Place-Based Grants Will Investigate How to Diversify NYC Tech

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by Emily Nonko

In 1983, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow was founded out of a Sunset Park, Brooklyn storefront to serve out-of-school and unemployed young people. The waterfront neighborhood had been a booming industrial hub in the mid-20th century, but by the 1980s, many of its factories had begun to close.

36 years later, that once-deserted waterfront has become a hub for technology, tech manufacturing and startup companies. With jobs available in these emerging fields, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow — still headquartered in Sunset Park and still focused on youth employment — faces a new task: “to make these jobs visible for those who live in Sunset Park and the rest of Brooklyn, when there’s still attention and resources needed to connect people to higher-paying jobs,” says Liliana Polo-McKenna, chief executive officer.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), a public agency focused on economic growth, is taking the first step into understanding what those resources will look like as the tech industry grows dramatically across the city.

The agency has awarded microgrants, which total $550,000, to seven ventures specializing in workforce development. The funding will support an array of research into tools for the city to amplify its training and hiring of underrepresented New Yorkers in tech.

“We wanted a representative set of community-based organizations, advanced training providers and the higher ed system,” Kelly Gu, assistant vice president of strategy for NYCEDC, says of the recipients. “We wanted to make sure we were covering as many different segments of the population as possible.”

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