New York, Cradling Its Entrepreneurs

New York City may have weathered the recession better than many major cities, but it still suffered from a strong hit to the capital markets with a loss of revenue and jobs when some major firms collapsed. But though Wall St. continues to rebound, the city has sought to re-energize its economy by launching sixty-some initiatives targeted specifically at spurring entrepreneurship.

One major effort has been to develop a series of sector specific incubators to provide valuable office space to fledgling companies at well below market rents. The first to launch is called The 160 Varick Street Incubator, after its address in downtown Manhattan, established through a partnership with NYU-Poly, the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Trinity Real Estate; it offers 16,500 square feet of space, along with equipment, conference rooms and kitchen space for around 30 companies, plus networking and mentoring services. The incubator provides units of 100 square feet of space -- enough for one desk chair -- though often more people squeeze in for $300 per employee per month to companies ranging from financial technology to digital media ventures.

One early tenant was Ecological Group, a green technology firm that monitors sustainable practices for commercial building. Founded in 2008, the company develops plans for real estate portfolios to reduce energy costs, improve efficiencies, and to comply with ever changing green regulations; it currently works in about 10 million square feet of residential and commercial space. One of its five founders, Lindsay Napor McLean says she heard about the incubator program on the radio just in time because her company had been "planning to move to New Jersey because we couldn't afford Manhattan rents."

Since moving into the incubator in downtown Manhattan during the summer of 2009, Ecological Group has received $2 mil in funds from private investors and has grown to a staff of 20. Recently it formed a strategic partnership with Cushman Wakefield, the world's largest privately held real estate company to bring sustainable building practices to its properties.

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