Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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Lions, jackals and political animals at Philadelphia oil refinery

Sometimes, in this business, you get a great quote and it makes the whole day. When I asked Philip Rinaldi, chief executive of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, what it was like to get an award from the union workers in his South Philadelphia oil refinery, he said, "I suppose, there's a feel of lions laying with jackals - natural enemies and natural predators."

Lions, jackals and political animals at Philadelphia oil refinery

Philip Rinaldi explains that Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the former Sunocco refinery, unveils its new oil-by-rail yard and high-speed unloading of railcars carrying 160,000 barrels a day of crude from North Dakota, October 2, 2013. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )
Philip Rinaldi explains that Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the former Sunocco refinery, unveils its new oil-by-rail yard and high-speed unloading of railcars carrying 160,000 barrels a day of crude from North Dakota, October 2, 2013. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

Sometimes, in this business, you get a great quote and it makes the whole day. When I asked Philip Rinaldi, chief executive of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, what it was like to get an award from the union workers in his South Philadelphia oil refinery, he said, "I suppose, there’s a feel of lions laying with jackals – natural enemies and natural predators."

Which is which, I asked.

"I'm not committing," he replied. Then it got better.

"Going back to the lions and jackals, we have to throw a few more animals into that  -- the politics here right now are so well-aligned," he said. No mention of donkeys or elephants and he didn't anything about which politicians coincided with which animals, so we just left that at the zoo.

But, then during our Leadership Agenda interview, he went on to compliment the politicians for helping to create a good business environment for the company. How often do you hear that?

It might have helped that Rinaldi's company bought the Sunoco Inc. oil refinery that had been on the chopping block, saving hundreds of good-paying jobs. In an unusual degree of bipartisan cooperation, federal, state and local politicians got together to woo the Carlyle Group which bankrolled the purchase of the refinery and created Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Sunoco is a minority partner.

"I’m a new Jersey guy," Rinaldi elaborated. "My home is in New Jersey. I live here during the week. I reside here in Philadelphia. I’ll confess that as a guy from New Jersey, I had been to Philadelphia a few times, [and thought] `That’s an interesting city. I ought to go spend more time,' and never did.

"Then when I became immersed here, I have to frankly say this is a wonderful place. It’s a wonderful city. It’s a wonderful city in its own right and at the moment, it’s a wonderful city in which to do the kind of business that I’m trying to do. 

"The state and the federal politicians are very supportive of growth and jobs and developing this as an energy and chemical hub," he said. "The city has been helpful. The business community is incredibly embracing. I feel like I’ve been here forever. There are a lot of people who know who I am and I know who they are at a much more rapid pace than you would find in most instances. 

 "I was basically drafted here by local business to chair something we’re calling the greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team," he said. "This is a group of CEOs of the energy companies, of the chemical companies, of the pipeline companies, of the logistics companies, of the law firms and banks that service those companies. We have representatives from the Governor's office. We have representatives from the Mayor’s office. Congressman Patrick Meehan is a very active member of this group that I chair.

"We’re forming this consortium to help attract the construction of the delivery system to deliver Marcellus Shale gas in large quantities into Philadelphia, where it can be then be utilized to add value and build a lot of different businesses and jobs in the economy.

"Philadelphia is a place where that’s really possible."

Click here to read my blog about the relationship between Philadelphia Energy Solutions and United Steelworkers Local 10-1

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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