The mayor’s office hopes to entice new industrial development to the city with a $150 million fund for nonprofit and for-profit developers in an attempt to stem the gradual loss of industrial real estate and jobs throughout New York.
Two representatives from the city Economic Development Corporation presented details of the newly established Industrial Developer Fund to the Queens Borough Board Tuesday night at Borough Hall. Borough President Melinda Katz, who heads the board, attended the meeting along with the heads of each community board.
The fund will be a combination of $60 million in taxpayer money with an additional $90 million from private financing. The city wants to encourage the development or renovation of 400,000 square feet of industrial real estate, and the EDC contends the developments will result in as many as 1,200 new industrial jobs by the close of the decade.
EDC Senior Vice President Jeffrey Lee said the fund would be a positive fit for developers who could ensure that opportunities for a living wage job with potential for advancement would be available to members of local communities, including those without a formal education.
“If we could answer most of those in the affirmative, that is something we could consider,” he said.
Some attendees stressed that developers needed proper oversight and asked Lee how the city could be sure that the sites would eventually produce jobs. Lee responded that the city had an array of oversight tools at its disposal, including site visits. He said there were also fail safes if the developers did not live up to their end of the bargain.
“We have a default scenario. We hope we never have to use it,” he said. “There’s always going to be required deliverables.”
The submission deadline for proposals is March 29, and there will be three more deadlines in this calendar year.
Lee and William Stein, an EDC senior project manager, also described another initiative called Futureworks, which supports six selected early-stage companies with a grant of as much as $30,000 during a two-year period. The selected companies would be tiny advanced manufacturing firms that were using new technology to spur substantive growth in manufacturing, which has been a long-struggling field in the city. Sonhouse Technologies and BotFactory, two fledging startups located in Long Island City, were among the six companies chosen. Lee and Stein pointed to these firms as future entrepreneurial success stories.
“These young companies are idea-rich, but don’t have the resources and are best determined to use resources,” Stein said.
BotFactory’s feature product is called Squink; the firm’s website boasts that Squink can create fully functioning electric circuits within 30 minutes. BotFactory intends to use the $30,000 in grant funding to increase its manufacturing capabilities, hire a part-time employee and increase its marketing potential, according to Lee. He also asserted that the funding could pay huge dividends for companies that are on the verge of expansion.
“They’re often one-person, at most two-person operations, and they’ve been working out of their bathtub or out of their closet and they’re building some circuit board or some kind of new machine they’re just starting to sell and to commercialize,” he said. “Maybe two years down the road, they’re able to expand their market, expand their revenue and ideally go from a one-person to a five-person, to a ten-person sized company and more.”
The next round of applications for Futureworks will occur later this year, according to the EDC.
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