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October 14, 2016

Manufacturing Week reflections on NYC’s complete business ecosystem

NYC manufacturing consultant and techHouse Design Studio Founder Dean DiPietro discusses the production signatures of different cities. Credit: TEP

Happy Manufacturing Week! Over the past seven days, we’ve attended ITAC’s Manufacturing Day, presented at the Design for Manufacturing Summit and lead a TEP Conference roundtable on connected devices x advanced manufacturing. NYCEDC also released a state of manufacturing report, so all-told, we’re swimming in local data, anecdotes and new relationships – right where we like to be. The number one lesson is that New York City manufacturing is a complete business ecosystem. Companies hire here, build locally, team up with local partners and are largely supported through local clients, contracts and consumers.

First the report. Manufacturing jobs are up 3.3% to 78,000 since 2011. In 2015, the average manufacturer increased its employee base by 8.1%. Moody’s economists predict manufacturing to contribute more and more to Gross City Product, especially in the food and electronics manufacturing sectors. While breweries and bakeries are leading the charge on the f&b side, wood product manufacturing is leading on the industrial side. We’ve written about manufacturing agencies like Brooklyn-based SITU responding to New York’s desire for custom interiors, lobbies, installations and furniture – a cornerstone of the sector’s 38% growth rate. On the other end of the product spectrum, computer and electronics manufacturing is growing 26.7% and paying an incredible $104,000 average wage.

tep-conference-futureworks-nycVoltaic Systems COO Jeff Crystal on the emergence of a NYC customer base for portable power charging. Credit: TEP

Despite the relatively high cost of living and building a business, local manufacturing companies are prospering. At ITAC Manufacturing Day, Boyce’s Tom Powell showed us that the Queens-based tech company has 100 employees with a target of 300 over the next few years. Every Boyce employee earns at least $50,000 a year with full health benefits. These incentives help attract top talent, inspire a happy workforce and drive a consistent pipeline of qualified referrals for open positions. Boyce – the company and the team – lives here. They make here, and, through a city contract for subway help points, Boyce sells here, too. It’s a neat closed-loop system that continues to reinvest in New York.

At the Design for Manufacturing Summit, NYCEDC’s Stacey Weismiller was impressed by the way New York City is developing shared resources. Voodoo Manufacturing’s 3D-print factory in Bushwick provides completely local production. TechShop, which recently won the Futureworks contract to build an advanced manufacturing facility at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, will bring communal machines to Sunset Park. “People don’t have to invest in capital equipment,” Weismiller says. Shared production means shared knowledge that can eliminate costly upfront errors. ITAC CEO Kinda Younes is especially excited about increased local collaboration, pointing out that 80% of final product costs are determined in the design phase. Manufacturing certification programs like Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech) should help provide smart talent to the ecosystem as well, says Urban Manufacturing Alliance Executive Director Lee Wellington.


Forecasting New York City manufacturing production. Credit: NYCEDC

Local collaboration is also attracting entrepreneurial talent. “Compared to the other side of the country, there seems to be abundance of collaborators in the area, especially for a large tangible product like ours,” Farmshelf Co-Founder Manan Gandhi told us at TEP. The former Pinterest and Qualcomm engineer moved from San Francisco earlier this year to join the Urban-X smart-city accelerator. He and his three-person team build hydroponic farming equipment to decrease the supply chain from farm to table. Farmshelf counts the Brooklyn Navy Yard as source for both work space – New Lab – and product prototypes – Stiegelbauer. Like Voodoo, Farmshelf is building off local demand, piloting hydroponics with a Manhattan restaurant, Brooklyn coworking space and private clients. Voltaic Systems, a fellow New Lab maker of portable solar-powered batteries, counts on NYC travelers, photographers and smart-city startups for much of their customer base.

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