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Make It In Brooklyn: Inaugural innovation summit attracts top business leaders

June 26, 2015 By Dipti Kumar Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn has made a name for itself as a growing center of culture in New York City, and now its repute is rapidly catching on across the globe.

“Make It in Brooklyn,” the inaugural innovation summit organized by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) that took place June 25 at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, was the culmination of the thoughts of entrepreneurs who realized “there wasn’t a forum for the people working in the innovation economy in Brooklyn to come together and talk about the future of the borough,” said Tucker Reed, president of the DBP.

“Brooklyn went from being Manhattan’s ugly stepbrother to being the cool cousin that plays in a rock band and everyone wants to hang out with,” Irina Pavlova of Onexim Sports & Entertainment said at the summit.

The first full-day summit consisted of panels, pitch contests and a lot of networking between entrepreneurs, artists and business leaders.

A study released earlier this week revealed a 125 percent leap in the number of creative firms in Brooklyn (from 815 centers in 2003 to a whopping 1,831 in 2013). 

Alicia Glen, New York City deputy mayor for Housing and Economic Development, said in her opening remarks at the summit that the government expects “1 million jobs [in Brooklyn] by 2040” in various sectors like advanced manufacturing, design, advertising, media and arts, biotech/ life sciences, e-commerce, technology and information. “Just to give us some context,” Glen added, “we have a little shy of 4 million jobs [in the innovation sector] in NYC in total. So by 2040, [Brooklyn will] have 25 percent of our economy […] in the innovation [sector].”

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“Brooklyn is what I like to think [of as] a modern, 21st century ecosystem,” said Glen.

The influx of funding and development has been at the top of the agenda for the city. Come 2017, a citywide ferry system will connect various neighborhoods that have already begun growing into business districts. The city will also be financing the creation of new a business improvement district (BID), libraries and parks “to make it a world class destination,” according to Glen.

Diversity in the Community

From housing and entertainment to travel, food and leisure, Brooklyn has revised its reputation, erasing the gritty tag it once had, according to speakers at the summit.

Delta Airlines, which ranks as the city’s largest carrier, invested nearly $2 billion “not just in the airports, but in the community that we serve,” said Gail Grimmett, Delta senior vice president, New York, during a panel discussion titled “First Brooklyn, then the World.”

Steve Hindy, chairman and co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery who spoke at the same panel, has built a brand that captures both the community of Brooklyn and spirit of brews in one sip. The locally brewed beer is a rage overseas and exports account for nearly “40 percent of sales.” However, it’s the “commitment to community which is critical to doing business,” said Hindy.

Government and Development

In the panel called “The (Real Estate) Kings of Kings County,” developer Bruce Ratner, David and Jed Walentas and MaryAnne Gilmartin from Forest City Ratner Companies spoke about the involvement of government in development.

“Whatever I had to do had to have a social impact,” said Ratner, a former poverty lawyer. However, without “government it’s impossible to [have] social impact,” Ratner added.

David Walentas shared a different view. He believes “government wanted to protect manufacturing,” he said.

The Future of Brooklyn

Another topic discussed at the summit was the practice facility for the Brooklyn Nets, which will come up in Industry City in the Sunset Park neighborhood to facilitate more interaction with community and businesses.

While Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO and Williamsburg have been “built out,” according to Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, “the motto is to get out of Downtown and visit the whole borough…to see what ‘Brooklyn made’ is.”

While the creative sector has recently surged, expectations among longtime Brooklynites are that the borough will be technology-driven in 20 years and will be the “equivalent of Silicon Valley,” said Ratner.

 

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