New York, NY- In a speech before the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn outlined a plan to create jobs and build long term economic security in New York City. Speaker Quinn’s remarks focused on helping New York City stay on track to become the technology capital of the world, and provide opportunities for low-income New Yorkers to join the middle class.
“One of the things that has always made New York exceptional is that we look to the future. As the world changes, we see opportunities,” said Speaker Quinn. “Today, many of the ideas that are changing the world are coming out of the tech sector. Biotech companies producing new medications, or programmers designing a mobile app for your phone. With these new ideas come new jobs – not just in research and programming, but in marketing, sales, or human resources.”
Citing the technology industry’s explosion over the last decade, the Speaker laid out a blueprint to ensure that these jobs continue to grow in New York City. Specifically, she announced five new initiatives, including:
• The establishment of the Center for Innovation at CUNY to serve as a tech incubator for NYC’s public universities, connecting researchers, entrepreneurs and business experts who can help turn research into new businesses.
• Create an Angel Investor Tax Credit for investors who back biotech and medtech start-ups in NYC. Building on the success of the Council-created Biotech Tax Credit, the angel capital it facilitates will help fund research and development, endow fledgling companies and solidify the city’s standing as a biotech hub.
• Creating a Brooklyn Tech Triangle by connecting potential tech office space in Downtown Brooklyn to the nearby tech hubs of DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This would include adapting commercial space to meet the needs of tech start-ups, developing a strategy to attract new companies and working with the MTA to improve transportation within the Triangle.
• Creating a job placement service with hackNY to connect hundreds of New Yorkers with jobs in growing companies within the tech sector. This partnership will build upon hackNY’s current programming which includes a fellowship that connects talented students with training and internships at local tech startups.
• A Council partnership with CUNY and tech industry stakeholders to develop certificate programs for in demand computer programming languages. This targeted approach will more quickly prepare people for jobs in web design, mobile applications and coding.
Speaker Quinn also focused attention on retaining and creating more middle class jobs, and helping recent immigrants and low income workers to access the middle class. The key, she said, is to look for opportunities in places where others may have given up.
“New York was built by generation after generation of middle class families, who spent their lives working to make our city exceptional,” said Speaker Quinn. “But for decades, we’ve been losing the kinds of jobs that serve as a pathway to the middle class. Some worry it could one day disappear altogether. I’m here to tell you, we’re not going to let that happen. We will not become a city that only has room for the very rich and the very poor.”
To safeguard and create middle class jobs, the Speaker called for several initiatives, including:
• Growing domestic and international exports for city products and services, creating thousands of jobs in the process. This plan will require the Council to work with the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders to link local manufacturing businesses with the resources they need to export their goods. The plan will also support the city’s green service providers to help effectively market their services abroad to cities with high demand for clean energy projects.
• Partnering with the Center for Family Life, a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, to create three new worker-owned businesses per year – employing nearly 100 people in home cleaning, day care, catering and elder care. Being part of a small business provides these workers with better pay and benefits. Additionally, the Council will partner with the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to generate resources to support these types of businesses that will be available at SBS Business Solution Centers.
• Expanding training for home health care workers to help more New Yorkers get jobs in the growing health care sector. The Council is working with SEIU 1199 and the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) to create more capacity at PHI’s training facility.
• Working to align workforce development and provide incentives to bring offshore jobs back to New York City.
Throughout her speech, the Speaker recognized the sentiments expressed by protesters in Zucotti Park and around the country, anger fueled by continued unemployment and the growing gap between rich and poor. She also referred to the idea of “New York exceptionalism” – an optimism for our city, a faith in our people, and a belief that through hard work anyone can build a brighter future for their children.
While there is much work to be done, the Speaker said, “I believe there are concrete and immediate steps we can take to create jobs today, and to strengthen our economy for years to come.” She continued, saying, “We can tap into the very source of that New York exceptionalism – the boundless creativity and dogged persistence of the people of our city.”
Speech to the Association for a Better New York
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn
Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
Across the country, the state, and the city, Americans on all sides of the political spectrum are angry and frustrated. We need look no further than Zuccotti Park to see this frustration in action. The anger of these protesters, and the anger of so many Americans, is based on legitimate fears about the future of our nation.
Make no mistake. Continued unemployment and the growing gap between rich and poor are the greatest threats to our prosperity.
We’ve all heard the statistics. 14 million Americans and 350,000 New Yorkers are still out of work. That doesn’t include the more than one million Americans who have given up on the job market altogether.
These are more than just challenging times. These are defining times.
These are the times that will determine what type of nation – and what type of city – we will become.
We often hear people use the phrase American Exceptionalism. It’s a concept that began at our nation’s founding, and a theme ingrained in the American narrative.
Some have tried to co-opt this idea to mean American superiority – or use it to whitewash our failures past and present. But at its core, American Exceptionalism is about an optimism for our country. A faith in our people, and a belief that through hard work anyone can build a brighter future for their children.
This is an optimism that I share, and it’s an optimism that I have for our city. I believe in New York Exceptionalism.
How could I not? I’m the granddaughter of an immigrant who came from Ireland on the Titanic, and fought her way out of steerage to make a better life for herself in a new land.
I’m the daughter of an electrical engineer and a social worker, who taught me that ordinary people have the power to improve the lives of their families, their communities, and the world around them.
I’m a woman who, with some hard work and a little chutzpah, is lucky enough to be Speaker of the City Council – and thanks to the work of many people in this room is planning her wedding for next year.
Now, New York’s exceptionalism is not a new thing. Jay Z sings about concrete jungles where dreams are made, 30 years after Sinatra said if you can make it here you can make it anywhere – which was 30 years after EB White wrote that New York is for our nation the visible symbol of aspiration and faith.
The trick now is to harness the power of New York City to help all New Yorkers. Because the only way government can drive economic growth is to empower people. To help businesses create more jobs, and help New Yorkers compete for those jobs.
We know that unnecessary regulation causes many new and growing businesses to die on the vine. And through initiatives like NYC Business Link we’re changing the way local government regulates and interacts with business owners.
We know that high taxes can undermine growth. That’s why we’ve ended double taxation on many small businesses and made it cheaper for large companies based in the city to invest in infrastructure or add jobs.
We know that having an educated workforce is the single biggest factor companies consider when moving to a new city. That’s why we continue to find new ways to improve low performing schools, and have helped get hundreds more New Yorkers on the path to a GED.
And fundamentally, the way we support job growth is the same way we support New Yorkers – by keeping the city strong and thriving. When we pass balanced budgets without raising taxes, when we keep police officers on the streets, keep firehouses open, and keep investing in our schools. That gives business owners confidence to invest in our city, confidence that in ten years New York will still be a place where their employees want to raise a family.
But beyond removing obstacles, beyond creating that supportive environment, I believe there are concrete and immediate steps we can take. To create jobs today, and to strengthen our economy for years to come.
We can tap into the very source of that New York exceptionalism – the boundless creativity and dogged persistence of the people of our city.
So today I want to discuss two things that make us exceptional right now – the emerging potential of our technology sector, and the enduring promise of our middle class.
How can we stay on track to becoming the technology capital of the world? And how do we protect middle class jobs, while helping more people access the middle class?
One of the things that have always made New York exceptional is that we look to the future. As the world changes, we see opportunities. We grew from a center of shipping and commerce, to an industrial superpower, to the financial capital of the world. And we did so on the strength of ideas.
Today, many of the ideas that are changing the world are coming out of the tech sector. With these new ideas come new jobs – not just in research and programming, but in marketing, sales, or human resources.
In the last decade we’ve seen the tech sector explode, here in New York City and around the country. Every city is trying to get in on the action. So how can we make sure these jobs keep growing here?
We’ve already taken some key steps. The Council and the Partnership for New York City created NYC Tech Connect, helping more of our tech talent start new businesses. Mayor Bloomberg is working to bring a world class applied science school to the five boroughs.
We need to build on those efforts. We can start by making better use of the exceptional minds that already call New York City home.
Every day, researchers at our great colleges and universities are coming up with new ideas and new discoveries. These ideas could produce a paper, a dissertation, or with a little help they could create new companies and new jobs.
So in the next year we’re going to start a business incubator at CUNY called the Center for Innovation. Once fully operational the Center will house up to twenty-five new companies, providing them with all the tools they need to expand and hire more New Yorkers.
Sometimes emerging businesses also need a little help attracting investors. This is especially true for the biotech industry. So we’ll create a brand new tax credit for angel investors, to encourage them to fund new biotech and medtech start-ups. This will build on the success of our existing biotech credit. In the last year, 28 companies have used it to develop new products and hire more people in the five boroughs.
Another growing tech sector, digital media, faces a different challenge. I recently visited a company called HUGE, an internet marketing business located in DUMBO. In the last five years, they’ve gone from 30 employees to 300, making them the largest employer in all of DUMBO.
Now they’re looking to hire 50 more people. But shockingly, they can’t find enough programmers to fill these jobs. They’ve had such a hard time recruiting qualified people that they had to start their own training school at a cost of nearly half a million dollars a year.
When we have nine percent unemployment, and companies like HUGE have jobs they can’t fill, something is seriously wrong. So working with HUGE and other tech companies, we’ve come up with two creative solutions.
First we’re going to partner with a grassroots organization called hackNY, to operate a tech job placement service and connect hundreds of New Yorkers with jobs in growing companies.
Second, we’re going to help more folks qualify for these cutting edge jobs – and in many cases you don’t need a fancy degree in computer science. At our request, CUNY has agreed to work with leaders in the tech sector to develop certificate programs for in demand programming languages. With just a few months of classes you could be ready for a job creating mobile apps or doing web design.
A third challenge – and a familiar one in our city – is finding the space for growth.
When we talk about city planning, we usually picture developers and government officials putting together billion dollar projects. But that can’t be the only way we think about economic development.
We need to find opportunities for smart development – development that doesn’t take years or hundreds of millions of dollars. Our job is to see where industry is naturally heading and help speed it along.
The tech industry, like a lot of industries, thrives on connections to similar businesses. Take for example the proximity of DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, two hubs of our growing tech sector. All you need to do is look at a map to realize the next logical place for these businesses to head is Downtown Brooklyn. It could be the third point in a vibrant Brooklyn Tech Triangle.
But there are some obstacles. It’s barely a mile away from DUMBO or the Navy Yard – but unless you have a car, there’s no easy way to get from one to the other. So we’ll work with the MTA to find practical transportation solutions, and connect all three points of the triangle to pave the way for new growth. Then we’ll market Downtown Brooklyn to tech start-ups, and build a critical mass of demand.
It’s not just about the tech sector. It’s about seeing the potential in every neighborhood, and finding smart ways to get new businesses moving in.
The second idea I want to talk about today is keeping this a middle class city, and helping even more New Yorkers reach the middle class.
New York was built by generations of immigrants, who spent their lives striving to make our city exceptional. They believed that by working hard they could pull their families out of poverty and into the middle class.
It was the most basic promise of our city and our nation – that anyone could make a better life for their children. For many, that promise has been broken. That’s what the protesters downtown are responding to. They fear the loss of that part of the American dream.
I’m here to tell you, we are not going to let the dream of the middle class disappear.
Diversity is what makes New York exceptional. People of every race, religion, and income working together to help our city thrive. We will not become a city that only has room for the very rich and the very poor.
Part of the solution is to look for opportunities where others have given up. For example, some people think that manufacturing in New York City is dead. It’s not.
New York is still home to thousands of manufacturing firms. But instead of giant corporations, they’re now small specialty shops. If we want these businesses to grow they need more places to sell their products – not just here in the five boroughs, but in cities all over the world. But when it comes to exports, New York lags way behind – we export just 7% of what we produce, compared to the national average of nearly 12%.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is that business owners don’t know where to begin. If you’re a furniture maker, you’re busy making furniture. You don’t have time to search for stores in Denver or Dubai – let alone figure out which ones might be interested in buying from you.
Well that’s where we come in. We’re going to identify strategic trade partners for major New York City products. We’ll then work with manufacturers, to help them target and penetrate markets with high demand for their goods.
We’ll also build on an idea we stole from a real New Yorker – Bob McClure at McClure’s Pickles. When Bob was making his deliveries every week, he kept seeing other small food manufacturers driving their products to the exact same stores.
Bob asked, why are we all wasting time and money? And he started partnering with nearby business owners, delivering their products in his truck for a small fee. He says he hoped to one day turn it into a cooperative distribution model, to strengthen his business and help others do the same.
You want to talk about exceptionalism? How about a small business owner, on top of all his other responsibilities, coming up with an idea to make a whole business community stronger?
We’re going follow his exceptional example, and grow his idea to international proportions. We’re going to coordinate New York City businesses that make similar products or serve similar markets. And we’re going to help make it cheaper to send their products across the country or around the world.
And it isn’t just goods we should be looking to export. New York is more than anything a service based economy – and we should be marketing our service sector around the world.
For example, we’re home to the top talent in green construction and design – more than 15,000 people who provide professional services for green development. As cities all over the world move towards more efficient growth, demand for these services continues to rise.
Working with industry leaders like Blackstone, Verdant Power, and Wind Analytics, we’re going to form strategic partnerships with cities that have high demand for green development. They’ll be able to benefit from our experience, and we’ll be able to connect New York City businesses with growing markets.
It’s all about seeing the potential in industries like manufacturing, that frequently get ignored. In the same way, we need to look at people that often go unnoticed and help them do exceptional things.
There are New Yorkers in every neighborhood working as low wage freelancers – house painters, babysitters, maids. If you told them they could join forces to start their own small business, many of them might not believe you.
But that’s exactly what a group of people in Sunset Park have done. Working with a local organization called the Center for Family Life, they’ve created four worker owned businesses providing jobs for nearly 100 people in home cleaning, day care, catering and elder care. Being part of a small business provides these workers with better pay, benefits, and stable employment. Some have actually tripled their yearly income.
I’m proud to announce that we’re going to expand this program and create three new worker owned businesses every year. We’ll provide hundreds of New Yorkers with better jobs, help them pull their families out of poverty and get on the path to their own American dream.
We can also get more New Yorkers back to work by teaching them skills that are in high demand. For example, as our population ages, jobs for home care workers are growing quickly. These are good jobs that could start you on the path to a lifelong career in health care. And they don’t require a college degree. What they do require is between 40 and 75 hours of training for a certificate, and right now we simply don’t have enough instructors to meet demand.
So we’re creating a new partnership with 1199 to expand capacity and get more people trained to do these jobs. For every new instructor we bring on board, we can put an additional 200 New Yorkers to work every year in this growing field.
In the coming months, we’ll be taking steps to put all the proposals I outlined into action. At the same time, we’ll continue to explore big ideas with the potential to dramatically change job prospects for New Yorkers.
For example, you may find it hard to believe, but many American companies are looking to move some of their outsourced jobs back on shore. Businesses have grown dissatisfied with the quality of off shore work, and costs have been rising in many other countries.
I believe we can bring some of these back office jobs back to New York City. Jobs like data analysts and systems managers. They require a specific type of training, which makes the size and quality of our workforce a major asset.
We’ve already started talking to the CUNY School of Professional Studies about creating targeted workforce development programs in these areas. If we can prove this model works, we can get more companies to bring these jobs back to the five boroughs.
Because in the end, whether we’re talking about strengthening our middle class or growing our tech sector, all these different ideas come back to one goal. Creating good jobs that get people back to work.
None of the ideas I mentioned by themselves will end unemployment. But each one will end unemployment for one person, or for a hundred people. For those New Yorkers and for their families, that job will make all the difference in the world.
But we can’t do it alone. We need all of you in this room, our city’s civic and business leaders.
ABNY was born in another defining moment for our city. A time when many New Yorkers felt the same lack of hope for the future as today’s protesters in Zuccotti Park. In that moment, and in critical moments since, the members of ABNY came together to lead our city through the storm.
Lew Rudin once saw an op-ed written by a woman who was leaving New York for North Carolina, blaming high crime and even higher prices. A few days later, Lew penned a response asking her to come back and be part of the solution, not only to New York’s problems, but to all the problems of the nation.
Lew recognized what not many do. He realized that the power to make New York better lies in the hands of each and every New Yorker. And like ripples in a pond, even the smallest actions have the power to spark great change.
Today you’re a freelance worker barely squeaking by. Tomorrow you could be part owner in a thriving small business. And ten years from now, you might be a leader in your community guiding the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Today we see empty offices in Downtown Brooklyn. Tomorrow they could be filled with our city’s most creative talent. And ten years from now, they might be home to the next Foursquare or Facebook and thousands of good jobs.
It’s going to take all of us working together – business, government, and ordinary people. But when we have the foresight to take action, when we have the courage to be exceptional, then we can and will rebuild our city’s economy one job, one idea, and one New Yorker at a time.