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Brooklyn a start-up magnet in new innovation economy

A new report from the Center for an Urban Future has found that Brooklyn is one of the nation’s leaders in the innovation economy.

The borough’s growth in tech start-ups, creative companies and innovative manufacturers significantly outpacing Manhattan and other leading cities.

Kings County was second in the nation in the growth of tech start-ups over the past decade, with the borough’s 356 percent increase besting all but one of the country’s 17 major tech hubs.

The report was produced in partnership with Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Dumbo Improvement District, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and Industry City.

If found that employment in Brooklyn’s creative industries is up by 155 percent over the past decade, nearly ten times the growth rate of Manhattan.

And in eight different creative industries—including film/tv, graphic design, architecture, industrial design, and publishing—Brooklyn was first or second among the nation’s 25 largest counties in employment growth over the past decade.

Additionally, the study shows that Brooklyn’s manufacturing sector has significantly outperformed the city as a whole since the Great Recession, with much of the growth coming from a new generation of companies at the intersection of manufacturing, technology and design. According to the report, manufacturing jobs citywide declined by 7 percent citywide, but were up by 1 percent in Brooklyn.


Among the report’s major findings:

  • Of all major tech hubs in the nation, Brooklyn’s start-up growth rate was second only to San Francisco. Brooklyn’s 356 percent growth rate topped New York City (308 percent), Philadelphia (290 percent), Los Angeles (279 percent), and Chicago (270 percent). This is based on our analysis of extensive data of data provided to us by Crunchbase, a leading global database that tracks tech-enabled start-ups.
  • Brooklyn was home to 1,205 tech-enabled start-ups in 2018, up from 264 start-ups in 2008.
  • Brooklyn now has 9.2 percent of NYC’s tech-enabled start-ups, up from 6.3 percent in 2000 and a higher share than ever before.
  • Though Manhattan boasts the most start-ups of any borough, Brooklyn has nearly six times as many start-ups as Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island combined.  
  • Since 2000, 443 Brooklyn-based start-ups have received venture capital or angel funding.
  • Brooklyn is home to 10 of the 85 funded start-ups founded in New York City in 2018—or 11.6 percent, the borough’s highest-share ever of new funded start-ups in a single year.
  • Over the nine years from 2009 to 2017, Brooklyn produced an average of 101 start-ups per year. In the previous nine years—from 2000 to 2008—Brooklyn produced 29 per year.
  • Brooklyn has a particularly high concentration of start-ups in media entertainment (249 start-ups), e-commerce (174), financial services(102), and data analytics (81). But in the past two or three years, Brooklyn has also seen significant growth in several emerging fields, including payments (30 start-ups), artificial intelligence (23), blockchain (14), and virtual reality (8).
  • Several subsectors comprise a larger share of start-ups in Brooklyn than in Manhattan.

The number of jobs in Brooklyn’s creative industries increased by 155 percent over the past decade, significantly outpacing the 16 percent growth in Manhattan’s creative economy.

  • In eight different creative industries, employment in Brooklyn has increased by at least 200 percent over the past decade: industrial design (which registered employ­ment growth of 423 percent), motion picture and video industries (361 percent), sound recording industries (321 percent), advertising (277 percent), commercial photogra­phy (277 percent), graphic design (262 percent), landscape design (214 percent), and marketing (200 percent).2
  • In 11 different creative industries, Brooklyn was first, second or third among the nation’s  largest counties in employment growth over the past decade. Our analysis compared Brooklyn with the nation’s 25 most populous counties, as well as seven other (less populous) counties that are among the nation’s leaders in the creative sector, including Travis County (Austin), Fulton County (Atlanta), San Francisco County (San Francisco), Multnomah County (Portland), Suffolk County (Boston), Denver County (Denver), and Davidson County (Nashville).
  • Brooklyn was among the top six counties for job growth in 14 of the 15 creative industries examined in the report.
  • Brooklyn accounted for 5 percent of all fashion and jew­elry design jobs created in the United States between 2007 and 2017. The borough is home to a significant share of all new jobs created nationally in several other creative industries, including film and television (4 percent of all new U.S. jobs), advertising (3 percent), and industrial design (2 percent). And while graphic design jobs declined by 14 percent nationally during the past decade, employment increased by a remarkable 262 percent in Brooklyn.

Innovative Manufacturers

  • Driven by a new generation of compa­nies at the intersection of manufactur­ing, technology, and design, Brooklyn’s manufacturing sector has significantly outperformed the city as a whole in rebounding from the Great Recession. Whereas manufacturing employment citywide is down 7.2 percent since 2011, Brook­lyn posted a net gain of 1 percent.
  • Like the rest of the city, Brooklyn has suffered job losses in many traditional manufactur­ing subsectors. But the borough has experienced net job gains in several manufacturing subsectors connected to tech or design, including electrical equipment and appliances manufacturing (which had a net increase of 347 jobs since 2011), jewelry and silverware manufacturing (+218 jobs), ornamental and architectural metal products manufactur­ing (+110 jobs), furniture & related products manufacturing (+82 jobs), medical equip­ment and supplies manufacturing (+81 jobs), and machinery manufacturing (+21 jobs).
  • There are other clear signs that Brooklyn is seeing growth among makers that fuse tra­ditional manufacturing processes with tech and design. Of the 1,205 tech-enabled start-ups in Brooklyn that we identified through our analysis of the Crunchbase database, 39 were in manufacturing (up from 23 in 2013). Other tech-enabled start-ups in Brooklyn are sprouting in fields with strong connections to manufacturing, including hardware (Brooklyn now has 102 hardware start-ups), food and beverage (53 start-ups), consumer electronics (44), consumer goods (41), clothing and apparel (30 start-ups), and government & military (11).

“The innovation economy has become a vital new engine of growth for Brooklyn,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, which researched and wrote the report. “Innovation industries have added thousands of well-paying jobs across Brooklyn, helped diversify the borough’s economy, and given Brooklyn an important competitive advan­tage in a part of the economy that is expected to grow significantly in the years ahead.”

“At the cross section of arts and tech, Brooklyn has become a hub for innovation and growth, outperforming the rest of the City in attracting and growing companies at the cutting edge of their industries,” said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “And with a population set to eclipse Chicago’s by 2020, the borough serves as a model for cities around the world. This report clearly demonstrates that New York City is no longer a synonym for Manhattan — Brooklyn is on the map.”

“What started in Dumbo with a bunch of dot-com era startups renting space in artist lofts has become a borough-wide economic powerhouse. Companies like Etsy, Rent-the-Runway and United Technologies know the Brooklyn vibe and lifestyle is a major selling point for talent,” said Alexandria Sica, Executive Director, Dumbo Improvement District. “This report makes it all the more obvious that this is a place that adds value for innovative companies and we can’t wait to see what the next generation of start-ups will cook up next.”


“As a mission-driven nonprofit, we are focused on leading the urban manufacturing resurgence and creating high-quality jobs at a range of skill levels, and this report underscores that Brooklyn is at the heart of that movement — both in New York City and nationwide,” said David Ehrenberg, President & CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. “As technology innovation continues to influence manufacturing in Brooklyn, providing the borough’s residents with access to and training for those jobs remains a high priority. This report validates that work and lays out a comprehensive case for Brooklyn as an innovation economy leader nationwide.”

“From the rebirth of formerly abandoned industrial campuses to the burgeoning creative office market, this report highlights the central role of Brooklyn entrepreneurs in driving the innovation economy and job growth in New York and beyond,” said Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City in Sunset Park. “Over the past six years, Industry City has become a hub for these entrepreneurs and the broader innovation economy, leading onsite employment at the complex to grow from 1,900 jobs in 2013 to more than 7,500 jobs today.”

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