Jobs are on the rise in Sunset, according to Industry City.
According to Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball, there has been significant job growth at the massive waterfront complex since its purchase by Jamestown, Belvedere Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Co. in 2013, particularly in the last year.
Back in 2013, said Kimball, “We had about 1,900 jobs and now we’re at about 7,500. That’s the equivalent of 100 jobs a month and that continued through the last year.”
Some of the jobs have come from businesses that have relocated to Industry City and continued to grow, while others are at start-up businesses that are hiring.
A key to this, said Kimball, has been Industry City’s Innovation Lab. “What we’ve tried to do through [it] is create a community portal and physical space in Industry City where people from the neighborhood who are looking for jobs can come,” he explained. “Every Tuesday, we have 25-50 people coming in looking for jobs.”
The last year has seen some changes in the lab for area residents seeking employment who want to learn specific skills. The lab covers a broad range of positions from designers to receptionists to food production handlers to assembly line workers.
Among the changes, said Kimball, is that Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT) “is now the lead not-for-profit running the day-to-day [operations]” at the lab. The other groups that are involved are the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) and Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI). SBIDC takes the lead by and large on manufacturing placements. BWI takes the lead on training.
“Each one of those groups brings a special talent to the table and resources based on their focus area as a workforce development entity,” Kimball stressed.
Among the programs that OBT runs at the lab is TechSTART. “It’s for people 17-24 who are out of school and work,” explained Liliana Polo-McKenna, OBT’s CEO. “We help them gain skills in coding and they earn an Adobe Photoshop credential.” Through the program, said Polo-McKenna, the trainees have the opportunity to work in conjunction with local businesses, for which they “build websites as part of the internship portion of their program.”
The lab has been successful in attracting local residents. On Tuesdays, 32 percent of people that walk in are from Sunset Park, according to Polo-McKenna, with the effort enhanced by weekly open houses on Tuesdays “to introduce people to the variety of different services that are available in the Innovation Lab.”
Since the Innovation Lab opened three years ago, close to 400 people have been placed in jobs and 350 in internships, according to Kimball.
“That’s touching a lot of lives and that is core to the kind of company that Industry City is and how seriously we take our community connections,” he said.
When asked if the jobs will help long-time residents remain in the area, Kimball said, “The answer to gentrification is not to slow down job creation. It’s actually to increase job creation and make sure there is a range of sectors that are accessible to folks at a broad range of education and experience levels. There are entry level jobs available that have pathways upwards, but there are also jobs that are middle range, whether design, production manager or longshoreman.”
Kimball said that the rezoning being sought by Industry City, which is currently delayed, would enable the complex to become even more of a job creator.
“We are constantly leasing, but certainly the rezoning will help investment growth and job creation,” he said. Certification of the controversial rezoning proposal — the first step in the lengthy mandated approval process known as ULURP — is expected in September, according to Kimball. In the meantime, he said, “We’re just going to keep doing everything we can to create local jobs and get local folks to those jobs and engage in a constructive community dialogue.”