De Blasio says forthcoming tech hub will foster talent, boost Silicon Alley’s profile

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sat down at adtech firm AppNexus on Friday (February 17) to talk about the latest on the City’s forthcoming Union Square Tech Hub.

Currently home to electronics retailer PC Richard & Sons, the site – 124 East 14th Street – will be transformed into a 258,000-square-foot hub for what a press release called “civic innovation, job creation and fluid work and learning opportunities in a state-of-the-art tech-enabled facility.”

It will be anchored by tech and public policy non-profit Civic Hall and will generate 600 “good-paying” jobs, de Blasio said in the release.

A rep for the New York City Economic Development Corporation said he expects to break ground in 2018 and for the hub to open “some time in 2020.”

“I want to propel efforts to strengthen and grow the tech economy and make something more and more New Yorkers can be a part of and benefit from,” de Blasio said at the event.

In fact, in the speech, de Blasio emphasized the importance of New York City fostering the talents of its residents and preparing them for jobs in the tech sector via affordable digital skills training.

That’s why the $250m project will include a 36,500-square-foot training center that “facilitates formal and informal learning, networking collaboration and real-time feedback about industry needs,” the release said.

In a statement, Andrew Rasiej, CEO of Civic Hall, said the facility will produce thousands of digitally trained workers to support the city’s technology ecosystem.

This is tied to de Blasio’s promise to create 100,000 well-paid jobs within a decade – including 40,000 jobs in the next four years, the release added.

The hub will also help make the New York City tech industry more inclusive by ensuring so-called careers of the future are accessible to New Yorkers of all backgrounds and skill levels.

Partners in technology workforce development – including the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education, General Assembly, Per Scholas, FedCap, Code to Work and Coalition for Queens – will provide discounted training, which, in turn, will remove barriers to tech education and foster a culture of inclusivity and opportunity, the release said.

Indeed, at the event (see video above for the full footage), Rasiej called New York the “greatest, most equitable city” and noted the greatest strength of its tech scene is human capital.

And in what he said was intended to be a nonpartisan statement that kept himself above the fray, de Blasio said teaching New Yorkers to code properly and giving them access to good-paying jobs is also about protecting democracy and an open society.

“We’re keeping this the open city,” he added.

But it’s also intended to make the Silicon Alley more appealing to the tech sector.

That’s why the Union Square Tech Hubn will also provide 58,000-square-feet of “fluid space” with features like smaller floor plans and shorter lease terms that are more attractive to “diverse growth-stage companies.”

According to de Blasio’s office, New York City companies received $4.6bn in venture capital in 2014, which was up from $2.4bn in 2011 – a 91% increase it said has contributed to the growth of the City’s $125bn tech economy.

“The innovation economy is comprised of a variety of fast-growing industry sectors, such as engineering, advertising and design that have greatly outpaced more traditional sectors in employment,” the release said.

“This new hub will be the front door for tech in New York City,” de Blasio added in a statement. “People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support. No other city in the nation has anything like it. It represents this City’s commitment to a strong and inclusive tech ecosystem.”

In 2013, de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, launched the We Are Made in NY initiative, which also promoted the City’s technology and digital sector.

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