Saturday, October 10, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 2:40 PM

"We are in New Jersey to stay," Jens Kuerten, spokesman for Germany-based Gerresheimer AG, tells me, after a sale and a shutdown of two Cumberland County factories by the multinational specialty glassmaker's Vineland-based Gerresheimer Glass Inc. division.

Gerresheimer this year closed the old Wheaten molded-glass plant in Millville, idling 100, and moved its former pharmaceutical-glass packaging operation to its refurbished Chicago Heights, Ill. plant. The company also agreed to sell its glass-tubing plant in Vineland, which employs 200, and another in Pisa, Italy, to Corning Inc. for about $220 million.

But Gerresheimer "will remain in Vineland," with its engineers and other central staff, supporting Chicago Heights, the newly-acquired Centor plant in Ohio, and other North American plants, Kuerten added.  Gerresheimer also continues to operate its plants on Forest Grove Rd. and Crystal Ave. in Vineland, along with the Kimble/Chase works. Between the offices and plants, Gerresheimer employs a total of 350 here.

POSTED: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 11:52 AM

Among the 10 largest U.S. cities, Alan Schankel at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC shows clients in this report today that Philadelphia has the:

- Lowest median income: $37,000 per household, vs. low to mid $40,000s for Dallas, Houston and San Antonio -- and double that for the richest big city, San Jose, in Silicon Valley. (Philly has concentrations of old folks, students, poor people and others without good jobs.)
- Second-worst unemployment rate: 6.1% in July. Only Los Angeles was higher at 6.8%. San Antonio was lowest, below 4%.
- Second-lowest population growth rate: 2.25% from 2010-mid-2014. Only Chicago grew more slowly. NYC and LA were 3-4%, Texas and California cities grew faster than 5%. 
 - Second-worst credit rating: A2 for Moody's, A+ for S&P. Only Chicago, at Ba1/BBB+, is considered less solvent than Philadelphia (and that's still investment-grade). San Antonio is tops, at triple-A. Everybody else is double-A+/-
  Also: Philadelphia's financial reserves are razor thin: just 3% of the budget, half of what New York has set aside. No other Top 10 city is below 10% (though Chicago's numbers are suspect).

Better news: City debt and pension burdens for Philadelphia are below the average for big U.S. cities. Plus -- this is a sign of weakness, but also opportunity -- Housing values here are the cheapest among the big cities on either coast (median $142,500, less than one-third of New York, San Jose or San Diego), also below Chicago, Phoenix and the U.S. average, though still higher than the big Texas cities. Property value per person ($62,000) is the second-lowest; only San Antonio is lower, but that doesn't stop San Antonio from being a solvent, high-growth metro center.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 12:59 PM
RevZilla Founders, Anthony Bucci (L), Matt Kull, and Nick Auger stand on the main floor of their office space located at 4020 S. 26th St., in Philadelphia, Pa., on Feb. 24, 2015. (Jessie Fox /

"We are hiring like crazy," says Anthony Bucci, who cofounded online motorcyle marketing and sales giant RevZilla in his partner's Old City garage in the recession year 2008 ("We ate ramen for three years.") Self-funded, RevZilla employs 200: is seeking dozens more developers-marketing-analytics people; sold $75 million worth of leather, plastic and metal gear last year; expects to sell $105 million in 2015 from its headquarters-development center-retail store-warehouse in Philadelphia's Navy Yard district.

Bucci pitched to a crowd of more than 300 this morning at, the National Retail Association's digital-mobile sales conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. In jeans and an open-necked lavender shirt, Bucci fit right into a marketing panel run by the personalizing digital marketer Chris Bye, of Philadelphia's Tonic Design, whose clients include J&J and Ralph Lauren as well as RevZilla.    .

"TeamZilla, this is local, this is fast, this is fun," chanted Bucci, a software developer by profession (past clients included Calvin Klein and Speedo). "We are the most influential and fastest-growing space in the motorcycle vertical," he boasted, eight years on from the founders' dream of creating the "Barneys of motorcycles, the Zappos of motorcycles."

POSTED: Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 10:03 AM

Pennsylvania school district property owners and the state Treasury paid a combined $2.6 billion into the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) in the year ended June 30. The total should top $3 billion this fiscal year and is scheduled to rise again into the future.

That's not counting investment profits on the pension system's investments (just 3% in the fiscal year ended June 30) or employee contributions (which are also, of course, funded by taxpayers). Annual increases at far above the rate of inflation have squeezed flat school district budgets around the state (see my stories and data on the local school and police pension funding here); in Quakertown school board members voted in protest to delay their PSERS contributions; other districts have considered similar actions.  

Yet the payments aren't enough to keep PSERS from getting broker, says chief investment officer James Grossman. PSERS "continues to be underfunded by school employers and the commonwealth," Grossman noted in this statement Tuesday.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 2:23 PM
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: NAMM members including Chris Martin meet with Sen. Bob Casey (D) in the Russell Senate Office Building as part of 'Music Industry Leaders and Artists Drum Up Support for Music Education on Capitol Hill' event as part of Namm's D.C. Fly-in on May 20, 2015 in Washington DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NAMM)

The Export-Import Bank charter is expired, but enough Republicans remain loyal to American business -- despite "ideological" defectors like his fellow Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who wants Ex-Im dead on grounds it subsidizes big American companies like GE and Boeing -- that Democrats may yet be able to renew its charter, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told me in a stop through Philadelphia today. (See also this Bloomberg story which counts potential votes.) 

"It's not all that difficult," Casey told me. "It's not like some brave policy position. It makes sense. It works." Since 2007 (he rattled off to me)m ExIm has backed $7 billion in exports for 314 Pennsylvania companies, most of which employ fewer than 500 people. "It works well for big companies; it works enormously well for small cos. I don't know why Pat wouldn't support it."

Casey wrote a letter Monday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warning that GE is already moving locomotive production jobs from western Pennsylvania to France in search of cheaper financing due to Ex-Im's threatened demise. He says he's still more worried that small companies like Philadelphia's Bassetts Ice Cream, which got Ex-Im loans in the past, won't get cheap financing again. (Standard and Poor's warns the worst-case scenario is a slowing global economy amid higher U.S. interest rates making it tougher for more borrowers to afford U.S. products without Ex-Im loans.)

POSTED: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 12:51 PM
Mike George is CEO of QVC, the West Chester-based home-shopping company. (PROVIDED)

QVC boss Mike George packed the Pennsylania Convention Center's Terrace Ballroom at today's National Retail Federation digital-retail conference, and shed a little more light on his TV shopping network's $2.4 billion purchase of Seattle-based smartphone shopping network (see "Seeking Younger Women" here

Culture clash much? "We're getting all our developers under one roof," George said. "We have to get all our people comfortable with the idea (media-based shopping has to) complete reinvent ourselves..." It's not TV vs. smartphones; it's both, plus...From isolated strategies and creative groups, the firms are joining "those consumed by tomorrow's sales, and those free to strategize the future.

"We spent a lot of time getting our business and technology teams together" at QVC, even before the merger was vetted, George added. "One platform supports TV, digital, phone, tablet, Web." Mobile is now a quarter of the business, Web/laptop another quarter, and TV is still half (pre-Zulily.) New shopping campaigns are now about "how to target a market," which tech to lead with.

POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 4:23 PM
File: Ellen Kullman, chief executive officer of DuPont Co., speaks during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative CGI America meeting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, June 14, 2013.Photo: Daniel Acker (Bloomberg)

TUEDAY UPDATE: DuPont Co. shares rose 11%, or $6 a share, in morning trading, rising above $57 and reversing most of this summer's loss, after CEO Ellen Kullman announced her abrupt departure Monday. She's leaving five months after reaching a truce with activist investor Nelson Peltz, who temporarily left her free to run the company without his public sniping -- until it was clear the company wouldn't meet its financial targets, again.

MONDAY: "Ellen Kullman, Chair and CEO of DuPont, announced that she will retire from the company effective October 16," writes DuPont Co. in a statement. "On that date, Edward Breen, a current member of the DuPont Board of Directors, will assume the role of Interim Chair and CEO of DuPont. The Board has engaged an executive recruitment firm to identify a full-time replacement." Earlier in the day, shares rose as investor Peltz's son-in-law Edward Garden on business TV reiterated his group's interest in restructuring the company to squeeze out more profits.  DuPont statement here.

Kullman, 59, is leaving as DuPont posts yet another reduction in profits and accelerates cost-cutting. DuPont cut yearly per-share profit targets to $2.75, from a previous $3.10, blaming the strong U.S. dollar and weak foreign pesticide markets. And DuPont says it will speed up cost cuts "to achieve $1.3 billion of savings on a run rate basis by the end of 2016," instead of 2017, and will cut an additional $300 million in 2017. The company will disclose more in an investor conference call at 5 p.m. DuPont will put out third-quarter results Oct. 27.  

POSTED: Monday, October 5, 2015, 1:35 PM

When he presided at our wedding in 1988, Father Patrick Sieber OFM was a priest on the edge: The Catholic church's Philadelphia shepherd, John Cardinal Krol, wanted to see Pat leave town -- while federal authorities wanted him to stay put, at least until he finished his probation for breaking into a federal weapons facility in an anti-war protest.

On Sunday, Sieber celebrated his 50th year as a Franciscan in a Mass in the lower church at Visitation BVM in Kensington, a few blocks east of where he grew up in what is now one of the city's poorest pockets; and a few blocks north of where he has helped run St. Francis Inn and its associated programs for families and homeless people. He also ministers to patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden.

Sieber, a longtime critic of what President Eisenhower warned was the over-powerful American "military-industrial complex," praised Pope Francis as "man of mercy," rare even in church. When the Pope, a Jesuit, borrowed Francis' name for his papacy, he invited "a world of trouble" from powerful people, including Catholics, who see Christ's message as less than personally transformative, Sieber said in his Viso homily. Even during Francis' purportedly pastoral visit to this city, he was kept at arm's-length from the people by layers of security and officialdom -- the "men of power and protocol," as Sieber called them.

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at,, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

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