PURCHASE, N.Y. – Business leaders, looking for a way to keep the next Mark Zuckerberg in Westchester, gathered for a roundtable discussion Wednesday at Manhattanville College.
“It’s a challenge for us,” said Laurence Gottlieb, Westchester’s director of economic development. “The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, grew up in Westchester County, but he didn’t stay to grow his business in Westchester County.”
A part of the “Regional Development in a Global Context” event, sponsored by the college's School of Graduate and Professional Studies, focused on how to help local entrepreneurs start and keep their companies in the region.
The Westchester County Association has been working to keep young entrepreneurs local.
“We have networks in place to provide the services that these early-stage companies need,” said Marissa Brett, executive director of economic development for the association. “They need real estate space to be able to grow, and we put in place a whole network of property owners. We have networks in place of accounting firms, legal services and marketing services, and IT services.”
She said these services are the ones “early-stage companies need to get to the next level.”
Brett spoke about transforming the “old, antiquated buildings” of Westchester into more popular destinations for entrepreneurial companies.
“In order to attract businesses in Westchester County, we need to have places where the young talent wants to be,” she said. “We have a tremendous amount of intellectual capital. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, we’re exporting a lot of our intellectual capital. We really need to put the infrastructure in place to keep that capital here.”
One of the more notable participants was Leonel Fernández, former president of the Dominican Republic, who served from 1996 to 2000 and 2004 to 2012. He helped develop the Dominican Republic's economy into the ninth largest in Latin America and improved the country’s infrastructure. He and professor Anthony Davidson, dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, are longtime friends.
Fernández said that when he came into office in 2004, a financial crisis was overtaking the country. However, he was able to stabilize the economy and ignite confidence in the country again.
“One of the main accelerants in terms of economic development in the Dominican Republic was infrastructure,” he said. “Infrastructure also helps mobilize the economy and helps increase your economic growth immediately.”