Sunday, July 13, 2014
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Two views of Philadelphia as a place to do business

One study looked at taxes, another at employment growth. Philadelphia was woeful by one measure, but pretty good by another. Care to guess which?

Two views of Philadelphia as a place to do business

You can't be a business junkie without loving ranking things in various ways.

And I can't wait to dive into special lists like the Fortune 500, the Inc. 500 and the Forbes 400.

But sometimes rankings make you scratch your head. Like today. Two different pictures of Philadelphia and business.

First, Inc. magazine calls Philadelphia one of the worst cities in which to do business. Now the magazine calls its annual ranking the hottest cities for business. But looking at the 335 metropolitan statistical areas it ranked, I see Philadelphia stuck at No. 308. And it is the city, because it lists the 2007 nonfarm employment as 664,300.

Looking at just large cities, Inc. magazine tapped the Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina area as the hottest for business. The Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn area of Michigan was the worst among the group - No. 66. Philadelphia was No. 62, better than Providence, R.I., but worse than Rochester, N.Y.

How do they determine this? It's by employment growth rate, and that should tell you that the city would have trouble gaining ground. Its employment base has been shrinking for years.

The second ranking released Monday was by KPMG International, and it calculated a "tax index" for 21 U.S. citiies with populations of more than 2 million. Philadelphia did better than I would have expected. It was No. 10 - ahead of Boston, but behind Denver.

Here's how KPMG says it came up with its ranking:

The tax index is a measure of the total taxes paid by corporations in a particular location and industry, expressed as a percentage of total taxes paid by similar corporations in the United States.

KPMG looked at corporate income taxes, capital taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, miscellaneous local business taxes and statutory labor costs for 102 cities worldwide.

Still Philadelphia's total tax index of 101.9 was below the U.S. national average of 100, so I'm not sure the Commerce Department wants to be trumpeting the results. In fact, KPMG said Baltimore, our neighbor down I-95, had the most favorable tax structure for business.

The city with the worst tax index was San Jose, according to KPMG. Yes, worse than New York.

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
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Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
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