New York City is quickly becoming the destination of choice for emerging tech companies, and countless young tech entrepreneurs are moving here every year. And while the economic growth in the tech sector has been significant, it’s important to recognize that other, smaller towns are trying to take some of that business away from us.
Chattanooga, Tenn., is not the first place people think of when they imagine a tech capital, but economic development officials there are working hard to transform that city’s economy and position as a destination for startups. It is now advertised as having the fastest Internet speeds in the Western Hemisphere — more than 200 times the national average — and capable of offering “one-gigabit-per-second fiber Internet services to all residents and businesses.”
Young talent is flocking to Chattanooga to take advantage of programs like “GeekMove” and “GigTank,” which incentivize relocation there for developers and system administrators, and offer techies up to $11,250 in relocation costs. A consortium of public and private entities have joined together to form “Gig City,” a creative program that seeks to reinvent the city’s economy and draw tech workers to specific neighborhoods that need revitalization.
Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., are also becoming players on the tech front with the installation of the Google Fiber project. The cities won a competitive project to become a guinea pig for the new high speed broadband Internet service that is capable of delivering one gigabit per second. Now, tech companies are flocking to the area and bringing economic benefits to both cities.
Similarly, Lafayette, La., decided a decade ago to build 800 miles of fiber-optic cables that can deliver exceptionally fast Internet speeds.
New York City has approximately 1,000 tech companies operating within the five boroughs, according to a report from the Center for an Urban Future. The report cites that New York tech companies have seen a 35% increase in Venture Capital funding, surpassing all other tech regions including Boston and Silicon Valley. According to the New York State Department of Labor, technology jobs have risen by a whopping 60% since 2007 and the New York City Economic Development Corporation has reported employment gains of 30% since 2005.
The tech revolution is not just hype. In fact, New York City has had a handful of successful tech startups, including online fashion sites Gult Group and Ideeli, as well as Tumblr, ZocDoc and Foursquare. The city is making strides with plans for a Cornell University technology campus on Roosevelt Island and a Google initiative to bring free WiFi to parts of the West Side.
These gains, however, can quickly be reversed if we’re not paying attention to the industry’s needs. If the cost of living continues to rise faster than compensation, many companies will give birth here and seek to move to places like Chattanooga, Kansas City or Lafayette.
New York currently has a thriving ecosystem of major multinationals, emerging startups and a talented workforce of developers, designers and engineers. We must explore “tech communities” — places where employees can live and work — which have been successful on the West Coast.
As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our telecommunications network is not indicative of a world-class city. With federal dollars coming to the area to improve our disaster readiness, let’s take the time to explore how improving our emergency communications network can have a rollover effect on our city’s thriving tech community.
Imagine outer-borough neighborhoods like Red Hook, Brighton Beach in Brooklyn or Howard Beach in Queens becoming tech centers. It’s possible if we think big.
We must invest in our communications infrastructure now while we still have the chance or we’ll soon be playing catchup to Chattanooga and Lafayette.
Original posted in the NY Daily News