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City Tries to Ignite Innovation with Startup Contest


Can Yonkers, N.Y., pull off a three-peat in business innovation? The city fathers think so. Like many other struggling cities across the country, they've grubstaked their own incubator for early-stage entrepreneurs, and they're on the hunt for a startup they hope will pull off the next big thing in high technology.

To make help make it happen, they are holding a contest that offers the winning entrepreneur six months of free, furnished office space for up to eight employees.

History may be on their side. In the 19th century, the safety elevator was developed here by Otis Elevator, a technological innovation that made skyscrapers feasible.

"The world can thank Yonkers for the skyline," Lou Kirven, Yonkers' commissioner of planning/development, told BusinessNewsDaily.

And early in the 20th century, Yonkers chemist Leo Baekland invented the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite, a modern, moldable plastic that made possible a host of consumer and industrial products.

Not too shabby a track record for the state's fourth-largest city, a gritty, urban-suburban melting pot 30 minutes north of New York City on the Hudson River.

The city, which has undertaken a massive, multi-year revitalization process focused on its downtown, is hoping that this century will extend the innovation timeline and that its new incubator, Y-Enterprise, will play a pivotal role in attracting entrepreneurs to complete the high-tech hat trick.

Appropriately, the Y-Enterprise Business Center, the incubator's heart, is in an old Otis Elevator building. The 8,000-square-foot facility sits in the city’s i-Park Hudson, in downtown Yonkers, steps from the rail station and overlooking the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades.

Y-Enterprise offers what has become standard incubator services, including office space, infrastructure, business development, legal and accounting support and advice on accessing capital. Office rents range from $1,000 per month to up to $2,500 for space with Hudson River views. The center opened for business this spring.

"We're looking for game-changing technology," Kirven said.  "We know we've created that special place entrepreneurs are looking for. We can make our case that Yonkers is the place they should be."

The program, Kirven said, is modeled after a number of similar programs, including ones in New York City and the Orange County Business Accelerator farther upstate.

To sweeten the pot and attract potential game-changers, Yonkers is staging the Y-Your Enterprise? contest. The competition offers the six months of free office space and is open to entrepreneurs and businesses that have been in business at least a year. To enter, entrepreneurs must submit an application and a 60-second video making their business case.

Finalists selected by the Business Center will have their videos posted online for a public vote on June 30. Entries must be submitted by June 15.

"Creativity is encouraged," Kirven said.



Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.



Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.