Philadelphia's History — A Metaphor for Procurement?

Earlier in the week, I began my chat at the Infosys event by describing the similarities between the history of Philadelphia and the history of procurement. The two can serve as metaphors for each other quite nicely, in fact. Consider how both procurement and Philadelphia dominated the respective world -- or, in Philly's case, the North American stage -- until 1800. Procurement was the trading function of old that brought great wealth to the empires of Britain, France, Holland and Spain. And Philadelphia was the leading city in the colonies (and the very early United States) thanks to its merchant and trading efforts. But after 1800, both procurement and Philadelphia took many steps back.

As trading became less of a dominant force on the world stage, corporate procurement began to emerge from the start as a second class function relative to sales, R&D, finance, etc. This was especially true given the importance of vertical integration -- or at the least, local sourcing -- during the industrial revolution. And Philadelphia quickly became better known for its murder rate, city hall corruption -- though I'll secretly admit to missing the Rizzo years -- and lawyers, rather than commerce and entrepreneurialism. Fortunately, however, thanks to the strong leadership of figures like Ed Rendell, the mayor I credit with putting Philly back on the map, and charismatic executives and CPOs willing to bet on procurement, both the city and the function are now back on track. Call it a renaissance of sorts. Let's hope it lasts!

- Jason Busch

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