Mayor Announces Departure of Commerce Director Harold T. Epps

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim Kenney today announced that Commerce Director Harold T. Epps will leave his position with the City of Philadelphia effective March 6, 2020. Epps has served as Commerce Director since the beginning of the Kenney administration in January 2016.

“Harold Epps has been a crucial member of our team since day one,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “He brought genuine relationships and a sense of credibility within the business community that was unmatched. Harold’s interest in spreading economic vitality to all of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods aligned perfectly with the priorities of this administration. His leadership and advocacy for Philadelphia’s businesses will be greatly missed, but I wish him well in what I’m sure will be an impressive next chapter in his career.”

During Epps’ tenure as Commerce Director, the department achieved numerous milestones, including:

  • Surpassing the 35 percent participation goal for minority-, women- and disabled-owned businesses on City contracts—reaching 36.02 percent participation in Fiscal Year 2019.
  • Launching the City’s first Office of Workforce Development and a citywide workforce strategy.
  • Helping to develop the administration’s inclusive growth strategy, aimed at continuing economic growth in a way that improves the lives of all Philadelphia residents.
  • Creating the Venture Program to support startup companies run by entrepreneurs from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Making a $5 million investment, in partnership with PIDC, to fund a significant expansion of resources to support entrepreneurship and business growth by people of color, women, and immigrants.
  • Submitting the region’s bid for Amazon HQ2, and making the company’s shortlist.
  • Creating the Philadelphia Hospitality Improvement Levy—a fund that totals over $7 million in annual support for the recruitment of major conventions and events.
  • Co-chairing the City Council Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform, which has resulted in the elimination of several archaic pieces of legislation and improvements to City processes. 
  • Attracting new companies such as Amicus and Iovance, while retaining entities like GoPuff, Yards, Five Below, Aramark, and Spark Therapeutics.
  • Making major investments in programs for small businesses
    • Over $20 million in capital improvements on neighborhood commercial corridors
    • More than 900 small business improvement grants awarded, totaling over $6 million in funding

“Serving the people of Philadelphia as part of the Kenney administration has been one of the greatest periods of my career,” said Commerce Director Harold T. Epps. “When I accepted this job, I made it clear that my focus would be on ensuring Philadelphia’s recent economic success could be felt in every corner of the city. That meant increasing opportunities for our neighborhood commercial corridors, improving access to workforce training, and bringing more jobs to Philadelphia. Over the last four years, I’ve conducted more than 70 neighborhood visits, taking the time to see and hear first-hand what our small business owners need from the City. I’ve served as co-chair of Council’s Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform, working hand-in-hand with private and public sector leaders to improve the process of doing business in Philadelphia. And for the past year-and-a-half, I’ve proudly advocated for the removal of financial barriers to higher education as a Board member for the Community College of Philadelphia in an effort to help increase degree attainment. I am proud of the work we’ve done together. More Philadelphians are working now than at any point since at least 1990, and both unemployment and poverty are at their lowest rates in a decade. There is still more work to be done, but I am confident the team at the Department of Commerce and my colleagues throughout City government will continue to press forward on the progress we’ve made.”

Epps is leaving his post with the City to pursue new opportunities in the private sector. Prior to joining the City, he spent more than 30 years as a corporate business leader. He was the Vice-Chairman of the Board at PRWT Services and served as PRWT’s President and CEO from 2007 to 2014. PRWT Services is one of America’s largest minority-owned firms and a provider of high-performance business solutions, facilities management and infrastructure support services. Prior executive roles included Quadrant, Menasha Corporation, and Polaroid and Digital Equipment Corporation.

During his time with the City, Epps received a number of honors and awards, including: 

  • Opportunities Leadership Impact Award, 2019 – West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, 2018 – Peirce College
  • Paving the Way Award, 2017 – Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council
  • Doing the Most Good Community Leadership Award, 2016 – The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia

The Mayor appointed Sylvie Gallier Howard as Acting Commerce Director while a search is underway for Epps’ replacement. Gallier Howard, the current First Deputy Commerce Director, has worked in the Department of Commerce for over seven years. She played a lead role in developing Philadelphia’s bid to Amazon for its HQ2 search and is currently spearheading a public-private effort to elevate Philadelphia’s global identity and international presence as a premier place for business and investment.

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