Mayor De Blasio Offers Three Pillars For Tech Growth In NYC

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but when it comes to tech investment, historically, the naked city has been caught napping.

Since the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, New York City has been trying to regain its footing as a hub for technology innovation and startups. Those efforts received a boost under the previous Bloomberg administration, and now Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking to further advance the industry’s growth in the city.

Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, the mayor noted some of New York’s recent glories versus other West Coast tech communities (here’s looking at you, Bay Area) and laid out his vision for a more inclusive, more democratic technology community in New York.

“I like to brag about the glories of my city; sometimes it’s tempting to feel a little competitive with other cities,” the mayor said. “This year, New York City has surpassed [the Bay Area] in startup funding requests.

“The tech ecosystem here provides nearly 300,000 jobs and generates over $30 billion in wages annually,” the mayor continued.

De Blasio sees government working to develop three pillars that can bolster the technology community in New York: professional development, access and (more nebulously) innovation.

The tech ecosystem here provides nearly 300,000 jobs and generates over $30 billion in wages annually. Bill De Blasio

Onstage, the mayor announced a new infusion of cash into the CUNY system that should provide a boon to students looking to graduate with a degree in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

New York is going to funnel $29 million into CUNY to promote STEM education next year, and that number will increase to $51 million in 2017.

Beyond the university ecosystem, New York has created the Tech Talent Pipeline — an initiative backed by $10 million to encourage entrepreneurship and inclusion in the New York tech community through job placement efforts and educational and training programs.

“The city has also invested in a new generation of talent,” De Blasio said. “A majority of tech jobs in the city will be filled by graduates of our public schools and universities.”

If education is one way in which the city is hoping to promote and develop its technology community, access is another key to unlocking the doors to success in the tech community for the entire city.

Earlier on Monday we reported on the new city initiative to bring broadband access to all New Yorkers through a combination of high-speed corridors and public kiosks for public access to gigabit-speed service.

Our own Kim-Mai Cutler writes:

The way this plan will work is that $25 million will go toward new wireless corridors, which will deliver free or low-cost access to 20,000 low-income households. Another $7.5 million will go to upgrading or expanding at least five existing wireless corridors. Then $1.6 million in state funds will focus on broadband around industrial zones for at least 500 businesses.

Mayor de Blasio praised his predecessor, the billionaire founder of Bloomberg Inc. Mike Bloomberg, for building a strong foundation for New York City tech. “He reoriented government policies for the tech community,” de Blasio said. “I think at the same time we’ve taken a more populist approach.”

That populism has extended to the mayor’s third pillar of innovation, where the city government is actively turning to technology to solve certain problems that have previously been intractable. The innovative approach not only permeates the city’s view of how technology can help solve problems, but also how the city approaches its own solutions to problems.

Indeed the city has set itself the ambitious goal of building or preserving 200,000 low-income housing units. The mayor’s plan for the city also includes a target of moving 800,000 people out of poverty in the next ten years.

“We’re trying to build a superstructure around [zoning] in terms of affordable housing and better transit options,” the mayor said.

Innovative thinking is also at the heart of what can make the tech community more inclusive. “[Inclusion] is quite available if the mindset of what is valued changes,” said de Blasio. “This is not just about social responsibility… It’s smart in terms of the recognition of markets. We are in a society that is increasingly people of color.”

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