Industry City’s Innovation Lab Promises Job Training And Entrepreneurship

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Sunset Park Voice

April 8, 2016

Industry City leaders, politicians, educators, and local non-profit reps cut the ribbon on Innovation Lab, a new program that plans to recruit and train residents of Sunset Park, Red Hook, and other areas of Southern Brooklyn for future job opportunities at the developing Brooklyn waterfront and beyond.

“For the first time, this property will have a community connector,” said Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball. “Industries that comprise the innovative economy will provide a pathway to the middle class.”

Construction for the 7,700-square-foot lab began in September 2015. At the time, Industry City announced that the grand opening would take place in December 2015.

We spoke with Cristal Rivera, Chief of Staff and Director of Community Engagement in January, who told us, “we expect to open the Innovation Lab in February, following the completion of construction.”

On Monday, April 11, the lab — located in Industry City at 87 35th Street, 2nd Floor — will be open Mondays through Fridays from 9am-5pm. “We’re not training just for the purposes of training,” said Rivera. “We’re creating programming responsive not only to the needs of our tenants, but throughout the industry,”

“This is a resource for you,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. “You are deputized to talk to our neighbors, our schools, and our churches.”

Anna Flores, Innovation Lab participant. (Photo by Donny Levit / Sunset Park Voice)

Anna Flores, a native of Bay Ridge and a self-described “Brooklyn girl,” attends Berkeley College, focusing on fashion business merchandising and management.

“As a Brooklynite, I want to see my community grow,” said Flores. “The lab is going to provide me with more job training. With this opportunity, I know I’ll be able to rely on my community.”

Lab participant Shant Madjarian is the owner of Juniper Design, a design and manufacturing company founded in 2011. Madjarian spoke of the strength in connecting his Industry City-based company with opportunities provided by the lab.

The Lab’s specific services and programs will include:

  • Pre-screening and job placement services with the more than 400 businesses at Industry City, as well as businesses at other developments along the waterfront, including Bush Terminal, Liberty View, Sims Recycling Facility, and the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
  • Technology and vocational training programs targeted to business growth needs.
  • Entrepreneurship and cooperative training programs.
  • Continuing education programs.

“The biggest challenges businesses are facing today is the workforce being unprepared for new jobs,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez. “One of the most expensive parts of any business is training. That is why we are here.”

Considering the $1 billion redevelopment being invested into the mammoth Industry City, the Innovation Lab serves — not only as an opportunity for excellent business education — but a concrete commitment to the Sunset Park community. Avoiding community disenfranchisement should be as a high priority as the tremendous commercial growth happening at I.C.

Menchaca verbalized the high stakes and expectations for the Innovation Lab: “we do not have the luxury of getting this wrong,” he said.