The announcements have been coming fast and furious from some of the biggest names — Google, Facebook, eBay — as well as homegrown companies like Tumblr, Foursquare and Etsy. Suddenly, it seems nearly every tech company you’ve heard of has a major presence in New York City.
In reality, the city’s tech sector didn’t overnight become one of the largest in the nation; it’s grown organically over time.
New York’s inherent attractions are part of the story, of course, but so is the work of Mayor Bloomberg and his economic-development team (led by Deputy Mayor Bob Steel and NYC Economic Development Corp. President Seth Pinsky).
They’ve done what good government leaders should do — amplified the energy the tech sector has created, catalyzing its growth and building infrastructure to give it staying power.
And they’ve addressed the one missing ingredient from long-term growth: increasing the city’s pipeline of tech talent.
Last December, we at Cornell were proud to be chosen — along with our academic partners at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology — to build a new tech campus on Roosevelt Island, CornellNYC Tech.
Yes, the city is already rich in world-class institutions of higher education — but the tech campus represents a new model: CornellNYC Tech directly connects academia and industry in a way that catalyzes growth.
This new approach is consistent with Cornell’s heritage as the Empire State’s land-grant institution. For nearly 150 years, Cornell has leveraged knowledge to improve the lives of New Yorkers, giving back with a presence in every county of the state and all five boroughs.
Today we are answering the call by adding a new dimension to the city’s identity as it embraces the tech sector as the wave of the future. CornellNYC Tech will help make the city a magnet for world-class researchers, young entrepreneurs and venture investors.
If we’re successful, the tech campus will attract, develop and retain talent prepared to promote 21st-century technology-enabled change. The curriculum is being designed to bring leading tech talent to key New York industries like media, health care and construction.
CornellNYC Tech’s mission is to jump-start innovation by breaking down the barriers between academic research and industry. And we believe that Roosevelt Island is the perfect place.
Startups like to cluster near other startups — and the map of tech startups that the city released last months shows these clusters growing along what we’re calling “the F-train tech corridor.” From downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO through the Lower East Side, Union Square and the Flatiron, a new tech community is sprouting.
Of course the F train also stops on Roosevelt Island, and we envision the tech campus connecting to these pockets of growth — supporting them and pulling innovation into more neighborhoods, spreading growth to Long Island City in Queens and beyond.
This is a long-term vision with a 25-year development plan, but it’s already having an impact. We won’t open our doors on Roosevelt Island for five years, but we launched the campus last month with the announcement that academic programs will start this fall in donated space in Google’s building on 8th Avenue.
The campus is already drawing talent here that wouldn’t have come just a few years ago — talent like Greg Pass, the former CTO of Twitter and our new entrepreneurial officer. Faculty from around the world have expressed interest in becoming a part of the tech campus.
The tech sector has already become synonymous with New York’s economic resurgence. By investing in this innovative tech campus, New York City is ensuring its place in the next economy, adapting as all great cities must.
David J. Skorton is the president of Cornell University.
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