Session Description: How can tech and innovation, thoughtfully encouraged and deployed, change a city or a region?

The short talk’s transcript can be found below with a PDF version available here.

How Tech is Reviving America’s Cities

(Transcription by RA Fisher Ink)

Patchett: Thank you, David, I appreciate the introduction. I understand I missed the panel earlier about health innovation and one of the focuses was on infectious diseases in hospitals, which obviously is a huge public health issue. However, as the father of two children under the age of four, who are still recovering from a 72-hour stomach bug, I would really like people to focus first on how to prevent me from getting sicknesses from my children, and then maybe on the public health issue, but that’s just my personal challenge.

Okay, so as David mentioned, I’m the president and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. So you may or may not have heard of EDC, but we’re proud to be the organization that’s responsible for driving and shaping the vision for New York City’s growth. So we really do this in three key ways. First, we own and operate over 60 million of square feet of real estate in New York City and we’re constantly investing in that real estate to make it more business serving to ensure that we can maximize the economic impact we directly have on the city.

Second, we build neighborhood infrastructure, like ferry systems, like new roadways, new transit systems that help the city better serve the economy.

And finally, we invest in growth industries, industries like the ones you’re talking about today, to ensure that we can grow them for the future of the city.

So as David said, we’re about to have a conversation about how tech and innovation is enlivening the way cities are growing and changing. And of course, in New York, innovation is really a part of our DNA. So over the last four years since Mayor De Blasio took office, a lot of things have changed and I want to focus a little bit on, from our perspective, from the city’s perspective, how technology is changing the economy, and frankly the city.

Now, you are all familiar with a lot of these phenomenon but I want to just give you a perspective of what it looks like from my seat. So tech is obviously changing the way that we shop. In the last four years, Amazon sales have gone from $20 billion dollars to $60 billion dollars. So it’s now the third largest company in the world, which I’m sure most of you already know, and it’s changing the way that New Yorkers buy their products. And obviously we’ve all been having a conversation about what that means for the future of retail and small businesses that are on our streets. But also, we have to think about a lot of other issues. We have to think about the types of trucks that we’re going to have traveling on our neighborhood streets. How are these goods actually getting delivered, how are we going to ensure that we minimize the impact of truck travel? Are we going to create delivery zones? How are we going to provide for drop-offs that doesn’t block traffic when it’s occurring in the middle of small residential blocks? We even have to talk about drones. Are we going to allow drones in dense urban areas? These are the kinds of questions that are only made greater every time someone orders on Amazon Prime, or these days Amazon Now.

So tech is also changing the way we travel. I imagine a lot of you got here on an Uber or another ride-sharing app. Although, I hope you took the subway. Four years ago, Uber was only a 1 1/2 year old. That’s kind of impossible to believe. Today, it’s available in 83 countries and over 670 cities worldwide. So it had over 4 billion rides last year. And I know, Uber is changing the way we travel, but again, it’s also impacting the city in a lot of different ways. It’s changing our traffic patterns. It’s obviously impacting the taxi industry. But it’s also in very interesting ways impacting land use. It’s impacting where people live. There are whole areas of the city that, because of Via and other forms of transportation, are now viable location for people to move and get quickly to areas of the city at relatively reasonable rates they could never get to before. So we have to think about our land use patterns and the way people are going to live in response to new transit options like ride-sharing.

And tech is changing how we interact with one another. Four years ago, Instagram had only 200 million monthly users—only 200 million. Today, it’s 800 million. So this explosion in social media obviously impacts how we all spend our time staring at our phones, but it also impacts the way that people in the public sector interact with the world. It means that constituents can provide their feedback in real time all of the time, and what does that mean? It means whether they like it or not, people in the public sector get feedback continuously from people out in the real world actually experiencing how things are happening in their cities. It’s a big change. They’re all tectonic changes.

So I will just tell you from New York City’s perspective, we’re excited about changes. We have always embraced innovation and we’re committed to continuing to do that. Our tech ecosystem is thriving. We have a tech workforce that’s over 300,000 strong, 9,000 startups, 120 incubators. We all know that Google and Facebook are growing massively here, but so are all of our small companies. We’ve recently launched Cornell Tech, a partnership with Israel’s the Technion, to actually find a way to create R&D in United States universities that are not just named Stanford and MIT. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate New York’s commitment to innovation at the academic level as well.

Now, we have an opportunity to grow on this strong foundation. And as was just touched on in the last panel, we know that New York City has the most diverse tech talent in the entire world. Forty-seven percent of the city’s technology workers are foreign-born and we have the most women-owned businesses of any city in the world. But we need to do more to ensure that we continue to encourage people in diverse backgrounds to get into the technology sector and more women entrepreneurs as well. That’s why we’ve created We NYC, an effort to bring as many women businesses to the fore in New York City as we possibly can.

I’ll just touch on a few more examples of things we are doing to encourage innovation in the city. We’re making a huge investment in cybersecurity. It’s obviously a risk to the future of the city, the future of the economy, the future of the way our elections are governed, notwithstanding what some people say about that, but the city is investing $30 million dollars to make sure we’re at the forefront of cybersecurity innovation. We believe we have the ability to add 10,000 jobs in this cybersecurity space.

We’re hosting the first-ever blockchain week. Whether or not you believe in cryptocurrency, blockchain is absolutely going to innovate every industry.

And finally, we’re committed to making ourselves the most diverse tech industry in the world, as I mentioned. We have the tech talent pipeline, which creates thousands of jobs in the most diverse ways across the city. So we’re always looking for more ways the city can support startups and good tech jobs and we don’t come up with these ideas in a vacuum, so we’re thrilled to work with all of you and everyone else in the tech economy, or Techonomy, to create these opportunities.

So thanks, everyone, and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the day.