New York-Based Creatives Revive IBM’s Former Sites

Translated from the original article by Caroline Talbot in Le Monde:

To the north of New York, in the Hudson Valley before the waves of layoffs, Dutchess County has long been the preserve of the computer giant [IBM]. Today, this territory seduces the entrepreneurs of the Big Apple nearby.

THE WORLD ECONOMY |  • Updated  | By Caroline Talbot (New York, Correspondence)

"For a long time, IBM's three plants in Poughkeepsie, East Fishkill and Kingston provided over 32,000 jobs to local residents, accounting for 20% of the county's jobs. Several waves of redundancies have reduced the workforce of Big Blue to 4,100 employees. "

In the middle of the countryside, between flowerbeds and vegetable gardens, the imposing figure of the great chef Paul Bocuse springs towards the sky. This statue, ode to the “French Kitchen”, is installed on the campus of the Culinary Institute of America, Dutchess County’s  Chef Academy, nestled along the Hudson River, an hour and a half by train from the city from New York. This establishment, quick to boast the benefits of organic farming, surrounding vine plants and its hops for beer, embodies the future of Dutchess County. A place that has become attractive to young entrepreneurs who leave New York to invest in old industrial sites.

Beacon is reborn thanks to the creatives who are fleeing the high prices of New York. This town in the county of Dutchess has become the rallying point of Niche Modern (lighting), Wickham (woodworking) and Ten Willow (glass blower). The owners of these small companies speak enthusiastically of the walks in the sixty-five neighboring parks while reflecting on the international development of their companies. “We renamed Beacon” NoBro “, North of Brooklyn,  ” says Scott Brenner, associate of More Good, a manufacturer of cocktail syrups. In fact, life in Beacon retains a certain urban charm, while offering the joys of the countryside, explains this young bearded man.

Dutchess reinvents itself

Ron Hicks, Assistant County Executive of Dutchess County, hopes to forget the IBM era. For a long time, the three factories located in Poughkeepsie, East Fishkill and Kingston offered more than 32,000 jobs to local residents, accounting for 20% of the county’s jobs. In the 1980s, the suburban dream of IBMers consisted of two children and a beautiful home with lawn. The factory took care of everything: golf club, university course, Christmas party …

But, in the 1990s, life deteriorated. Big Blue has changed strategy, manufacturing much less and greatly reducing its workforce in the Hudson Valley. Several waves of layoffs have reduced IBM’s workforce to 4,100 employees- bidding adieu to eternal prosperity under the benevolent eye of Big Blue.

The county of Dutchess had to reinvent itself. One of the tracks successfully pursued by Sarah Lee, director of the economic development agency Think Dutchess Alliance for Business, was to attract New York artisans and artists. Thanks to tax breaks, industrial sites have gradually become lofts and workshops.

The “Millennial Generation”

For Jeremy Pyles, boss of Niche Modern, a luxury lighting expert, the urge to leave Brooklyn, New York’s fashionable neighborhood, is linked to one incident too many. “I was delivering in town,” he recalls. I could not park. I had a 1 year old baby, a second child on the way. I could not do it any more. ” He found a 20-hectare farm on the Internet, not far from the Dia Museum of Modern Art, in the city of Beacon.

“I have ten times more space for a third of the New York price, ” he concludes. And the SME of 21 employees, in full development, has no difficulty in bringing the young talents of the “millennial generation” . Scott Brenner, associate of More Good, emphasizes the spirit of mutual help that unites small businesses. Part of its space serves as an incubator for other start-ups. And when he meets the founder of Ten Willow, he asked her very quickly: “Could you make bottles for us? ”

Up to date

A few kilometers from Beacon, the towns of Poughkeepsie and East Fishkill attempt a more industrial adventure. The old sites are being replaced by Mill House Brewing Company, experts in kitchen ingredients (Efco), subcontractors in aeronautics (MPI, Schatz Bearing Corporation, Dorsey Metrology International), and Gap Warehouses…

The places deserted by IBM and the other industries are gradually repainted to the taste of the day – welcoming start-ups and new housing. Real estate professionals are surfing the wave. The promoter Joseph Bonura builds more than one hundred apartments for young graduates. Lynne Ward, National Resources’ representative, who is carrying a $350 million real estate project sitting on the infrastructure left by IBM, promises the ambiance of a university campus, at a low price. And for those who, despite everything, regret leaving New York, jump on the train for a quick visit or commute.

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