Learning from New York City's Economic Development Engine

Since 2012, New York City has implemented its vision for economic development through NYCEDC, a non-profit corporation charged with deploying city assets to stimulate economic growth.

Read Time: 2 minutes

June 18, 2015, 9:00 AM PDT

By Molly M. Strauss @mmstrauss

Many municipalities struggle against their own slow-moving bureaucracy, with its attendant constraints and timeline, to accomplish goals like neighborhood revitalization and job creation. New York City has circumvented this problem, in part, through its more nimble Economic Development Corporation.

NYCEDC oversees city assets like ports and industrial facilities, and a $3 billion portfolio for developing infrastructure. It takes on neighborhood planning, real-estate, and development projects. And it serves strategic planning and implementation functions, helping industries adjust to the global economy as a "think and do tank," in the words of NYCEDC's Tom McKnight.

McKnight gave The Planning Report an account of the organization’s structure, relationship to the city, and methods that have led to its success. Given the breadth of its purview, McKnight says the EDC thinks big picture. When it came to the Roosevelt Island Cornell-Tech project, for instance, the corporation approached a broad economic challenge—how to commercialize academia—and then sought a project to fulfill it. He says:

"The project did not originate with a specific end goal. Instead, it started with an exercise that asked, 'What’s the next big idea for the city? In a changing, global economy, what sorts of things should the City of New York be focusing on to diversify our economy?' Through a thoughtful, step-by-step process, we wound up recognizing that where we were falling short was in the development of tech talent. To solve that issue, we needed to deliver more graduates in the tech arena who would not only study there and work in NYC, but who would also generate ideas, generate businesses, and generate jobs... That led to a more formal procurement.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 in The Planning Report

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