Chopper maker, banker head Philly factory revival

Bill Hunt, boss at Northeast Philly helicopter maker AgustaWestland; Daniel K. Fitzpatrick. local boss of Citizens Bank and chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; freshman City Councilman Bobby Henon; and deputy mayor Alan Greenberger have agreed to co-chair Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's new Manufacturing Task Force.

The new council "will work with a consultant to develop an action plan that will encourage business growth and attraction as well as promote innovation," according to its press release. Italian-owned AgustaWestland, a division of Finmeccanica, "is ready and energized" to help, Hunt said in the statement. Philadelphia is in position "to cultivate and expand" the U.S. "manufacturing renaissance," given the city's location, amenities and cheap energy, said Fitzpatrick. "We have a great deal of work to do," said Henon.  

The city is no longer the "Workshop of the World," its textile mills and metal foundries mostly fled South and overseas decades ago from taxes, high costs and inefficient regulation; but surviving factories still employ 23,000 factory jobs paying $1.3 billion in annual wages, according to Nutter.

But city officials and banks hope a slow upturn in U.S. manufacturing -- fueled by new technologies and the weak dollar -- will take advantage of Philadelphia's vacant real estate, its proximity to the Penn, Drexel, Temple and Villanova engineering schools, a federally-backed energy center at the former Navy Yard, and other local amenities to attract new plants -- though there are signs new-style factories are largely automated affairs that don't add many jobs.