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Top business stories of 2012

As Philly moves sideways

Top business stories of 2012

Ken Dubin, a corporate headhunter who pays to put his radio show on friendly little WWDB-AM, asked yesterday for a list of the "Biggest Philly Business Stories of 2010." Here's what I wrote up in a hurry. Your additions welcome:

- Monetate's Help Wanted ads on Paoli Local trains. More proof that your kids should study computer science instead of stuff like political science, or marketing, or "communications", whatever that is.

- Oil is back: Carlyle, Delta and PBF reopen Philly-area refineries, as the North Dakota oil boom and the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale gas boom make America the world's energy center again.  

- Comcast's NBCU makes money on the Olympics after all: Philly's biggest company, having won the war against Verizon and other internet-and-video utilities, is focusing more on its New York and LA businesses, though it still has lots of engineers here.

- Wawa adds stores in Florida: Philly sandwich-coffee-gas culture goes national. Sort of.

- Vanguard buys the former Wyeth campus out in Malvern. The low-cost mutual fund machine keeps squashing its high-fee stock-picking competition.

The deal is also a sign Big Pharma remains in cash-starved product-hungry decline, as the GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca shrinkage and Teva's freeze of its planned Northeast Philly project remind us.

- Acme closings. The area's dominant supermarket chain, whose owner, Supervalu, is squeezed by merger debt and pensions it promised but didn't fully fund, is imploding. There's new Wegmans and Whole Foods, but their stuff doesn't seem any cheaper, or better, to me, head shopper for my family of 8, versus our neighborhood Shop-Rite.

- Cranes over West Philly. And North Broad. Penn and Temple and CHoP and Drexel, the big medical schools and the dominant colleges, are still building like crazy. By contrast, nobody's putting up office buildings anymore, except a few "smart" projects (like GSK) replacing larger towers. 

- Center City's population keeps rising, along with neighboring U-City, Bella Vista, "Southwest Center City," Fairmount, Northern Liberties. And restaurants and retailers chasing them. Though there are still tumbleweeds blowing down Chestnut St., and plenty of room for improvement.

Question: where do all these people work? Not in the offices that aren't being built. And are they really retro-city lovers? Or are they just underemployed 20- and 30-somethings, marking until they can afford cars, cable TV, and suburban school taxes?

- Obama wins. Since Philly votes for Democrats, we get a pipeline to whatever federal projects are still getting funded. But Congress doesn't seem in the mood to build too many of the roads, bridges, airport improvements we lack.

Gov. Corbett has a solution: Let private builders slap tolls on the I-95 bridge, PA-422 and other projects in need of improvement. Otherwise, 2013 looks like 2012.

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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