Alba Martinez is Philadelphia’s first openly LGBTQ+ commerce director

Alba Martinez
Alba Martinez.

Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker named Alba Martinez as Philadelphia’s Director of Commerce. Martinez, who is originally from Puerto Rico, will be the first Latina and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to hold this position.

“I love Philadelphia. I love every inch of it,” said Martinez, who is passionate about public service. “At this point in my life, there’s no higher honor and no higher calling than giving back — and if I can give back at the scale of serving our city, of course I’m going to say yes.”

“My role as the head of commerce is to make sure that we have a relentless focus on being a city that makes it easy for anyone — regardless of background — to be able to open a business, to grow a business, or to connect with job opportunities in the city,” she explained.

“While of course this is a city-wide role, I do recognize the significance of representation and inclusion,” said Martinez, who is a lesbian. “The LGBTQ community plays a really critical role in the economic narrative of our city, and I want to make sure that it gets the visibility, the recognition and the support it deserves.”

Martinez plans to spend time with small business owners, entrepreneurs and job seekers from various backgrounds and communities across the city. Her approach to leadership includes a lot of listening, which she hopes will help her understand the needs, interests and barriers each constituent faces. She understands that each person will have different goals and challenges.

“This means that one-size-fits-all solutions are not going to work,” explained Martinez, whose goal is to increase access to resources. “I believe the Commerce Department has to be prepared to customize solutions.”

“I’ve had the incredible good fortune of working with and serving almost every type of constituency in the city of Philadelphia and beyond,” said Martinez, who has supported people with a wide variety of economic experiences and has personally explored multiple aspects of public and private industry.

After attending Georgetown University, she moved to Philadelphia with “a little law degree and a lot of debt,” she said, to begin her career at Community Legal Services, where she advocated for marginalized people. She later served in other nonprofit management and government leadership roles, worked as a senior executive in the corporate sector — including 12 years at Vanguard, and co-founded Magnolia Impact Solutions — where she developed a web-based tool to help workforce organizations evaluate program effectiveness through the economic wellbeing of their clients.

Teamwork is a vital component of the transformation of a city’s economic state, which Martinez — who has a highly collaborative spirit — says will be a priority. She also believes in building off programs that are already successful. She’s especially excited to expand the Taking Care of Business initiative — which brings jobs to neighborhoods and increases consumer traffic to local businesses by managing litter. Mayor-elect Parker hopes to implement the program in every business corridor in the city.

“We’re the poorest big city in America,” Martinez noted. Nationwide, LGBTQ+ people — most especially trans people and people of color — are more likely to experience poverty and financial insecurity. In Philadelphia, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to struggle with food insecurity, homelessness, and other negative impacts of poverty — including isolation from other people and resources.

“What I find in communities that are more economically marginalized is that often the talent is there, the drive is there, the passion is there, the capacity is there,” she said. “What they lack is information and access to folks who can open doors.” 

Martinez wants to connect people with the resources and networks that will help them grow and succeed. This will include mentorships, access to capital and financial incentives, and opportunities for long-term partnerships with the city.

“People opened doors for me that changed my life,” said Martinez, who now wants to use her own power and influence to help others achieve their own goals.

“One of the things I learned as a leader is to always — always — be on the lookout for opportunities to be that bridge or door for somebody else,” she said. “So I intend to do that.”

“Philadelphia deserves it,” she added.

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