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Our Moonshot Can Work—Here is a Successful Example

Those of you who have read our blogs (RenaissanceWilmingtonFoundation.org) or attended our public forums, know that our Moonshot includes an Engineering School at UNCW, joint university-private industry R&D ventures and creating a TechHub in the Wilmington Region. Several members of our Board of Directors have just toured such a place on Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land that has been an underutilized outlier of Manhattan, NYC, having only 14,000 residents. Since 2017 it has been the home to Cornell Tech, a joint venture between Cornell University, a leading engineering school upstate in Ithaca NY, and Technion, “the MIT of Israel” and key TechHub of the Israeli government.


Cornell Tech is amazing. A visitor senses the quality, world-wide student mix, energy and

creativity in the environment. It already has 340 students and 30 faculty in seven programs, from electrical and computer engineering to technology, law and entrepreneurship, all at Masters and PhD levels. All are mixed together to promote projects that only combined efforts can achieve. Eventually it will have thousands of students. It was an economic development initiative of Mayor Bloomberg for the exact same reasons we want such a facility here. By last year end, it already had spawned 50 start-up companies that have raised $60 million and created 200 jobs. They are just getting started. 534 graduates have been hired by top tech companies, 60% of them remaining in NYC. These are the kinds of results the Wilmington Region Moonshot aspires to accomplish.


Of course, we aren’t NYC, but we are one of the most appealing places in the country for a new initiative of this type. If the region and UNCW work together with an aggressive business strategy and seek alumni, business and philanthropic support, it is achievable. We will need the UNC system and state government support or at least freedom of action. There is every reason for them to be fully supportive, and we will address that in another Blog.


Some Background: First, land and $100 million in start up incentives were offered to kick-start a tech economic engine for the NYC region. Bloomberg put it out for expressions of interest. There were 18 respondents, including MIT and Stanford. Cornell and Technion bid together and were the winners. Soon thereafter, highly successful alums offered funding for a new campus and scholarship programs. The final campus of only 13 acres is forecast to produce 28,000 jobs, create 600 companies, $23 billion in economic benefits and $1.4 billion in taxes over its first 30 years. With 50 companies created already, the estimates may be conservative. Our friends across the state of North Carolina should be happy to see the Wilmington Region fulfill its true potential when business research provides well supported potential for our region, from which the entire state would benefit.


In a recent discussion with a UNCW senior engineering degreed faculty member who came here from California, we learned that there was adamant opposition there for decades to the creation of new engineering schools. California eventually dropped its opposition and new engineering schools soon flourished. Our wise ex-Californian opines that the opening up of new engineering schools is correlated with the explosive economic growth of the state that California has seen in recent years.


We’ll have more to say about the example of Cornell Tech in future communications, and if you know of other great examples of comparable Moonshot achievements, we will welcome hearing from you. Meanwhile, help us spread the word!

Cornell Tech Bloomberg Center, Roosevelt Island.

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Renaissance Wilmington Foundation

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