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Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney celebrate Navy Yard groundbreaking

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Author: Marco Cerino/Wednesday, June 14, 2019

Pennsylvania’s success in recruiting companies in emerging industries was on display Wednesday in Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and Mayor Jim Kenney (D) were on hand for the groundbreaking for Iovance’s new research hub at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia, joining a growing list of biotech and other medical-related companies who have established locations in the former industrial hub. 

Iovance announced the plan to lease space at the Navy Yard last month. The California-based firm will open the 136,000 square-foot facility in 2021 and employ 300 full-time employees at the location.

Wolf spoke of the importance of attracting companies that will affect thousands with life-saving techniques and medicines. He also spoke of how this reflects the goals shared by the city and state.

“I want Pennsylvania to be home to a robust, strong workforce, the best in the nation,” he said. “I know there’s more we can do and I appreciate having partners like Iovance here to help us continue in this process.”

Iovance currently operates three locations in the United States. The company chose the Navy Yard for its access to research in Philadelphia’s booming “eds and meds” sector, along with a prepared work force. 

The former naval base built ships and planes on League Island at the end of South Broad Street for decades, employing thousands during the 20th century. After decommission in 1995, the city took over the parcel and attracted new business, from medical firms and hospitals to education and manufacturing. A commercial shipyard remains active on the site, visible from Interstate 95, along with US Navy facilities. 

Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation president John Grady served as master of ceremonies for the morning event. He remarked that the former base still produces goods but now they’re “from Tastykakes to T-cells.” He also noted the importance of the public-private partnership that helped make this deal happen.

“With the support of a broad and diverse partnership of employers, government and institutions, we’re proud to continue that legacy, as the Navy Yard is home to seven million of active facilities with more than 14,000 employees coming to work every day for more than 170 employers across a diverse range of industries and sectors,” he said. “Achieving today’s milestones requires the collaboration of a really diverse set of public and private partners.”

Mayor Kenney recalled when the shipyard was first announced to close, when he served as an aide for former State Senator Vincent Fumo. He spoke of the painful emotion tied to the loss of many veterans’ jobs who lived in South Philly where he grew up. As councilmember and mayor, he’s helped revive the area and bring growing businesses to the city.

“Now there are more people working in the Yard than was working there when it closed and will continue to grow that population of workers here,” he said.

The deal will see Iovance invest $75 million into the property for construction and cost $125 million overall.