Local business leader: NYC should be the 'best place in America to work from home'

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Manhattan's economy has changed drastically in the three years since the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted New York. Still, not much has been done to address the new needs of residents and workers.

Office occupancy remains below 50% and only a small percentage of those who have returned are working in-person five days a week. As a result, businesses that once thrived in office districts are struggling if they even survived the pandemic.

"I think we should make New York the best place in America, if not the world, to work from home," said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

"That's gotta be part of the strategy and certainly converting some of those office buildings, the ones that allow it for residential, it should happen. We've got to accelerate and expedite it," he added.

Conversions to residential use have stalled due to government red tape. Bowles believes creating more of a residential borough will create more demand for the kinds of goods and services that small businesses are selling in those districts.

Office occupancy remains below 50% and only a small percentage of those who have returned are working in-person five days a wee
Office occupancy remains below 50% and only a small percentage of those who have returned are working in-person five days a week Photo credit Wirestock/Getty Images

"Manhattan, certainly, is one borough where we've really seen the aging of the population, and so that's led to kind of more doctor's offices, healthcare offices, other things that I think are catering to an older population and we may see more of that going forward," the business leader said.

The Center for an Urban Future is also reporting on many opportunities for small businesses to service non-profits who work in disadvantaged communities and launch technology companies in markets that have not been addressed such as "women and family tech" in which women are the main consumers.

"New York has a chance to be a real leader nationally or globally in that sub-sector of technology," Bowles said. "E-learning is another area where New York has seen a real growth in local startups. There's just so many different facets of tech that are still strong here and I think that that is going to continue to drive a lot of spending on small businesses and also kind of drive employment growth in the city."

See ideas for new businesses and new markets on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Wirestock/Getty Images