City Hall’s tech industry push has also included a historic initiative to build a graduate engineering campus in New York City. The idea is not only to replicate Stanford’s role in seeding Silicon Valley culture and spin out the next Google (or Facebook) in New York, but, in the Mayor’s telling, to make New York a global hub for technology and innovation. The highly competitive request for proposal process—which rubbed some native institutions the wrong way—yielded seven bids from an impressive roster of schools including Cornell, Israel’s Technion and even Stanford itself.
At the Facebook announcement, Mayor Bloomberg described his high hopes for the tech campus, which he said he expects “to spin off hundreds of new companies and create some 22,000 jobs in the years to come.”
Behind the scenes, the political efforts have been focused on improving the overall climate rather than on wooing specific companies. For his part, Mr. Pinsky said the EDC has spoken with tech companies, but he and his staff haven’t tried to sell individual companies on making the move eastward with financial incentives or logistical support for specific projects, as other cities have.
“In a lot of cities, the role of an economic development agency is very tactical: let’s get this company to move their office here. It’s great, but it’s a very inefficient way to build an economy,” Mr. Pinsky said. “We have made trips out to Silicon Valley, we’re telling businesses there, we’re telling businesses in Boston about what’s going on in New York and the message is percolating throughout the consciousness of the technology community. … What we’re trying to do is get the message into the collective consciousness of as many people as possible rather than targeting this company or that company.”
City Hall confirmed it didn’t give Facebook any financial incentives to expand the New York office. A source with knowledge of the Bloomberg administration’s tech strategy explained why New York doesn’t feel the need to give companies cash.
“There was no, ‘Hey come here, we’ll give you $100 million.’ Or, ‘Please, please, please Facebook, please come here,’” the source said. “There’s no courting because we don’t see the need, because we know New York is a premium brand. That comes up a lot, New York is a premium brand. We don’t need to sell down. We don’t need to go down market the way other states and cities do. This is like a really, really firm policy.”
Along with Apple and Google, Facebook is one of the top power players in Silicon Valley and the company’s Madison Avenue expansion is the biggest achievement to date in the city’s push to become the world’s high-tech hub.
“We’ve become the second largest recipient after California—after San Francisco—of high-tech venture capital in the country. We’ve surpassed Boston, which is an amazing thing, and by some measures … we have more high-tech workers than any other region in the country—about 300,000 men and women more than Silicon Valley and Boston, but we have to do more. Today’s announcement shows that we’re succeeding,” Senator Schumer said.
While New York’s politicians may not think the city needs to beg tech companies to come here and they’re optimistic the Big Apple can supplant Silicon Valley as the global tech capital, that didn’t stop Mayor Bloomberg from playing pitchman at the Facebook announcement and exhorting other companies to make the move to New York before it’s too late.
“The smartest thing tech and social media companies can do is to move to New York City and get tied into our growing tech community right now,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “This is the place where you need to be, so don’t wait until all your competitors are already here and recruiting the best talent.”
Additional reporting by Nitasha Tiku