Mark Greene, Emmy-award winning animator, graphic designer and filmmaker, took some time to chat with KingstonCitizens.org on Kingston’s prospects as a tech-friendly city.
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz
Arthur: In your opinion, what makes Kingston attractive to digital tech entrepreneurs?
Mark: BROOKLYN ON THE HUDSON
Clearly, digital creative entrepreneurs skew more urban. Kingston offers a much more urban aesthetic than some of the smaller towns around us. That’s why we call it Brooklyn on the Hudson. (Okay you coined that phrase, but I use it a lot.) But compared the New York City, Kingston also offers very very cheap office and living space. Kingston has mixed use buildings and a wide range of housing/home office options.
Kingston also has an existing network of digital creative businesses, both independent contractors and micro-businesses with two to ten employees. We have access to kayaking, skiing, farmers markets, the Catskill Mountains and surrounding communities like Woodstock and Rhinebeck. We have a natural food co-op, access to hiking and rail trails, and some great micro brews. And as the city moves forward on some of the community building initiatives as put forth by organizations like KingstonCitizens.org, the city will be all the more attractive to digital tech entrepreneurs.
Arthur: What types of tech firms would be good to consider relocating to Kingston? Why?
Mark: THE SMALL ONES MOVE FAST
There are two distinct levels of “tech firms” as you call them. Single contractors and digital technology micro businesses make up the smaller and more mobile segment. They come here because it’s affordable and because of lifestyle decisions. Many of these companies are finding that operating in New York City is not cost effective. The first time New York City hits them with an unincorporated business tax they get a rude awakening. AND they often find that over time that their client base isn’t even in the city. Their clients may be in Arizona or Texas. So staying in the city becomes a cost versus benefits issue for them. Some people love New York City and will never leave. But some of them will come here because they’ll get wind of the positive buzz and they’ll decide that visiting the city is better than living there. Those are the ones we need to reach out to.
The second and larger companies we will attract will be those that have significant production needs either in print, web or video. They’ll come here for access to a large supply of highly skilled contractors to help them scale up their capacity on an as needed basis. Going forward, most companies will be very reluctant to hire long term employees. Kingston already represents a deep well of knowledge and technical expertise available on a contract basis. Contracting is what digital entrepreneurs do. It’s the preferred business model for us. So these production heavy businesses in New York City and other places will come to tap into the talent pool.
Kingston digital tech entrepreneurs provide a wide range of services. The list includes:
Videography, video design, editing and post production
Publishing print design and production
Web Editorial and other web content
Viral Marketing and PR
Music Recording and Composition
Spoken Word Media
Digital Technology Education
BUILD IT (THE BRAND) AND THEY WILL COME
Arthur: What can the city do to attract these types of companies?
Mark: A sizable digital entrepreneur and micro-business community is already here. The Mayor has made it one of his priorities to re-brand the city as a Digital Tech Friendly City. The city is recognizing that this creative tech community is a powerful cultural and economic driver for Kingston’s future. By telling that story, we go a long way to attracting more of these contractors and micro-businesses. Once a hot spot like this begins to gain traction, it becomes the next big deal, the next place to be. And folks start to think about getting here before the cost of entry rises. So our job is to tell that story and tell it everywhere.
Arthur, you also had the idea of sending a TOUR KINGSTON bus down to Brooklyn once a month and bringing a busload of folks up to tour the town and meet with commercial and residential real estate agents. Then we take em to the brew pub and send em home. I think that’s a great idea. Both in terms of getting people here, but also having a PR story to tell.
As part of this process of re-branding the city, Kingston needs to get on message with the new brand across all of its messaging platforms, from the city’s web site to every staff member who speaks to the public. In addition, this Digital Tech Friendly Story needs to be part of the city’s traditional brick and mortar economic development efforts. When you’re talking to small manufacturers and green technology companies, they will want to know about our digital entrepreneurial community. It sets us apart. And it represents assets they’ll want to tap into.
Finally, aside from the city, some of us are starting an organization called The Kingston Digital Corridor. This organization will create events and a web presence to unify and represent the myriad of digital tech entrepreneurs here. The organization will dramatically amplify our tech community’s footprint on the net. The Kingston Digital Corridor’s web site will include an interactive map which shows the exact location of all the digital vendors and assets from Uptown to the Rondout. There will be concentrations of hot spots tied to specific buildings and locations like the 721 Media Center. The Kingston Digital Corridor is a living entity, like the city is a living entity. It manifests as a digital world that can be explored online and and corresponding physical world that can be explored on the ground, here in Kingston.
The KDC will also have a number of outreach functions. We’ll be collecting older computer equipment from our members and distributing it to folks who are just learning digital skills and need hardware. We will also create a network for interns and we’ll host a bi-monthly events to get us out of the studios and into the pub. We also want to organize an annual summer street fair and tech party. The point is to build community and to help bring new people into that community. The Carnegie Library Digital Learning Center will be a great way to teach Kingston’s young people the power of digital technology. Power to both create media content (instead of just consuming it) and power to raise their earning potential dramatically. That’s the transformational power of digital technology.
Our mission can be described this way: We want to take Kingston forward in an innovative and empowering way and make it a town where digital technology transforms lives for the better.