Big Apple vs. Cracked Bell -- getting graduates to stay in Philadelphia

What does Philadelphia need to make it a world-class region? It needs its college graduates to stick around, said Robert J. McNeill, the newly-elected chairman of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia already is a great region to live work and play," McNeill said in our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Inquirer. "I think being able to communicate and demonstrate that to our recent graduates is critical to our success and I think it could go a long way."

McNeill's employer, Deloitte LLP, the giant public accounting firm, is doing its part. (McNeill heads its Philadelphia office). This year, nationally, Deloitte will bring on 7,000 campus hires, either for jobs or internships. McNeill isn't sure how many of those will be in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, McNeill said, the Economy League works with Campus Philly, an organization with the raison d'etre of retaining more of the region's bumper crop of college graduates. 

"I don’t think we are getting our fair share of graduates," McNeill said. "I think the economic studies are pretty strong in terms of demonstrating how important it is to the overall regional economy if a greater number of those folks stay here."

Why is it such a tough sell?

New York is one factor, McNeill said. Philadelphia draws a lot of students from New York, so some return home. Others leave Philadelphia to go to New York. I

"It’s a bigger metropolis and the most well-known city in the world, and it’s less than 100 miles away," he said.

"There’s a perception, whether it’s real or not, that there’s greater opportunity -- just by the sheer volume of numbers," he said. "There are those that perceive that New York is the place to be. I happen not to be one of them, no offense to my partners in New York."