Top Business Leader Calls New York’s Post-Pandemic Economy an ‘Industrial Revolution’
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City office occupancy recently surpassed 50 percent for the first time since COVID-19 hit in 2020. That’s positive news for corporate executives, but it does not tell the full story of what’s happening in the city’s economy.
Kathryn Wylde leads the influential Partnership for New York City business group that represents corporations, including Goldman Sachs, Amazon and JP Morgan Chase & Co., and conducted that office survey. She told the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, that 82 percent of office workers are now enjoying a hybrid schedule.
“Prior to the pandemic, we’re talking about maybe 6 percent of the employers allowing people to work remotely,” said Wylde.
That’s the new normal or what the Partnership for New York City president and CEO labels a new “industrial revolution.”
“In the 70s, we had a dramatic experience of going from the old industrial economy to the service economy. Well, this is from the service economy to the digital economy. And instead of happening gradually over one or two decades, it happened instantaneously.”
Wylde noted entire industries have changed to be centered around technology.
“We have remote education, telemedicine, remote health, we’ve got remote work, remote entertainment, remote cultural experiences,” she said. “All of that has changed and I don’t think we know the implications yet.”
Wylde, like many traditional business leaders, believes strongly in in-person work, but she acknowledges Zoom has its place.
“We can fit more into our day when we can do Zoom instead of running to Midtown,” she said. “We just have to learn how to use that tool in a way that doesn’t interfere with building relationships and with the kind of mentoring and support and development that particularly young people need in their careers.”
Remote work has held back Manhattan’s recovery. The Partnership for New York City sees small and mid-size businesses in the outer boroughs and the suburbs growing at a record clip, but shrinking in Manhattan as rents remain near record highs.
“We have 32,000 new businesses formed in New York City in the last year. Manhattan’s the only one that didn’t have net growth in new businesses. Most of them are in Queens. Brooklyn is the number one. So, we’re seeing the city as a whole – its neighborhoods, its local business districts across the five boroughs and our surrounding suburbs – the economy’s pretty good,” said Wylde.
The main reason business groups see growth in the outer boroughs and the suburbs is that remote work has enabled people to shop in their communities during the week. Wylde said she is confident in Manhattan’s resurgence but it may take some time.
“The value of Midtown properties is going to spring back and it’s not going to be exactly the same as it was pre-pandemic. We’re going to see more residential, I think we know that, and that’s a good thing. It’ll make the streets safer on a 24/7 basis. It’ll bring back customers to local business.”
Watch the full conversation with Kathryn Wylde on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.