New York City is hemorrhaging jobs in the financial sector and JP Morgan Chase may soon have more employees in Texas than New York,  said Glenn Coleman at the Crain’s Future of New York Conference this Thursday. He wanted to know what Alicia Glen, the city’s Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development and the keynote speaker at the event, planned to do about it.

Glen responded with a comment that summed up what appears to be the guiding wisdom of the de Blasio administration’s economic development plan.

“There are headwinds we can’t fight against by paying for it,” said Glen.

Glen held fast to the administration’s position that there are just some things the city will not bankroll anymore, including subsidies intended to keep big corporations from taking their jobs elsewhere (as well as subsidies for the TV and Film industry and a major league soccer stadium).

But that doesn’t mean the city’s pockets are tight. The headwinds the administration is chasing are pointed away from the financial sector and towards potential replacements: the broadly defined tech and manufacturing sectors and the health, life sciences and biotech industries.

Glen discussed plans to expand a major public-private partnership to invest a total of $150 million in the life sciences and biotech firms concentrated in Manhattan’s East Side Medical Corridor, which was first put into motion during the Bloomberg administration.
“We have a lot of opportunity in this corridor, but we want to make it literally longer,” said Glen.

The plan, announced by the New York City Economic Development Corporation last December, aims to create 15 to 20 new life science ventures in the city by 2020. Private companies like Celgene, General Electric Ventures, and Eli Lilly put $40 million into one of the two funds in addition to the city’s $10 million, and the pot will be sweetened by $50 million in matching funds. Glen said the investment will hopefully solidify New York City as a global competitor in the biotech field and attract more pharmaceutical companies and research labs.

Glen said the de Blasio administration intends to boost this initiative by partnering with industry to create more targeted vocational programs that will give New Yorkers the skills they need to participate in the medical industry as it changes. Healthcare and life sciences already provide half a million well-paying jobs and Glen said the City wants more. She lauded institutions like CUNY and Laguardia Community College, but emphasized the need to turn them into straight and narrow pipelines to industry jobs.

This mix of industry-assisted job training and public investment will also be applied to the tech and manufacturing sectors, Glen said. On the “tour of New York City” Glen took the audience on, she paused at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one of the last bastions of manufacturing in New York. She announced plans to create an employment center with a jobs program catering to the companies in the complex and to renovate six floors of one of the buildings so that more companies could move in. She said the plans would create 3,000 more jobs, a 40 percent employment increase at the Navy Yard.

Glen also lingered on the Brooklyn waterfront, where she said there were already 15,000 of the kind of creative tech and manufacturing jobs the city hopes to attract. Coleman said he didn’t see how the 400 jobs Etsy created last year could stand up to the 4,000 jobs JP Morgan created, but Glen said she saw the numbers a little differently.

“If every company along the waterfront adds 100 new jobs, that’s pretty good,” she said.

Glen’s economic development tour also ventured into Sunset Park, Brooklyn and other neighborhoods that offer jobs, but are not typically talked about as potential economic hotspots. Two spots represented detours from the mayor’s economic vision, Glen said: Hunt’s Point in the Bronx and the North Shore of Staten Island (which Glen assured the audience would soon be known as “NoSho”).

Glen insisted the key to keeping New York competitive was not attracting big corporations,  but keeping both commercial and residential real estate affordable enough to attract the tech whizzes and creative types who would populate the city’s mixed-use landscape. She held up Long Island City as the ideal of architectural and cultural diversity to aspire to. When asked why Mayor de Blasio wants to diminish the city’s manufacturing zones by adding residential areas, Glen insisted mixed-use is the future.

“The old black-and-white, binary debate between industrial and residential is really not what it needs to be about anymore,” Glen said.

What “it” seems to be about — the City’s whole economic development plan — is diversity. No one knows what exactly will replace the financial services sector as the city’s engine of prosperity, but there are plenty of headwinds to follow.

Comments are closed.