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At this Brooklyn industrial complex, talent is just down the block

With many manufacturers looking to hire locally, Industry City has started training nearby residents for jobs with its tenants

Since Alexandra Ferguson relocated her namesake company to Industry City in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park from Westchester two years ago, she has hired five seamstresses from the surrounding area to craft pillows that sell for as much as $100. “I knew from my experience managing sample rooms that Brooklyn and Queens were rife with talent, but I really didn’t know where to begin,” said the 33-year-old Ferguson.

Carina Dominguez Grullon is one of them. The 50-year-old seamstress and native of the Dominican Republic walks to work from her nearby apartment every day to embroider inspirational quips on the company’s signature pillows. “The job has changed my quality of life, and now I’m saving to buy my own home,” said Grullon, the primary wage earner for her family of four.

Industry City, which already employs some 4,000 low- and middle-skilled workers—about half of them from the surrounding neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and Red Hook—has undertaken ambitious efforts to hire locally. But with a dearth of skilled neighbors and a local unemployment rate of around 13%—about twice the Brooklyn average—the owners of the privately managed business park are embarking on a new effort to train local residents for its own tenants.

Faculty from CUNY’s New York City College of Technology will teach classes for prospective employees including computer skills and entrepreneurship in a 7,700-square-foot facility to be called the Innovation Lab. Space is available for vocational training classes and a program devoted to growing a small business.

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