Finding Power in partnership

| 13 Sep 2016 | 08:00

With their ideas, they lit the road to recovery.

Back in 2001, eight weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center, The Partnership for New York City produced a comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of the attack on Lower Manhattan. The group proposed a set of recommendations for what was required to recover and rebuild the downtown area.

“Many of the recommendations we put forward, the dollar amount we had identified as being the gap became the basis for the federal government’s $22 billion commitment to the recovery and rebuilding effort,” says Kathryn Wylde, the partnership’s president and CEO.

The way the recommendations were implemented, Wylde explains, was by getting six global consulting firms to collaborate (for the first time) on the analysis and recommendations, and throwing huge resources at implementation on a pro bono basis.

“That’s an illustration of how we try and mobilize the resources of the business community to help the city deal with the challenges that are too daunting for government to handle alone,” Wylde says. Since it was founded by David Rockefeller in 1980, the partnership has been behind key collaborations. The organization was designed to bring together the city’s top business leaders, including CEOs of major corporations and entrepreneurial firms, to work with government to support the city’s economic growth and its role as a global capital of commerce. Partnership priorities include infrastructure investment, education and workforce development, identifying economic opportunities, and promoting quality of life.

During the 1980s, the big goal was to bring economic recovery to city neighborhoods that deteriorated during the 1970s. It was Rockefeller’s mission to help bring the middle class back, says Wylde, who joined the non-profit in 1982, at which time she ran the housing subsidiary. She took the helm in 2001. “Our job was to get private investment flowing into those neighborhoods to rebuild them,” she says. “The city was suffering, near bankruptcy, and didn’t have the resources.” From 1995 to 2000, Wylde became a founding president of the Partnership Fund, a fund that Henry Kravis and Jerry Speyer worked to launch under the auspices of the partnership, and ran that until she returned to become the CEO and president of the parent organization The Partnership for NYC. More recently, the partnership has been working in the areas of financial technology, Health IT and life sciences, identifying the economic opportunities that would make the city a center of these emerging industry sectors.

Wylde’s work is about looking to the future. Just in June, the organization issued a report underscoring that the city must build a new industry cluster in life sciences. She says the notion is to take advantage of “great research and discoveries coming out of our universities, and seeking to translate that research into business development and jobs right here in the city.” According to Wylde, New York City has the greatest concentration of medical research institutions in the country, and among the greatest in the world.

“We have lagged behind both Silicon Valley and Boston in translating that research into local jobs and business development,” she says. But there’s hope. The partnership’s report suggests ways the city and state could work with the private sector, Wylde says, to “make sure scientists are building their businesses in NY rather than sending them off to other places.”