Starting Up Staten Island Tech
By Lyle Foxman
New York City has been the fastest growing tech hub in the country. According to the Center for an Urban Future’s New Tech City report, during the recession, “information technology jobs in the city have increased by 28.7 percent, from 41,100 to 52,900, an amazing surge during a time when there were few other bright spots in the city’s economy.” The Bloomberg administration has supported the city’s tech sector at every turn and launched initiatives that promote its growth. With the planned tech campus on Roosevelt Island and the proliferation of incubators and co-working spaces, every borough has seen some level of growth in their local tech scenes. That is, every borough except for Staten Island.
Staten Island is a small business and paycheck-to-paycheck community where many of our young people have to look elsewhere for tech and entrepreneurial opportunities. In fact, there’s so little focus on tech here that in Tech and the City, which looks at the rise of the city’s startup community, the only reference to Staten Island focuses on telephone inventor Antonio Meucci’s failed startup in the 19th century. Why are we relegated to a historical footnote while the rest of New York moves forward?
Much of the problem lies with those of us who live and work here – we have failed ourselves by not taking the initiative to prove that tech can succeed in Staten Island. The growth of the New York City tech sector did not come from government, universities, and larger tech companies – it came from local leaders who organized communities of techies, educators, creatives, and entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to pursue new ventures. They changed the culture and made New York City a hotbed of innovation. We must work together to create such a community and foster such a culture to enable our homegrown talent to remain here.
We must also highlight Staten Island as an attractive place for tech companies to set up shop. As one of the more affordable places in the city and with major development projects underway, such as the New York Wheel, Empire Outlets, and the New Stapleton Waterfront, Staten Island is becoming an increasingly viable location for startups. Furthermore, according to the NYC Jobs Blueprint, the Partnership Fund for New York City is prepared to invest $20 million in the creation of urban tech campuses in every borough, including Staten Island, which would provide a further boost. This new attention on Staten Island gives us a springboard from which we can make the case for and help cultivate a local startup tech scene. We must take this opportunity.
Long gone are the days of working for the same company for 30 years, retiring, and getting that special gold watch or pen. Today’s world is about entrepreneurship, innovation, and creative-thinking. We Staten Islanders need to understand this, embrace this change, and take ownership of our future.