By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council members today were openly wondering whether Mayor Nutter’s frequent trips abroad to drum up business are worthwhile.
At a budget hearing, councilman David Oh brought up a half-dozen trips by the mayor to other parts of the globe, and he questioned the mayor’s commerce director, Alan Greenberger, about the value of sending a delegation overseas.
“I am making a request for the total cost of the six overseas visits by the mayor: Brazil, China, the UK, Israel, Africa and Rome,” Oh (below) said.
Greenberger responded that the trips help businesses consider Philadelphia as a potential market, because many would otherwise only focus on New York.
Greenberger admitted that planning for these trips is time-consuming for his staff — a point that Oh lamented.
(Oh:) “It sounds like you are drawing staff in to do this, that otherwise would be handling other things.”
(Greenberger:) “Yes, we do.”
Joining in the questioning was a frequent critic of the mayor, Councilman Jim Kenney, who also queried Greenberger about the value of taxpayer-funded overseas trips:
“You said that those (company officials) that you went and visited with in Tel Aviv and in London were now coming here to kick the tires (on Philadelphia). Why didn’t we just invite them here to kick the tires in the first place, save the cost of going there to ask them to come and kick the tires, and invite twice as many companies?”
(Greenberger:) “It’s a fair question. And I think the simple answer is that people the world over need to look you in the eye.”
That prompted to Kenney to openly wonder whether teleconferencing or Skye would suffice. That’s not as good, Greenberger replied.
“I would say you’re right if you could truly get them here with a different method. I’m not persuaded you can,” Greenberger told the councilman.
Nutter’s most recent trip, to Rome, was not aimed at luring businesses here, but rather at convincing Pope Francis to travel to Philadelphia next year (see related story).