Diversity Key to NYC's Economic Growth

As part of building a more diverse economic footing for the city, the Bloomberg Administration has helped to build New York’s tech industry into the second largest in the country.

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New York Stock Exchange (Image source: kjetil_r, Flickr)

New York Stock Exchange (Image source: kjetil_r, Flickr)

Faced with term limits, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will leave the mayor’s seat this year, a position he has highly coveted. His legacy will certainly live on, as his administration has achieved many accomplishments, including diversifying the city’s economy, banning smoking in public places, improving the city’s infrastructure and creating more affordable housing.

As part of building a more diverse economic footing for the city, the Bloomberg Administration has helped to build New York’s tech industry into the second largest in the country. Mayor Bloomberg realizes the value of creating a tech haven for entrepreneurs, which attracts individuals looking for an opportunistic startup environment. As part of his tech plan, Bloomberg fostered the development of Cornell University’s tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Following the announcement of the plan, Mayor Bloomberg wrote: “We expect the campus … to spin off hundreds of start-ups from the school’s research and generate billions of dollars in economic activity.” While New York is in a great position to be a leader in technology implementation and education, means to continue to build a more diverse economic footing for the city is essential. The next mayor should continue to build on top of Bloomberg’s plans and concepts. And while much work has been done to improve the economic conditions of New York, there is still much to be done to keep the city on a diverse path.

For decades, New York’s economy has depended largely on Wall Street. This served the city well in the past, but following the recession and bankruptcies of some of New York’s largest financial firms — including the infamous Lehman Brother collapse — the city would be better served in the future to have a more distinct economic pillar.

Moreover, economic growth will be developed through innovation. And as far as innovation is concerned, the city should not only consider the ideas of big business, academia and the technology industry, but individuals as well. According to a recent Brookings Institution report, the trend for innovations in cities shows a bottom-up approach. Taking advantage of this approach is the NY Tech Meetup, which is currently crowdsourcing ideas for innovation. Individuals are given the opportunity to discuss topics they feel have room for improvement. Topics posted on the website by individuals include, education, transparency, improved internet connectivity and improving the city’s attractiveness for entrepreneurs. These ideas and concepts should be valued on a city government level.

Moving forward, the City of New York should continue to focus on expanding its economy outside of Wall Street, but should also place more emphasis on the views and ideas of individuals. We are living in an age where technology helps break down the walls between City Hall and citizens. The city has already taken a big step toward crowdsourcing.

In 2011, the Bloomberg Administration appointed Rachel Sterne Haot as the city’s Chief Digital Officer. Since then, the city has focused on open government, noting that “…the City of New York aims to serve as a platform for technology innovation, opening its data resources to spark fresh development that serves and informs New Yorkers.” As part of the open government initiative, the city launched NYC Open Data, a site that gives individuals access to data such as city wifi hotspot locations, 311 service requests, MTA data on the city’s subways, buses and commuter rail, and demographic statistics, among many other data sets. In fact, there is a large amount of data available on the site and I suspect it will grow. What the City of New York has done is open its data to the public in a way that is easily accessible. Doing so increases the transparency and accountability of the city’s government. Moreover, such openness generates an appeal to entrepreneurs who may access the data for specific purposes, such as the development of apps or websites through the NYC Open Data API (Application Programming Interface). Some great examples of the work that has been performed through the open data project can be seen through the city’s NYC BigApps project, which granted software developers the opportunity to build a platform using the data. The intention of the project was a generate crowdsourcing to build apps that could improve the city’s functionality.

An open government plan, rather through data or transparency, helps build a stronger economy by bridging the gap between government and citizens. As the Bloomberg Administration comes to an end later this year, it is important that this tradition be carried into the next mayoral administration. New York’s economy depends on it.