FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 29, 2006
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DELIVERS KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT FIVE BOROUGH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE’S INAUGURAL NEW YORK CITY XPO FOR BUSINESS
"Thank you for those kind words, Carmen. Good afternoon, everyone. And let me wish all of you the very best of the holidays. Last week's Thanksgiving holiday reminded me that a few years ago, one of our City's tabloids celebrated Thanksgiving by featuring me on the front page. They ran a photo of my face, on the body of a turkey. But, you know: I'm an optimist. I was just glad they put my head on the right end of the bird.
"And after all, what is the spirit of the season if it's not letting bygones be bygones? Because really, there's no time like the holidays in New York. The glitter and bustle bring out the best in our city. Later tonight, we'll be lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center-an event that really throws the season into high gear. But the fact of the matter is that every borough and every community has its own great holiday traditions as well.
"That's only right, because New York's 300-plus neighborhoods are the true strength of our city. And that's why creating jobs and opportunities in every community is the goal of our Administration's five-borough economic development strategy. And it's what this 'Five Borough New York City X-PO' is all about, too.
"Nancy and the presidents of the Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island chambers of commerce-Mark Kessler, Raymond Irrera, Lisa Sorin, and Linda Baran-deserve a big hand for bringing you all together. And let me tell you that at City Hall, we're on the same page with them. This is a five-borough city-one whose future depends on our 200,000 small businesses, which employ close to half of our workforce in all five boroughs.
"When our small businesses are strong, our economy is healthy. It's just that simple. And to illustrate the importance we place on growing New York's small businesses in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island-and Manhattan, too, let me say just two words: Rob Walsh-the commissioner of our Department of Small Business Services.
"Over the past five years, Rob and his great team at SBS have done a superb job making that department more responsive to you and the communities you serve. And I'm going to have more to say about their outstanding work in a few minutes.
"But I also want to stress that their commitment is mirrored in the work of other City agencies, too. In fact, our Administration is inspired by a legendary business text that has changed the lives of millions. No, I don't mean my autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg-although it's a true classic, and a great addition to anyone's holiday shopping list. I'm talking about Stephen Covey's mega best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. It's an engaging book that discusses seven key principles to follow for living your life and achieving great things. Well, by following some key principles of our own, we've made all five boroughs more attractive places to live and work. So today, I thought you might be interested in hearing about 'The Eight Habits of Our Highly Successful City.' After all, everything is bigger in New York City, right?
"Successful Habit Number One: 'Fight Crime First.' Because without a doubt, the foundation for a healthy city economy is public safety. And over the past five years, by embracing new technology and sharpening our focus on the people and places where crime is most prevalent, we've made the nation's safest big city even safer. Today, crime in New York is nearly 22% lower than it was five years ago. In fact, of the nation's 245 largest cities, we rank safer than 227 of them, just ahead of Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Soon people from Florida will move here to retire!) And that's led to a spectacular rejuvenation of neighborhoods across the city, with businesses investing in communities they had once abandoned.
"Successful Habit Number Two: 'Remember that Quality of Life is Crucial.' When we came into nearly five years ago, the City faced record-setting, back-to-back budget shortfalls: $5 billion in Fiscal Year 2003 and $6.5 billion in FY '04. To close those gaps, we knew we'd have to make tough choices-and we have. Over the past five years, we've cut $4 billion from the budget. But we never let balancing the budget be an excuse for reducing basic services. We remembered how businesses fled when the city's quality of life took a nosedive after the fiscal crisis of the 70s-and we weren't about to let history repeat itself. So our message to every City agency has been: Do more with less. And the results? Just consider these examples:
"Our streets are cleaner today than they've been at any time in the past 30 years. We've created 300 acres of new parks, including new parkland along our waterfront. We've launched the biggest affordable housing program ever undertaken by any American city, and we're on course to create and preserve affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by 2013. That's as many people as live in Atlanta! And the bottom line is that because we've continued to improve our quality of life in these and other ways, we've kept New York a place where people want to live, and where businesses want to locate and expand.
"Habit Number Three: 'Never Forget that Small Business Is BIG Business.' And this is where Rob and his team have really shined. Take 'NYC Business Solutions,' for example. It's a one-stop shop for getting free help with anything - from financing to navigating government to accessing incentives. More than 28,000 small business owners have been served since the program started just two years ago. SBS has helped our city's small businesses secure more than $23 million in private financing.
"A good example is "Groundworks, Inc"-a landscaping company in Brooklyn, owned by Carmen DeVito and Alice Krieg. Earlier this year, they wanted to expand into the nursery business with some partners in Williamsburg. So Carmen went to Brooklyn Business Solutions to explore what her financing options were and to seek help in finding real estate.
"Today, thanks to their help, and with a loan from North Fork Bank, they've built a new greenhouse, and added to their payroll. Carmen's with us today, seated at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce table, and ready to take your orders for holiday wreaths and mistletoe. Carmen: congratulations! We've also made it easier for "Business Improvement Districts" to form and grow. In the past five years, we've helped 11 BIDs form in all boroughs - from Fordham Road in the Bronx, to Forest Avenue on Staten Island, to Flushing, Queens, where it's part of a multi-million dollar makeover of that shopping district that's going hand-in-hand with the development of the future home of the New York Mets. SBS is also helping more minority- and women-owned businesses get certified and compete for City contracts. In the last fiscal year alone, City-certified vendors received $55 million in such City contracts. And we're confident that number will just keep growing.
"Habit Number Four is: 'Accountability Counts.' In the business world, shareholders hold management accountable for the bottom line. The same needs to be true in government. Our system only works if it's efficient, transparent, and if there's someone we can look to for answers and results.
"Take education: High-quality schools are essential to healthy, growing neighborhoods, and to keeping working and middle-class families in our city. That's why I worked so hard to abolish the Board of Education and win mayoral control of the school system. Now we've replaced the old institutional inertia with accountability and standards. This year we've taken a big step forward in accountability by creating more than 330 'empowerment schools' that give principals more decision-making autonomy in exchange for agreeing to meet performance targets. And within a year, all our City schools will be evaluated on a "report card" that will show how well they are doing in improving student performance.
"We've made the city more accountable in other ways, too, by focusing on what is priority number one for businesses: customer service. Our 24-hour hotline - 311 - which we use to answer questions and direct New Yorkers to appropriate City services - has revolutionized the way New Yorkers interact with their City government. 311 is an incredible management tool, too - permitting us to identify which quality-of-life problems are New Yorkers' biggest concerns, where they're most prevalent, and how well City agencies are responding to them. Since its launch some 3½ years ago, 37 million calls have been logged. We do get the odd question now and then, including: 'What is Oprah Winfrey's phone number?' Or, 'Who won American Idol?' And my favorite, someone called to ask if Ray Charles was Stevie Wonder's uncle. (We have no record of what answer was given.)
"The fifth habit is to 'Promote Self-Sufficiency.' For too long and for too many people, government assistance served as more than a safety net. It was a trap. People would move onto the welfare rolls and - with no incentive or encouragement to find a job - stay there. But since the mid-90s, New York has been a leader in replacing the dependency of welfare with the dignity of work for thousands of its citizens. Today, welfare rolls in our city are lower than they have been since 1964.
"To foster greater self-sufficiency, Rob and his team at SBS have also dramatically overhauled the City's workforce training programs. They've linked them to the businesses - especially the small businesses - where the demand for workers is greatest. In this year alone, our Workforce One Career Centers will place more than 15,000 New Yorkers in jobs. And in the years ahead we will go even further - by not only helping more New Yorkers get jobs and keep them, but also by helping them advance their careers so that they can climb out of poverty.
"Our Sixth Habit: 'Feed The Spirit.' New York is the cultural capital of the nation-a big part of what draws visitors here from every corner of the globe. Last year, we hosted a record 42.6 million tourists; 50% of them visited a museum, attended a concert or play, or took in another of our city's amazing range of cultural offerings. Increasingly, they're traveling to all five boroughs. And to make cultural institutions in all five boroughs even more attractive, we've invested in the new Bronx Museum of the Arts-which is really helping put the "grand" back in the Grand Concourse. We're helping build a new visitor center at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, expanding the Queens Museum of Art, and we're renovating the Reptile Wing at the Staten Island Zoo.
"We're doing all that because the visitors to these cultural venues also support nearby restaurants, stores, and other small businesses. Our 1,400 nonprofit arts organizations pay some $2.2 billion in annual wages, create over $5.7 billion in economic benefits for the City each year, and drive billions and billions of dollars into the commercial sector in all five boroughs.
"Habit Number Seven: 'Paint the Town Green!' New Yorkers face a range of environmental challenges that come under the heading of 'sustainability'-which means making sure that we grow our economy today in a way that keeps our environment healthy for our children and grandchildren. And one of the biggest victories for sustainability in our city-not just in the last year, but in the past five years-was the City Council's adoption of our new solid waste management plan.
"It's going to result in more recycling, fewer diesel-powered trucks on our roads, and cleaner air for all of us to breathe. Because New York has to be sustainable, we've also made it easier to 'build green'-on both public and private projects. We're doing a citywide inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in New York City-the biggest study of its kind by any city or state in the nation. And in the weeks ahead, we'll be asking New Yorkers to begin exploring other ways to ensure a sustainable future for our city.
"Our eighth and final 'bonus' habit is: 'Never Stop Investing in the Future.' And our hosts today-the Javits Center-offer a good example of just such investment. Last month, we broke ground for a major expansion of this convention center-one that will increase exhibition space by 45%. It's going to put New York back in the running for major conventions and trade shows. And the $350 million our City has invested in that expansion is going to be repaid many times over in increased business activity and tax revenue.
"Similar stories are unfolding all across the city. From Coney Island to the decommissioned Homeport Navy base on Staten Island, areas once plagued by abandonment and neglect are being re-zoned, re-developed, and re-invented. And that's creating new opportunities for businesses of every size and shape. Lower Manhattan - considered 'down for the count' in the days after 9/11 - is being remade into a true 21st century downtown. And perhaps the most important investment of all is the record $13 billion in City and State funds that will construct and modernize our City schools. Because that's an essential investment in the real key to our future: our children.
"And there you have it: The Eight Habits of Our Highly Successful City. And I think the dividends of following those habits are evident all around us. Our population is growing and is at an all-time high. We're on course to add 325,000 people to our city during this decade-the equivalent of the population of Pittsburgh. For the first time since World War II, New Yorkers are living longer than people in the rest of the nation. Our economy is booming; this year, we're almost certain to break the record we set during 2005 for building permits issued. And at 4.1%, our unemployment is the lowest ever.
"We've still got work to do. But we're headed in the right direction. And if we keep pulling together-as five boroughs in one great city-we can ensure that our best days are still to come. Thank you. Have a wonderful 'X-PO.' And God bless you all."
Stu Loeser/John Gallagher (212) 788-2958
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