance, accounting, and management, among other areas.

The third area is certainly the most important, the children: How can we support these children to really make a difference in their lives, to help them be successful in school, to help them go on to higher learning, to help prepare them for jobs that businesses need? This last area in particular will be a multiyear strategy and will require significant investment of time and resources on the part of the business community.

The Chamber has committed to increase the number of paid summer internships throughout Philadelphia and engage more members in our annual Read to Me program, which provides books for schools in need.

Be Inkandescent: What do you forecast will be the highlight of 2012, in terms of employment opportunities and corporate growth in Philadelphia?

Rob Wonderling: We are expecting continued moderate growth within the region. Do check out our 2012 economic development report here.

*Be Inkandescent: Do you work closely with other Chambers of Commerce? If so, how? Is this a focus for 2012?

Rob Wonderling: Partnership is the key word for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. We regularly partner not only with other local chambers, but often collaborate with other business organizations throughout the state. In 2012, our Chamber is actively working with the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce in support of transportation infrastructure funding. We are also partnering with many private, nonprofits, and government entities to help reform Philadelphia public schools.

Be Inkandescent: What are you most looking forward to in the new year in terms of personal goals and growth at the Chamber?

Rob Wonderling: Our goal is to not only increase membership, but to improve the retention rate of our existing members. We are also working to collaborate more with our public officials in the City of Philadelphia and be more proactive in promoting entrepreneurship and free enterprise.

Be Inkandescent: You have had a fascinating career—in business and politics. Tell us about how your experience helps you lead the Chamber, and what you like most about running this large organization.

Rob Wonderling: I am humbled to have had the honor to serve in the Pennsylvania Senate and now as head of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Every day truly is interesting and exciting and I consider myself extremely fortunate. The work I do at the Chamber to promote free enterprise is shared with my colleagues at the Chamber and the tremendous support of our volunteer board and membership.

Be Inkandescent: What is one thing that will surprise us about the Philadelphia Chamber in 2012?

Rob Wonderling: The Chamber’s long-term commitment to improve Philadelphia’s schools. While it may surprise some that a business association is involved in education issues, we view it as our top priority.


About the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is the premier advocate of the region’s business community, representing members in 11 counties across three states with one voice.

Chamber Mission: The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting regional economic growth, advancing business-friendly public policies, and servicing our members through outstanding programs, benefits, and services.

As an advocate for regional development, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to supporting and encouraging the continued growth of each of our approximately 5,000 member companies together with the regional business community. The Chamber strives to influence business-friendly legislation in all levels of government, participate in initiatives to improve education and the community, present professional enrichment programs, and provide our members with cost-efficient ways to run their businesses.

The Chamber motto is: Get involved. Get results. Through our member-focused Web site, you can discover what you need and where you need to go, whom to call, and ultimately why becoming a member of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is one of the best strategies for growing your business.

Membership: The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce represents approximately 5,000 member companies stretching across the 11 counties in three states of the Greater Philadelphia region.

  • Pennsylvania: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties
  • New Jersey: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer, and Salem counties
  • Delaware: New Castle County

Membership by County:

  • Philadelphia 54%
  • Montgomery 20%
  • Delaware 6%
  • Bucks 6%
  • Chester 5%
  • Southern New Jersey 4%
  • New Castle 1%
  • Outside Greater Philadelphia 4%

It serves both the large and small business community: Small businesses that consist of fewer than 100 employees make up 85 percent of our membership. The remaining 15 percent represents Greater Philadelphia’s leading corporations.

Membership by Number of Employees:

  • 1-5 Employees 40%
  • 6-99 Employees 45%
  • 100+ Employees 15%

Location:

  • The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is located at the prestigious Bellevue in Center City: 200 S. Broad St., Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19102-3813.
  • The Chamber also has office space in King of Prussia, Montgomery County.
  • In partnership with Regus, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce offices are located at 630 Freedom Business Center Drive, Third Floor, King of Prussia, PA 19406

For more information, visit www.greaterphilachamber.com.