City's tech industry needs bigger boost from international talent: Report
Tech is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative industries in the city, but Gotham needs to get better at bringing top talent here, according to a new study.
The Big Apple is behind other cities when it comes to attracting the best engineers, computer experts and other tech whiz kids, said the report by Aon, a human resources consulting firm, and The Partnership for New York City, a business group.
The problem isn't supply -- there are 500 digital startups and counting. Rather, it's environmental factors and the city's lifestyle that are slowing down the brainiac influx, the report notes.
The main reason, however, is simple: The cost of living just scares people away, the partnership said.
Trudy Steinfeld, assistant vice president at NYU's Wasserman Center for Career Development, said too many young professionals decide to take their talents elsewhere because the trade off of having an awesome New York City job is the steep price tag that comes with it.
"One of the things with being a young person is you have to devote more of your income to rent. That's just a reality," she said.
Also, the city's traditional office settings are hampering its upgrade to the next Silicon Valley, according to the report, which noted that millennials seek a campus-style workplace. The city's density makes that hard to come by. Tech company heads agree.
"You have to have that campus space, and you can't do that in a closet in the Flatiron District," said music-streaming app Songza's CEO Elias Roman.
Roman added that the city is working to remedy the problem by enticing business owners to outer boroughs. He said the Songza staff was impressed with its Long Island City office because it has the space to create a more casual work environment while being close to the city's hot spots.
The report also said the city isn't doing an adequate job in bringing in international employees. The Partnership noted that the biggest obstacles there are immigration laws. The report recommends that the city and state change license and accreditation laws to make it easier to recruit foreign workers who already received similar accommodations in their homelands.
Additionally, the city's lack of big engineering schools hampered those foreigners from moving here instead of other U.S. cities.
The report added that the investment in the Cornell Tech school at Roosevelt Island, set to open in 2017, was a step in the right direction because it would both attract students from around the world and link them with local tech companies.
"Given the size of our economy, we know we need to continue to diversify and grow our talent base," said the city's Economic Development Corporation, which conceived the idea for the tech school.
"The more students that come here, the more employees, and that will build off each other," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday during a news conference at start-up On Deck, expressing his confidence that the school will be a beacon for great minds.
(with Kenneth Rosen)
Tech startups are making their Manhattan footprints:
2010: 3.8M sq. ft.
2011: 6M sq. ft.
486 -- Digital startups formed in the city since 2007 that have received angel, venture capitalist or other outside funding.
74% -- Growth in number of employees at NYC digital media companies between 2007 and 2010.
32% -- Growth in venture capitalist deals between 2007 and 2011.
All data compiled by Center for an Urban Future.
Walking the tech walk
The Partnership for New York City and Aon offered these suggestions for the city to help it on the path to tech domination.
Young Talent: Attract millennials by improving the broadband infrastructure that they crave and by making social media campaigns to show off the best parts of the city.
Focus on Niche Sectors: The report said the city should promote tech industries that are the most trendy, including Fin-Tech, Digital Media and Social Media.
Online immigration Help: The report said the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs should continue to foster its “New to New York” program, which gives an online portal on education, employment, housing and other services to future Americans.