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5 Questions For Philly's Power Women: PIDC's Anne Bovaird Nevins

Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. sits at a crucial juncture of the city's real estate. As manager of city-owned industrial land, PIDC has had a hand in many of Philly's business recruitment successes in the past few years. As PIDC chief strategy and communications officer, Anne Bovaird Nevins plays a key role in cultivating those relationships.

Nevins co-led Philly's bid to land Amazon HQ2 in 2017, and though that proved ultimately unsuccessful, the sites featured in that bid have remained dynamic nodes of development. Among them, the Philadelphia Navy Yard remains under PIDC's control and has landed one of the biggest new-to-market business recruits in years. Given her position as PIDC seeks a development partner for the Navy Yard's ambitious next phase, Nevins is a true Power Woman in Philadelphia.

We asked Nevins and other speakers for Bisnow's Philly Power Women event Oct. 30 at The Rittenhouse Hotel five questions to get a sense of the many different ways one can be a Power Woman. Here are Nevins' answers.

CLA principal George Kotridis, PIDC Chief Strategy and Communications Officer Anne Bovaird Nevins, Keystone Property Group President and Chief Operating Officer Rich Gottlieb and Alterra Property Group Managing Director Leo Addimando

Bisnow: If you could teach women growing in the industry today just one thing, what would it be?

Nevins: If I could encourage everyone in the real estate industry — not just women — to do one thing, it would be to take a broad perspective on the long-term impact of their work. Every project represents an opportunity to step forward on diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate ownership and development; environmental sustainability; creating job and economic opportunities for those who need them most; and mentoring others to achieve success.

There’s so much that can be done on those fronts without any negative impact to the financial bottom line of a project — and [which] in fact, over time, may significantly enhance long-term value.

Bisnow: What is your biggest career failure and what positive lessons did it teach you?

Nevins: I came to PIDC straight from the MBA program at Wharton, where I had the great fortune of taking a real estate development class with Asuka Nakahara. Starting at PIDC in 2007 before the recession, I failed to treat each new project with the same critical lens as a case study in Professor Nakahara’s class. While achieving PIDC’s mission often means taking risks that the market will not, my colleagues — and the recession! — quickly taught me the importance of looking at the potential downsides as well as the opportunity.

The failures that come back to me the most are times when I could have taken a stronger stand on behalf of a colleague or been a more effective mentor or team leader. I try to learn from each experience, reflect honestly on what I could have done differently, ask for advice from my own mentor or peer network and apply what I’ve learned for the next time.

Bisnow: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career and how did you achieve it?

Nevins: One of the things that I love most about my work at PIDC is the fact that I can walk (or take my favorite SEPTA mode of transit, the bus) into any corner of Philadelphia and see developments that would not have taken place or small businesses that would not have been able to grow without the support of PIDC. It was incredible to celebrate our 60th anniversary last year and have the opportunity to look back on so many exciting projects of which I’ve been fortunate to be part over the last 13 years.

I’m also very proud of my leadership role in the effort to pitch Philadelphia for the Amazon HQ2 bid that resulted in Philadelphia being selected as one of the top 20 candidate cities. While Amazon got the most attention in the media, the key to our proposal was putting together a diverse, all-local, small-business team — including many women in leadership roles — to tell Philadelphia’s story in a whole new way.

Five Crescent Drive in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, built for GlaxoSmithKlein's headquarters in 2013

The data, messaging and video assets that were developed for that opportunity are still in use now to pitch our city to businesses, talent and investors. And the local businesses that worked on the bid have actually been able to grow their revenues and gain new customers as a result of the exposure from that work.

Bisnow: How have you seen companies change the way they address wage and gender inequality in recent years?

Nevins: Specific to PIDC, I’ve seen our organization come a very long way in terms of women in senior leadership positions in the time that I’ve been here. Today, more than 50% of our management team are women.

But more broadly, there’s still clearly a huge gap in gender equity. The Forum of Executive Women and PwC recently released their Women in Leadership 2019 report, which showed that only 18% of total board seats of the 99 largest public companies in the Philadelphia region are held by women.

However, the report also showed that the pace of change is accelerating, with nearly 40% of board openings at those companies going to women in 2018. So while there is a long way to go, there is cause for optimism.

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of working in the Philly market, and what is the thing about other markets/another one in particular that you envy most?

Nevins: Philadelphia uniquely combines big city energy with small town connectivity, sparking a passion for this place that attracts people here and keeps them coming back. That is certainly true for me personally and is a common theme that I hear from people across the business and nonprofit sectors in my work.

I also think Philadelphia offers a combination of quality of life and scale of opportunity to make an impact with your work that is unmatched by other cities. We have massive challenges in poverty and inequality, but I think that we are building a shared commitment to address those challenges here in a way that can forge a new path for other cities to follow.

As for my envy of other markets, my husband has a lot of family in Florida and California, so we travel to those warmer climates a fair amount. Every time we leave, particularly to return to Philadelphia in the winter, there’s definitely a momentary question of why we’re returning. But it always comes back to that unique combination of factors that Philadelphia offers!

Honor Anne Bovaird Nevins and other women who have shaped Philly at Bisnow's Philadelphia Power Women event Oct. 30.