This post was written by Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus, the Department of Commerce’s Program Manager, Office of Neighborhood Economic Development.

In the fall of 2020, the City of Philadelphia kicked off the Philadelphia Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB) Clean Corridors Program, a $7 million economic development initiative that expands the Department of Commerce’s existing commercial corridor cleaning efforts from 49 commercial corridors to 85 throughout the city. 

The PHL TCB Clean Corridors Program funds community-based nonprofits to sweep sidewalks and remove litter within neighborhood commercial corridors, which helps promote the economic success of neighborhood businesses by creating an inviting environment for shoppers while creating work opportunities for Philadelphians. The PHL TCB initiative was made possible through funding allocated by City Council in 2019. 

A key component of PHL TCB is workforce training. Cleaning ambassadors are enrolled in workplace safety and career readiness training. The cleaning ambassadors attain credentials that are highly valued by employers across many industries, which will benefit them when searching for future employment opportunities. 

Recently, 32 cleaning ambassadors across the City have completed online training and attained the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA-10) General Industry workplace certification.

In South Philadelphia, the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC) employs 10 cleaning ambassadors as part of their PHL TCB crew. PARC is out daily, Monday to Friday, regularly cleaning S. Broad Street, as well as Washington and Snyder Avenues. They also clean S. 7th Street in partnership with SEAMAAC. PARC crew members work for ACAM management, a minority-owned Philadelphia business that provides indoor and outdoor cleaning services. Last week, eight members of the crew completed online training and secured their OSHA-10 certificates. 

PHL TCB cleaning ambassadors expressed appreciation for the training, which also helped them gain experience using computers and new technology. 

“I am really good with computers now. I went out and bought a tablet after the training so I could continue to use technology,” said Leroy Townes, a cleaning ambassador with PARC and ACAM Management. “These skills will help me take on a higher position one day. I was able to complete the training with my one year old granddaughter at my side. With that, I can do just about anything. Completing the training taught me patience and has helped in many ways.” 

Colleague Kimberly Sanchez agreed with Leroy, adding: “I love computers so I like the opportunity that I got using one again. The certificate means a lot to me. It can open up a lot of doors especially in the maintenance and operations department.” New to Philadelphia, Kim added that her position as a cleaning ambassador “gives me the opportunity to learn my surroundings as I am working within my community. Living in South Philly, we see regular faces when working these routes. We have conversations, mingle, make new friendships. I love it. We are taking care of business, that’s what we do.” 

ACAM’s owners Jeffrey Fortune and Linda Fortune appreciated PHL TCB’s investment in developing skills for the workforce, adding “most of the staff who completed the training did not have experience using computers. Two employees didn’t pass the first time, but they got together as a team and made sure that everyone succeeded.” 

Bryan Fenstermaker, Executive Director of PARC, added “PARC values the time and effort put in by the cleaning ambassadors to improve the quality of life for Philadelphia residents and its direct impact to our commercial corridors. The PHL-TCB Program has provided personal and professional development opportunities to the cleaning ambassadors. The crew worked hard to pass the OSHA training and certification test and I could not be prouder of their accomplishments.”