In an effort to bolster the developing business community in Western Queens, the New York State Assembly will provide $5 million to launch the East River Studios, a business incubation program based at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
An additional $2.5 million was provided for incubators at Manhattan Community College and Hostos Community College in the Bronx.
The new business support venture is designed to speed up the growth of fledgling design and production firms that produce technologically advanced products for gift, home furnishing, architectural and building markets in Queens.
Business incubation works by nurturing young firms and helping them survive and grow during the start-up period in which they are most vulnerable.
Incubators provide hands-on management assistance, access to financing and exposure to critical business or technical support services. They also offer entrepreneurial firms shared office services, access to equipment, flexible leases and expandable space.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who announced the funding at a press conference last Wednesday, said that he expects the incubators to launch 200 businesses and create more than 5,000 jobs in the city’s low-income communities.
A study by the National Business Incubation Association supports Silver’s theory. According to it, 84 percent of the freestanding incubator graduates remain in the local community and boost its economy. Every 50 jobs created by an incubator client generate another 25 jobs in the community.
Also, publicly-supported incubators create jobs at a cost of about $1,100 each, compared to other publicly supported job creation mechanisms which commonly cost more than $10,000 per job created.
With its focus on technology, East River Studios will provide specialized equipment for building prototypes and testing new product ideas. It will try to help Western Queens’ diverse community of designers and artists by acting as a manufacturer and distributor for new products. The program expects to attract both designers and entrepreneurs by sponsoring workshops and seminars to foster the generation of new products and business ideas.
Clients for East River Studios will be drawn from the architectural and design businesses, high-end furnishing firms and other product artisans in Long Island City that, seeking large and affordable loft space, are helping transform Western Queens from an industrialized area into a commercial and residential one.
The focus of East River has been touted as a place “where culture meets commerce,” in a time when there is a growing consumer demand for fine home and design products. Recent industry reports state that the estimated market for high-end products in glass, ceramic, wood, metal and fiber/fabric will grow 11 to 13 percent between 2000 and 2015.
The program has already begun as East River has taken on a few clients. During its first year, the program expects to have about three to five in-house clients and 10 non-residents.
“We are really just trying to prove that our program works right now,” said Jack Rainey, director. “It’s sort of like the restaurant business where you want to work out all the kinks before you open your doors to everybody. We hope to break even after two to three years and be functioning without subsidies.”
The in-house clients will be housed at 29-10 Thomson Avenue, an 800,000-square-foot facility located on LaGuardia’s campus.
East River Studios will also have a profound effect on its host. LaGuardia Community College, according to the school’s president, Gail O’Mellow. “The project will allow our students and faculty to learn about new techniques, processes and design technologies,” she said.