Nutter tells chamber job creation is his top priority

Mayor Nutter can still pack the house for an address to the business community.

However, it did seem to me that the 1,400 people at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Tuesday weren’t spreading love as the business elite once did when he was a newly minted mayor.

Granted, few are in a celebratory mood following an awful economy in 2009 and as they face lots of uncertainty for 2010.

It was the 27th year a city mayor has given an address to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. And there is no friendlier venue for the mayor to talk about his vision for the city and strategies to get there.

After all, the chamber publicly supported Nutter last year when he temporarily suspended wage- and business-tax cuts that had been whittling those deterrents to doing business here. It was the right thing for the chamber leadership to do, but that didn’t help its members struggling with the downturn.

Nutter once again committed to restoring those tax cuts, starting in 2012, if possible. Still, he acknowledged that it will be tough to do, and the crowd did not applaud his stated intention.

By my count, there were 12 times during the 30-minute speech that the assemblage applauded. Two were for references to the Phillies and the much-anticipated start of spring training.

Even the mayor seemed taken aback by delayed reaction to his announcing that business owners would be able to apply for licenses, pay taxes, and conduct other business with the city online in June. What an enormous accomplishment for a paper-laden, queue-fixated city bureaucracy. He actually had to wait for clapping that should have thundered.

Otherwise, the crowd seemed to listen attentively as Nutter listed ways the city can help create jobs, including retaining and attracting businesses and investing in the higher-education, hospitality and medical sectors.

The words tough, harder and struggling kept recurring in Nutter’s speech. They describe today’s reality, even as Nutter was laying out his vision for Philadelphia as “a city of prosperity.”

It’s understandable that the suits in attendance were not enthusiastic about the message. But it’s a good sign they’re still listening even as economic uncertainty keeps them from creating jobs.