Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is Tech Really Buried Treasure?

Even with all the technology trade shows at Jacob Javits Center, Internet cafes in places like Bed-Stuy and Crown Hts., NYC government is still unsure just how big the tech industry is. How can that be? The mayor Michael Bloomberg runs a financial services megagiant powered by information technology.

Maybe it’s a matter of documenting it and reading the numbers over and over that’s required. On October 10, 2007 NYC Council Committees on Economic Development and on Technology in Government held a public hearing in the Council Chamber that brought out businesses, economic development organizations, trade groups and academia. In fact, representing Brooklyn’s interest was a staff member from Brooklyn Economic Development Corp. The centerpiece to the proceedings was a report done by Industrial + Technology Assistance Corp. (ITAC) entitled Buried Treasure New York City’s Hidden Technology Sector 2007. Franklin Madison, ITAC technology program director summarized the report and offered best practices for industry growth.

The report reveals, “For 2004, the New York metropolitan statistical area was the nation’s biggest center for high-tech employment.” The metropolitan area includes northern Jersey, southern Connecticut, Westchester and Rockland counties as well as Long Island. This finding is reasonable--maybe too obvious; New York metro is the most densely populated area in America. It contains banks, hospitals, universities, media outlets, publishing and financial enterprises. It also has big and small software developers, computer technicians and programmers operating throughout the five boroughs. IBM is in Westchester County, Google recently set up in the City, and Steiner Studios is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The report indicates, “Close to 620,000 people have tech jobs.” Of that number 226,000 live in the five boroughs. Taking off from an old spiritual, are you counted in that number?

To whet your appetite more, another finding is “high-tech jobs generate well above average earnings, a total of $12.5 billion in 2004 alone.” That works out to an average salary of $75,458. Actual figures vary dependent upon self-employment and employment within the private vs. public sectors. Now don’t you want to be in that number?

The people providing testimony know the industry. Their concern was organizing and cultivating the sector. Councilwoman Diana Reyna (CD 34) advocated for her constituents by suggesting “matching neighborhoods to this industry”, meaning training and employing folks in the community rather than recruit workers from miles away. Reyna wanted to ensure the tech firms in northern Brooklyn stay in Brooklyn. One best practice Franklin Madison advanced was business incubators. Bruce Bernstein, president of NYSIA, Jerry Hultin, president of Polytechnic University and Victor Goldsmith executive director of Pace University’s SCI2 Incubator promoted their existing incubators and wanted money to expand operations. This public hearing was well orchestrated—like the saints that formed a line and marched in.

You have to love Councilwoman Gale Brewer (CD 6). She is the chairwoman for the Committee on Technology in Government. She’s on top of her game. Brewer knows city procedures. She’ll keep crossing t’s and dotting i’s until New York’s tech industry is at world class level—not just big.

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