New York Senator Chuck Schumer Tells Local Entrepreneurs the City Can Surpass Silicon Valley as the High-Tech Capital of America

6/6/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, the publicity-loving Democrat from New York, has his share of critics—but none seemed to be in attendance this morning at Internet Week New York, where he gave the kickoff keynote speech. The audience of journalists and Internet entrepreneurs ate up Schumer’s message: New York, he said, can and should surpass Silicon Valley as the leading tech center by 2035.

“What we need to do is figure out the right ways to nurture you, to encourage more people like to you come here, and to support you and those that join you, so that the businesses represented here today can thrive and grow,” the senator said.

The fourth annual Internet Week New York features 200 events and is expected to draw 25,000 attendees, according to David-Michel Davies, who chairs the event. Schumer’s keynote address was a late addition, with word coming on June 2 that he would be there. But Schumer was clearly happy to be on the menu. Just before his speech, he looked out at the crowd that had gathered at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street—where Internet Week is hosting a large trade show and several events—and smiled. “You’re here the whole week?” Schumer asked Davies, who nodded in response. “Great.”

As he took the stage, Schumer spoke with enthusiasm and conviction about his goal of transforming NYC into a tech juggernaut. Schumer pointed out that New York is the second-largest recipient of high-tech venture capital, behind Silicon Valley. “We passed Boston this year,” he said. The city employs more high-tech workers than any other region in the country—300,000 in 22,000 companies. And, he added, it’s not just the giants like Google and Yahoo that are employing all those people. “We are home to small startups too numerous to count, many of which are showing signs of breaking through to become even more successful.”

So how can the city support all those entrepreneurs? Schumer used the Internet Week stage to put a call out to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Schumer urged them to create a working group and charge it with the challenge of surpassing Silicon Valley as a tech center by 2035. The effort, Schumer said, should be a private/public partnership that brings together leading figures from several New York industries—including finance, real estate, media, and education—to establish a plan for growing the high-tech sector.

Part of the plan needs to focus on recruiting young people to New York, Schumer pointed out. “When I talk to people in the Internet industry, one of the things they tell me is that when they go recruit at colleges and universities, many students are often surprised to learn how much activity there is in the high-tech sector in New York,” Schumer said. “They often end up in Boston or the West Coast because they didn’t even know to consider New York as a destination.” That has to change, he said.

Reaching the 2035 goal “requires us to keep investing in the future—at the federal, the state, and the local level,” Schumer said. “I know that in many quarters, government spending is … Next Page »

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