Brooklyn, that trendy New York borough able to inspire love and annoyance, is popular with artisanal pickle makers, letterpress mavens, and moonshine distillers, for sure. Less well-known: Brooklyn, and its borough neighbors, are also home to thousands of manufacturers in other sectors. That includes intimates brand Hanky Panky, countertop maker IceStone, and plating company Epner Technology, which supplies NASA.
Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, is relaunching a site called Made in NYC to showcase manufacturers like these that make things in the five boroughs. The push, aimed at shoppers who want to buy local, isn’t nostalgia for a bygone era: “In New York City, we actually have a tremendous manufacturing sector that’s kind of invisible,” says Friedman. “There’s well over 6,500 local manufacturers in New York City, and they employ more than 75,000 people. The average production wage in New York is well over $50,000.”
Inclusion on the Made in NYC site, which has profiles of more than 1,000 local manufacturers, is straightforward: Fill out a form online and pledge the “company is located within the five boroughs of New York City and that employees in this New York City location are engaged in the manual, mechanical, electronic or chemical transformation of materials or substances into new products.” Friedman says his team vets each of the manufacturers by visiting their sites and talking to them to “hear their story, diagnose their needs, and [learn] what opportunities they see.”
Has manufacturing really been returning to New York, or is this push more of an aspirational effort? “New York, inevitably, is a very high-cost environment—that is not going to change,” acknowledges Friedman. “But what that means is, businesses that adopt a high-value strategy, a high-value-added product, will do better here. It costs more and the returns are greater. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”
He sees “high design” as a sector regaining ground quickly, with schools like Pratt Institute, Cooper Union, the School of Visual Arts, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Parsons attracting and shaping “extraordinary” talent. “That’s what’s coming back; it could be small scale or large scale,” he says. “There’s definitely this revitalization going on. Other factors are that the cost of offshoring is going up and the cost of transporting goods is going up.”