By Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City is the nation’s creative class capital – nearly two-thirds of our economy today is based on services like advertising, architecture and financial consulting. Now the time has come for New York to take the next step and become the nation’s export capital as well.
Think about it – a generation ago, exporting meant shipping some kind of tangible, manufactured good overseas. But technology and the marketplace have evolved, and we should, too. We need to recognize that New York City’s services – our ideas – are also exportable goods that can be sent around the globe with the click of a mouse.
All we need is a plan for boosting export businesses in Brooklyn and the other four boroughs, which is why my office last week released “ExportNYC: A Road Map for Creating Jobs Through Exports.”
The report lays out how in many ways, we are already falling behind as a city. New York today ranks a dismal 93rd among America’s top 100 metro areas when exports are calculated as a share of gross domestic product, and 74th in terms of export growth in recent years, the Brookings Institute found.
That’s a shame, because we know that companies that export are less likely to go out of business, and pay wages that are significantly higher than those that do not. We also know that 87 percent of the world’s economic growth is projected to take place outside the U.S. in the next five years – in places like China, India and Africa – so exporting offers businesses of all sizes the opportunity to access vast new markets.
The immediate problem is one of coordination: My office found no fewer than 17 different arms of government providing some level of export advice in the region, much of it duplicative and wasteful. That has to stop.
We need to break down these government silos, get everyone around the same table and maximize our resources by creating an independent Regional Export Council, just like Los Angeles and a handful of other cities are doing. In L.A. and elsewhere, councils are helping businesses identify exporting opportunities, and then providing the logistical and technical advice needed to seize those opportunities.
Many New York City companies are already blazing a trail across the globe, with little or no help from government.
Brooklyn Brewery now sells more than a quarter of its fabled beer overseas; that’s up from 2% in 2005. “It’s big!” owner Steve Hindy says of the company’s overseas income.
WORKac is a small architectural firm in Manhattan that almost went under when the real estate bubble popped in 2008. Instead, the company managed to land prestigious projects in Russia and Gabon, and since then has hired more than 40 new people.
Likewise, Thea Grant is an acclaimed jewelry designer in Brooklyn who credits overseas customers – and their hunger for all things New York -- with 75% of her income. “It’s the only thing that has kept us alive,” she says.
The bottom line – there is enormous opportunity for us to leverage our growing creative class and our standing on the global stage. New York City’s brand has never been stronger. Our many immigrant entrepreneurs also represent a built-in export corps that, with the right support, could lead the way in selling “Made in NYC” goods and services back to their countries of origin.
Yes, we also need to improve our ports and invest in our dilapidated air and freight infrastructure. Today, that also means upgrading our broadband network, so that service-based companies can ship their ideas around the globe quickly and reliably.
What we cannot do is stand still as a city. Because if we do, the only thing we’ll be exporting then is jobs.