Blueprint accelerates Westchester
In 2012, the Westchester County Association’s Blueprint Accelerator Network L.L.C. was in the planning stages. In 2013, it will be about implementation.
The Westchester County Association (WCA) has said since the network was launched in March, a tremendous amount has been accomplished with hundreds of people collaborating to advance Westchester’s economic interest.
“We’ve attracted significant investments,” said Marissa Brett, executive director, economic development at the WCA. “We’re nurturing promising companies.”
The Blueprint Accelerator Network, one of Westchester’s first economic development initiatives led by the private sector, is designed to make Westchester a competitive business center. It’s a multiyear, multimillion dollar campaign working in collaboration with real estate, business, government and Westchester’s 14 colleges.
“How do we revitalize the Westchester economy?” Brett said. “We’ve been working on those issues, rezoning, repurposing and working with municipalities. They need to realize that the demands from yesterday are not here and we need to reposition our assets to attract the demand of tomorrow.”
With Westchester’s 6 million square feet of available office space, the blueprint has formed partnerships with real estate owners to donate real estate space, including free rent in year one, 50 percent off in year two and then a deal at market value after that.
Companies involved in the accelerator network have access to professional services, accounting firms, law firms and search optimization firms, among others.
“We run the gamut across those industries,” Brett said. “We offer 100 billable hours for free. It’s another huge significant savings. These companies that are struggling to get from A to B can leap over to the next level.”
In the eight months since the blueprint formed, one million square feet of vacant commercial inventory was removed. The WCA has also hosted city showcases, including one for White Plains that attracted 150 brokers and others to learn what the city had to offer.
“It was a tremendous success,” Brett said. “(White Plains Mayor) Tom Roach came out and said that it was the first time the city had been promoted on this scale and the impact was terrific. They got leads for businesses that wanted to expand and development opportunities.”
A similar showcase was held for New Rochelle and a showcase is set for Yonkers in April. To improve the climate for small businesses, the blueprint has campaigned against unfunded mandates and advocated reforming the State Environmental Quality Review Assessment (SEQRA).
“They needlessly hinder economic development,” Brett said. “It’s a collaborative effort to streamline processes that hinder economic development.”
In 2013, Brett wants to ensure the network continues to be a success by working with companies to help them grow in Westchester while improving the county’s infrastructure.
“Hurricane Sandy brought to light that we have severe infrastructure issues,” Brett said. “How do we deal with them? We have to have a conversation about real solutions. We have a strong focus on working to transform Westchester’s towns and cities as havens for young professionals.”
The blueprint is also hoping to showcase Westchester as an destination for international businesses. Brett said this is something that was sorely needed, particularly to be done by the private sector.
“Government doesn’t have the funding to do this,” Brett said. “It is critically important to help grow the economy here. We’ve seen many businesses that have left the county. We have to make sure that we are attracting and working with the existing businesses we have to help them grow.”
Brett said it is important that the county remain competitive with not just Fairfield County and New Jersey, but in the country and the world.
“We will do everything we can to make sure that Westchester can be competitive,” Brett said.