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Westchester planning new program for business startups

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Westchester County is about to take another step designed to help expand the local economy through new business activity, the Business Journal has learned.

To be known as the Westchester County Biosciences Accelerator, the program will see the county joining with the accelerator ELabNYC (the Entrepreneurship Lab for New York City), and the program ABCT (Accelerator for Biosciences in Connecticut).

Both are helping bioscience startups.

ELabNYC and ABCT operate under the umbrella of Design Technologies, which was organized to help build emerging companies. Corporate sponsors include Lilly, Pfizer, Roche and Purdue Pharma. Since 2013, ELabNYC has raised more than $275 million from various funding sources in the U.S. and internationally.

Westchester County’s Director of Economic Development Bridget Gibbons said the county will initially work with six startups.

“They’ll work with mentors and coaches and the great thing about this program is because it’s so well established there are a lot of investors that are involved, so we’re hoping that the momentum of having investors that are focused on this program will really accelerate our success,” she said.

The new program would dovetail with the county’s Element 46 incubator program that was launched earlier this year.

“We brought in 12 businesses to go through the incubator program. They just graduated. It was a four-month program. They’re in various stages of launches,” Gibbons said.

She said the plan is for the Element 46 program to help launch up to 200 businesses over the next five years.

Bridget Gibbons
Gibbons

Gibbons said the new program would be positioned to be a feeder for the North 60, a $1.2 billion biotech center to be developed on 60 acres of county land in Valhalla. That project has been working its way through the local approval process after Westchester County Executive George Latimer and developer John Fareri signed a 99-year land lease. She said the county is coordinating closely with New York Medical College and its BioInc@NYMC incubator.

Gibbons said her office takes a much broader interest in the county’s economic activity than just what’s happening with bioscience startups. “Our office works with all sizes of businesses, everything from mom-and-pop and minority-owned, women-owned businesses, to midsize businesses with between 50 and 500 employees, as well as providing incentives and other services to large corporations,” she said.

Gibbons pointed out that a great deal of economic activity in Westchester is spurred by the county’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which has approved tax incentives to help generate almost $2 billion in projects. She also said the county is mulling over a new program that may be called Westchester Goes Global. It would be designed to attract foreign companies that want to do business in New York City, but find it too expensive to set up shop there.

Gibbons said one of the most gratifying things about being in government is the direct impact her office is able to have in promoting economic activity.

“I used to have a marketing company and that was a lot of fun. But there’s something very special when you’re able to help people in the county in some significant way through the programs that we offer,” she said.

During the first part of her career she worked in New York City for a global human resources firm and had major clients such as Chase and IBM.

“I saw Facebook becoming important as a marketing tool and I said to myself that businesses, especially small businesses, are going to need help with it,” she said.

That led to her earning a certificate from New York University in social media and the launch of her marketing company.

“George Latimer understood my background where I had large corporate experience plus being an entrepreneur and being able to relate to small-business owners and the struggles they face, plus I was very well established in the Westchester business community,” she said.

Gibbons will have an opportunity to network with a wide spectrum of businesspeople attending a Nov. 20 event in White Plains. She is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion covering where the Westchester economy is now, where it’s likely to be headed in 2020 and what businesspeople need to do to plan ahead.

The event, organized by Westfair Communications, publisher of the Westchester County Business Journal, Fairfield County Business Journal and Wag magazine, is presented by Bank of America and takes place at the C.V. Rich Mansion at 305 Ridgeway from 5 to 8 p.m. Also featured will be Jonathan Kozy, senior macro strategy analyst for Bank of America, Mike Mosner, president of Mosner Family Brands, and Mark Edfort, managing partner at Evolution Health Group.

“I’m very optimistic about the economy of Westchester,” Gibbons said.

The evening event will mark the end of a long day for her.

“The first part of the day I’m going to be in Brooklyn, recruiting startup businesses to come to Westchester and be part of our Element 46 program,” she said.

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