Putting the Boom Back Into NYC Construction

A view of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center (R-rear) as seen from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at
A view of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center (R-rear) as seen from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center April 30, 2012. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held at a press conference today to mark the milestone of One World Trade Center becoming the tallest building in New York. New York's skyline got a new king Tuesday after the still unfinished World Trade Center tower, built to replace the destroyed Twin Towers, crept above the venerable Empire State Building. Workers gently maneuvered a steel column into its base atop the skyscraper's skeletal top, bringing the total height to just beyond the 1,250 feet (381 meters) of the Empire State Building's observation deck. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GettyImages)

Time was when it didn't matter that big development projects built in New York City had whopping cost overages and time delays. NYC was the business and economic hub of the world. If you wanted to do business in NYC, you understood that there were costs of doing business here, according to Seth Pinsky, president of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) at the Intelligent Jobsites Alliance's inaugural Construction Technology Conference.

Times change. Technology has made it possible to do business anywhere so NYC must compete with other cities that are viewed as more business-friendly. Businesses no longer tolerate inefficiency so they leave NYC or don't come in the first place, he said.

In typical New York City fashion, the problem is being confronted head-on, by spearheading a cross-sector collaboration to make NYC the construction tech capital of the world.

If Sam Stathis of Stathis Enterprises and Theometrics has his way, NYC will once again reign supreme and the very thing it did so badly will soon become another jewel in its crown.

The industry is big, really big: Construction is a $4.6 trillion industry, making it the second largest in the world. But the industry has a major problem: While most sectors have improved productivity by more than 200 percent during the past 40 years, construction productivity has decreased 25 percent, according to Intelligent Jobsites Alliance. Tens of billions of dollars are wasted by inefficiencies.

Measurement in the construction industry hasn't improved much since the introduction of strings and tape by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, according to Stathis. "Economic growth requires industry-wide technological transformation, not just a Band-aid."

The development and use of technology can cut costs, save time, and reduce risk. NYC has what it takes to become the epicenter for the development of advanced construction technologies -- universities, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, market demand, the support of state and city officials, and money to start and grow these companies.

The next Google could be a bits and mortar company that is birthed in a Big Apple university and grown in NYC.

Construction technology levels the playing field for small businesses. Bradford Technologies, a strategic alliance with Verizon and Theometrics, provides information and training about software and hardware to small businesses in the construction industry, particularly minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs). "Smaller construction contractors need technology that is easy, efficient, and cost effective," said Sandra Wilkin, President.

It's not just about high-skill job creation. If it becomes less expensive to build in NYC, more construction projects will be started, creating more opportunities for low- and middle-skill workers to find jobs that offer career advancement. Not just for men. Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) is training and placing women in construction jobs. And construction jobs can never be exported.

But movements don't just happen with one conference. It will take the entire industry pulling together -- real estate owners, developers, contractors, design professionals, tenants, and elected officials to accomplish real change. Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy challenged the audience to come up with a "Letterman Top 10 List of Things the State Can Do to Expedite Development Projects."

What's your suggestion? The state really wants to know. And NYC is listening very carefully.

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