PhillyDeals: How Philadelphia attracted a new Teva warehouse

After losing business to its newer, lower-cost neighbors, job- and tax-hungry Philadelphia is finding ways to welcome business that surrounding counties can't or won't attract.

"In the suburbs, this would be impossible," says Jim Petrucci, speaking of Teva Pharmaceuticals' new Northeast Philadelphia trucking and warehouse site.

Petrucci, owner of broker J.G. Petrucci & Sons in Asbury, N.J., represented investor John Parsons and his partners in landing Teva for the site.

Israel-based Teva's plant will rise on Red Lion Road, on 136 acres at the site of the short-lived Island Green Country Club, part of the former World War II-era Budd Co. complex that made cargo planes and railcars.

"When they put in the golf course, they left the underlying [industrial] zoning in place. And that's what made the deal work," Petrucci told me after speaking at last week's Urban Land Institute forum at the Union League.

Besides land for a million-square-foot-plus warehouse, Teva wanted hangar-like 125-foot floor-to-ceiling clearance. In most suburban towns, Petrucci says, "The zoning would cap a building height at 60 feet. People don't want giant buildings in the suburbs."

Teva had been trying to pick from among three suburban sites, including a former quarry in Warrington. Neighbors there mobilized against what they expected to be 24-hour truck traffic.

"Then we went to Philly, and they had not only the zoning, [but also roads and utilities] that could handle the project. It would have taken 20 times the site prep in the suburbs," Petrucci said.

Gov. Corbett sweetened the package by promising Teva a $2.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital grant. Teva earned $1.3 billion in profits over the last 12 months.

City agencies - the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., the Water Department - sweated the details, Petrucci says. "I've been doing this a long time, and I don't think we've ever been received this well," he told me. "Our experience, on a scale of 1 to 10, was a 12. Mayor Nutter was proactive and understood very early what this represented in terms of tax rateables for the city."

 

Tech to tours

Urban Adventures, an Australian firm that coordinates private tour services in 80 cities, just named Philadelphia-based Andy Maunder, who is British, its top franchisee, based on his rapid growth (3,000 customers in 18 months) and high customer-survey scores.

Maunder came to the business - and Philadelphia - by an unusual route: The United Kingdom firm he worked for sent him here as chief executive of Moorestown-based TeleSciences Inc., a billing-software pioneer, when it bought the firm in 1994.

"I came to run that as CEO. We took it public on Nasdaq in 1997 and sold it in 1999," Maunder told me. He joined Chris Rothey's Traffic.Com in Malvern as chief financial officer in 2005. It went public the next year and sold to NAVTEQ in 2007 (the company is now part of Radiate Media, headed by Rothey).

Maunder collected his payout and went off to "do consulting," he said, including a part-time chief financial officer role at Tango Traffic, a 24-hour cable channel that uses Traffic.Com data.

And Maunder got into the tour business: In a 2006 Inquirer travel article, he read about a private tour-van service in Rome.

"I called the guy in the story," he said, "and that's where we went [Rome], and that was so cool." Finding nothing similar in this region, Maunder went to work.

"I registered, insured a van, paid the business property tax, and set myself up," he explained, as Awfully Nice Tours. "I went on every tour I could," from Society Hill to the Brandywine, Lancaster, Valley Forge. "I met great tour guides," he said.

He began running private downtown walking tours and in 2009 added the Urban Adventures franchise.

"We give you a pretzel. We buy you a beer," Maunder said. "We do a South Philly tour, an Italian Market tour, a Soul of Center City tour. Philly on Tap - a pub tour, Philadelphia craft beers and brewing and history. McGillin's. Notting Head."

Prices start at $20 and go up to $400 or more per van load to Lancaster. "You had a huge conference in Philadelphia the other week - nephrology - we had 35 people, all kidney doctors," Maunder said.

Ten guides now work for Maunder. And he's gone native: "I buy from locals, support locals - it's what I'm all about."

 


Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.