Hill business exec a major force in pandemic recovery

by Len Lear
Posted 2/9/23

Chestnut Hill resident Susan Jacobson, recently selected by Gov. Josh Shapiro to be a member of his transition team, may well have done more than most to help Philadelphia recover from the pandemic.

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Hill business exec a major force in pandemic recovery


Chestnut Hill resident Susan Jacobson, who was recently selected by Gov. Josh Shapiro to be a member of his transition personnel committee team, may well have done more than most to help Philadelphia businesses recover from the debilitating effects of the pandemic.

President of Jacobson Strategic Communication, a leading Philadelphia-based public relations, public affairs and crisis management firm, Jacobson tackled pandemic recovery as the immediate past chairperson of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. She was the first woman to assume that position in almost two decades. Judith von Seldeneck, another Chestnut Hill resident, served in the position 20 years ago.

As chair of the chamber, Jacobson worked with the region’s top leaders to find solutions for the challenges facing Philadelphia’s businesses as they dealt with the pandemic, massive unemployment and civil unrest. She helped launch and lead the Chamber’s signature response effort, “Recharge and Recover PHL,” an innovative initiative with more than 160 regional leaders focusing on short-term solutions to capitalize on the region’s strengths, rebuild the economy and get people back to work. 

“We brought 12 banks and more than 160 CEOs together,” Jacobson said in a recent interview. “We worked with them to create loans to those businesses most hurt by the pandemic, especially those owned by Black, brown, Asian and women businesspeople. More than 1,000 loans were given out and more than a half-billion dollars. And it is still ongoing.

“I can honestly say that the program has been a huge success. We are one of the only cities where leaders got together and all worked to try to fix the problem. In some other cities the leaders fought with one another. No one wanted COVID, of course, but we took the opportunity to flip a switch and do things differently. We are showing that Philadelphia is a world-class city.”

Jacobson and her company have also won numerous other awards, including securing a spot on the Inc. 5000 for three consecutive years. The accolade is given annually by Inc. magazine to the nation's fastest-growing private companies.


Jacobson also was presented with the Living Legacy Award from the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) at its 53rd Anniversary Breakfast in November. The annual event, held in person at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the first time since 2019, convened 800 guests representing businesses, government and nonprofits in support of UAC’s mission to address the biggest problems facing Philadelphia's underserved communities.

The Living Legacy Award, created in honor of U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, is given to individuals who are committed to fostering UAC’s goal of improving opportunities for youth and young adults and strengthening the nonprofit sector. 

“Every day, especially over the past few years of the global pandemic, I have witnessed Sue (Jacobson) devote herself and countless hours to working with leaders across the business, civic and philanthropic communities to make Philadelphia a better place to live, work and play,” said UAC's CEO, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, a Mt. Airy resident. “She’s not just a dreamer; she is a doer who believes that her impact is magnified through collaboration to achieve real change.”

“I am overwhelmed to have been selected to receive this distinguished award from the Coalition,” Jacobson said. “It means so much to me that the work I am so passionate about also resonates with so many others.”

Jacobson's company has 40 employees and dozens of high-profile corporate clients. Prior to joining the communications sector, Jacobson oversaw government relations as deputy chief of staff to former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. 

A Massachusetts native and government major at Connecticut College, Jacobson and her husband, Dr. Michael Golden, who recently stepped down as chief of vascular surgery at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center to become chief medical officer at Jacobson Strategic Health, were both recently accepted into the Wharton Executive MBA Program at the University of Pennsylvania. They will soon be launching Jacobson Strategic Health, representing clients in the healthcare field. “There are more than 1,000 life sciences firms in the Greater Philadelphia region,” Jacobson  said.

Michael and Susan have two children: Robert Golden, a University of Pennsylvania grad and senior advisor for clean energy infrastructure in the Biden Administration, and Elizabeth Golden, a Wharton School grad who is director of product at Protein Evolution, Inc., a biotech incubator.

For more information, visit jacobsonstrategic.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com