THE BLOG

A Pipeline to the Middle Class: Growing New York City's Entrepreneurial Economy for All

12/11/2012 05:42 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2013

In recent years, New York has seen remarkable growth in its entrepreneurial economy across a variety of industries -- from finance, fashion and food to marketing and media. But as this economy continues to expand, we haven't done enough to ensure that thousands of working class New Yorkers benefit from growth that offers them a pipeline to the middle class.

Only one in five startups in New York City, for example, is founded by a woman. And the latest Census data show that only 29 percent of employed blacks and 20 percent of employed Latinos work in the "creative economies," including management, businesses, science and the arts. We must change this trend, because as the new economy continues to grow, many entry-level jobs in high-tech pay $65,000 annually -- which is well above the median family income here.

For generations, the Statue of Liberty has stood at the entrance to New York Harbor, beckoning people from around the globe to the "Golden Door" of New York City. Disembarking on New York's shores has never come with a guarantee of riches, but rather with something far more elementary and profound: an equal opportunity to succeed.

That enduring opportunity has created an engine of entrepreneurship unlike any the world has ever seen, transforming New York from a small trading post at the tip of the Battery into the entrepreneurial capital of the world. Mayor Bloomberg deserves great credit for encouraging the growth of our city's vibrant new economy. Now, we must continue this proud tradition and ensure that it offers middle class opportunities to all New Yorkers.

In a new report issued by my office, "Start-Up City: Growing New York City's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem for All," I offer concrete proposals to make this a reality. We can start by ensuring that all New Yorkers have skills they need to succeed. These skills -- from computer technology and marketing to financial literacy and the "language" of business -- will serve all of our students well regardless of their future career goals. To that end, the Department of Education should offer expanded computer science curricula in schools throughout the city and bring together entrepreneurs, teachers, and advocates to inform a curriculum that prepares students for the 21st century economy.

We need to streamline how entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses. By building out NYC Digital to match the successful Office of TV and Film and cutting red tape at the Department of Buildings so that innovators can launch companies in real time, we'll make government more responsive to the fast-changing needs of emerging industries.

We must also improve our Internet and transportation connectivity. New York City should explore the creation of a municipal fiber network -- a project that has boosted Internet service competition and drawn new businesses in cities across the country. And we must link burgeoning job corridors in the boroughs, from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Hunts Point.

Lastly, we need to ensure that New York remains a city where people can afford to live, work, and raise families. Modernizing our regulatory code to legalize micro-housing and accessory dwelling units will provide additional avenues for affordable housing expansion while opening up larger units for New York families.

Government is not going to build the entrepreneurial economy in New York City. However, government is responsible for creating the environment and infrastructure to support robust economic growth.

This means supporting schools that prepare New York City's youth for the industries of tomorrow. It means investing in the transportation and communications infrastructure necessary for future growth. It means creating a regulatory regime that encourages efficient construction and predictable planning. And it means ensuring that the city is a place where people want to and can afford to live, work, and play.

The emergence of our diverse, entrepreneurial economy is something to celebrate. However, while New York City is home to thousands of new businesses, including more than 500 start-up companies in "Silicon Alley" alone, other urban centers are booming as well. From London's "Silicon Roundabout" and Los Angeles' "Silicon Beach," to Seattle's South Lake Union District and Boston's Innovation District -- cities across the country and around the world are competing hard for the innovative industries of tomorrow.

Together, we can ensure that New York City not only wins this competition, but shows the world how the entrepreneurial economy of the 21st century can reinvigorate our middle class.