Friday, April 6, 2012

Tourism Jobs for Germantown

Philadelphia has the highest unemployment rate
among all counties in the Delaware Valley—10.1%. In
a city of 1.5 million, that translates to roughly 154,000
people out of work. Unemployment for blacks is
15.7%, almost twice the national average. The jobless
rate among 16-24 year old black youth is 34.5%, reaching
Great Depression proportions and more than three
times the rate for the general U.S. population, according
to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thousands of jobs in Northwest Philadelphia have
been lost to globalization, overseas manufacturing,
mechanization, de-industrialization, factory closings,
massive layoffs, and a workforce unprepared for the
high-tech jobs of the 21st century.

Maybe the solution is to go back—way back—in
time, to the 18th century. In my home district of Germantown,
we are surrounded by untapped riches. I am
not talking about shale oil or natural gas. I am talking
about a treasure trove of historical and cultural sites.
Germantown is called “Freedom’s Backyard” for a
reason. Colonial Germantown was a leader in religious
thought, printing, and education. The first American
anti-slavery protest was published here in 1688. The
Battle of Germantown was fought on October 4, 1777,
at Cliveden. The battle is reenacted every October. In
1793, during the Yellow Fever Epidemic, President
George Washington and his cabinet moved to the
Deshler-Morris House on Germantown Avenue.

A vibrant and robust tourism industry would not
only create jobs at Germantown’s numerous historic
and cultural sites, it would open the door to new restaurants,
shopping areas, farmers’ markets, inns, touring
companies, vendors, and trolley services—providing
sustainable jobs to the residents of Germantown who
are hungry for work.

Colonial Germantown stretches along Germantown
Avenue from Windrim Avenue on the south end to
East Sharpnack Street on the north end. is corridor
was designated a National Historic Landmark District
in 1965 and added to the National Register of Historic
Places in 1966. It is time we capitalize on our landmarks
and make this part of the city a hub of job
growth, a source of revenue, and a place of pride.
To make this dream a reality, we must make the district
safe, accessible and attractive to tourists. It is high
time for criminal elements to “shape up or ship out.” To
do that, we must give our police force the resources they
need to patrol the streets and drive the drug dealers and
violent offenders out of our community. We need to
strive to make Germantown as safe, beautiful and desirable
as West Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill.

To bring tourists en masse to Germantown, we need
a shuttle service from Independence National Historical
Park to Colonial Germantown Historic District. If
offered an attractive option to transport them from Old
City to Germantown (i.e. double-decker bus, trolley,
etc.), tourists could easily and comfortably take advantage
of the historic sites Germantown has to offer.
We need to join together—touring companies, historical
societies, non-profits, activists, state and local
leaders, universities, schools, residents and philanthropists—
to promote Germantown as a tourist destination.
By introducing tourists to the historical importance
of Germantown, we can create hundreds of sustainable
jobs. Together we can restore Germantown to the safe,
beautiful and flourishing community I once knew as a
child.

Michael K. Ellis
Michael K. Ellis is a Democratic candidate for State Representative
in the Pennsyl)ania State House of Representatives.
He is running in the 201st District, which includes
Germantown
.

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