The people, places, and ideas that make our vibrant, multifaceted, and ever-changing county one kick-ass place in which to do business right now.
By Paul Adler, Nick Brandi, Sarah Longstreth, and Amy R. Partridge
Above: Killer workspaces, like Acadia Realty Trust's HQ in Rye, are just one of the county's many assets.
1. “We’re close to NYC. We’re not NYC.”
County Executive George Latimer says this was his father’s pithy explanation for what makes Westchester great. And we agree. Though many of us are in Westchester to some extent because of its proximity to NYC, we’ve grown beyond our “New York City’s backyard” rep and into a full-fledged, fully respectable economy of our own. And being able to easily flee the concrete jungle for the respite of our beautiful towns and scenic areas is a big plus.
2. We’re really smart
With approximately 45.4% of Westchester residents over age 25 holding at least a bachelor’s degree, we’re rated year after year as one of the most highly educated counties in the nation. And we come by it naturally, considering Westchester has no fewer than 12 public high schools that are ranked among America’s 500 best. In fact, a full 28% of New York State’s best high schools are located in Westchester County. That means a county full of well-educated people contributing to the local business community — plus a whole lot of intellectual capital.
3.If it’s good enough for them…
NYC might feel like the center of the universe, but even mega-corporations can thrive outside of city limits. Westchester’s accessible yet sophisticated environment has made it the home of such Forbes and Fortune stars as PepsiCo, MasterCard, and Atlas Air Worldwide in Purchase; IBM in Armonk; Regeneron in Tarrytown; and ITT Inc., Heineken USA, Danone North America, and Mäst-Jägermeister in White Plains.
4. We are about to have some of the fastest Internet in America
Westchester businesses are about to hit hyper-speed. The cities of New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, White Plains, and Yonkers are all taking part in the county’s new Gigabit Project, which will provide 1,000 megabits of data per second — or 58 times faster than the average connection speed — to area businesses, hospitals, and homes. Inspired by the profound economic effect a similar program had on businesses in Chattanooga, TN, county heads say the project will revolutionize workplaces in Westchester and provide a serious advantage to burgeoning industries, like telemedicine, which rely on swift connection speeds.
Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, Photo courtesy of New York State Thruway Authority
5. We put the ‘structure’ in infrastructure
Westchester is home to the nation’s largest infrastructure project, the new $4 billion-plus Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (completed on time and on budget!) and is the proposed site of the world’s longest road tunnel, which would stretch 18 miles to Long Island. The Metro-North rail system runs three lines, with 43 stops throughout the county, the Bee-Line bus system shuttles more than 100,000 people around Westchester every day, and we boast a diverse and extensive highway system (sure, some could use updating, but there’s still lots of them!). Also, when you need to get out of Westchester — or bring business associates in — the accessibility of the Westchester County Airport can’t be beat. The proof is 32,000 annual commercial airline flights and a thriving private-aviation sector buoyed by a brand-new $88 million FBO facility by Million Air.
6. Westchester is rife with higher-ed cred
Westchester is home to such prestigious institutions of higher learning as Sarah Lawrence College, Purchase College (“America’s 100 Best College Buys”), Fordham University (alma mater of five consecutive Westchester County executives, two NY governors, and two POTUSes), Pace University (among U.S. News & World Report’s top universities in the US), New York Medical College, and several others. The Westchester County Office of Economic Development partners with some of the county’s biggest employers to coordinate curricula with these local colleges to attract, place, and retain local grads in the Westchester workforce. Also, these institutions are major economic heavyweights: Pace University alone accounts for 1,300 jobs and $30 million in salaries and purchases.
7. Not one, but two powerhouse business organizations
The Business Council of Westchester and the Westchester County Association are roundly considered the champions of the county business community. Well-connected and influential, their gatherings attract luminaries like Hillary Clinton, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. While the BCW has a permanent, full-time lobbyist in Albany and sophisticated initiatives for workforce development, green-business practices, women in business, and more, the WCA has a robust economic-development task force and is spearheading healthcare reform as well as the one-gig broadband Internet initiative in four Westchester cities.
8. We have some unreal real estate
Manhattanites, Brooklynites, and Jerseyites, along with Millenials, Xers, and ’nesters of all stripes are flocking to the booming residential real estate market in Westchester. Comparative affordability with other nearby markets (yeah, that’s you, NYC) is only one reason; it’s also about the inventory, which in Westchester constitutes a major bragging right. Whether it’s a 10K-plus square-foot mansion, a 1,000-square-foot sub-$500K condo, or a luxury rental tower, Westchester County is a suburban art gallery of iconic architecture, where you can have the Colonial, Georgian, Victorian, Federal, or Mid-Century Modern masterpiece you’ve always dreamed of.
9. Our B2B game is strong
Why pay through the nose to subsidize gold-leaf lettering on the office doors of fancy Manhattan B2B firms when you can save a ton of bottom-line bucks on one of the many elite professional-service firms ensconced right here? The Westchester community represents a unique demographic, and any of our well-established marketing and PR companies can brand your business with the kind of surgical precision that always pays dividends. Save even more overhead by outsourcing your company’s tech, HR, payroll, or other services to one of many savvy B2B service providers that have already helped thousands of other county businesses.
10. We’ve got the financial assets
Westchester is a place where the richest institutions invest. Just the top-five commercial banks with a Westchester presence have total assets in excess of $7.33 trillion — or roughly the nominal GDP of Germany, France, and Spain combined. But the financial-services scene here consists of more than just names like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Citibank. Several outstanding and customer-friendly community banks, such as Orange Bank and KeyBank, have already planted roots in Westchester — to say nothing of the always-reliable Westchester Bank, a local standard-bearer of community trust.
11. Our residents make a lot —so they spend a lot
By nearly any economic standard, Westchester is one well-heeled region. With a median household income of $86,226 (compared with the $55,775 national average), our county has some serious money to burn. Even more impressive, eight of the Forbes 400 richest people live in the county, which also boasts the most million-dollar earners anywhere in the state outside Manhattan. From jewelers and Tesla dealers to White Plains’ wallet-eviscerating luxury mall, The Westchester, this is a county to both rake in the dough and dish it out.
Domino Sugar, Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
12. “Made in Westchester” is a thing
Believe it or not, Westchester is home to a surprisingly resilient manufacturing sector. In fact, there was a 43% increase in the average annual income of manufacturing employees in the county in 2015, far outstripping the national average. From white-hot flip-flop company Tidal New York in New Rochelle to industrial icons like PepsiCo and Domino Sugar to industrial stalwarts like Ossining’s Metalized Carbon Corporation, plus numerous artisans and craftsmen, there is plenty of production going on here. Add a swiftly growing food-manufacturing segment, spurred on by innovative companies like Greyston Bakery, and Westchester’s will to build shows no sign of slowing.
13. Here, it’s easy being green
Westchester has been at the forefront of environmentally friendly business practices for years, with a fleet of major players fervently embracing solar energy, among other green practices. Diverse institutions ranging from Tarrytown Music Hall to Armonk’s Swiss Re have installed solar panels that provide a substantial amount of their power. Plus, colleges like Manhattanville and SUNY Purchase have undertaken a number of their own footprint-shrinking green initiatives. We also have the ambitious Green Business Partnership — established by the county in association with the BCW and Green Team Spirit LLC — which educates and encourages local businesses to adopt environmentally friendly practices.
14. We’re serious about workforce-dev
Job candidates looking for a leg-up have plenty of options in our county. For one, the WCA has fomented a BLUEPRINT initiative that develops programs, policies, and other initiatives to help businesses thrive and create jobs. Meanwhile, the federally funded regional jobs-training program Jobs Waiting is diligently preparing long- and short-term unemployed individuals for jobs in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Westchester Community College is lending a helping hand to jobseekers with its own workforce development program, while county agencies like Westchester-Putnam One-Stop Career Center in White Plains are focusing on connecting unemployed individuals to the companies that need them. Plus, the county’s Office of Workforce Investment continually works behind-the-scenes to place eligible candidates throughout the county.
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
15. Our nonprofits work nonstop
Despite its reputation as a corporate nexus, Westchester is home to a healthy number of successful nonprofits. In fact, two recent studies found that the nonprofit sector is the largest single driver of the local economy, contributing nearly $15.8 billion and employing almost 55,000 people. Westchester’s 5,000-plus nonprofits include large and influential organizations, like the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, Feeding Westchester, and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as smaller organizations, like the Arc of Westchester and Family Services of Westchester. Plus, the sector has its own cheerleader in Nonprofit Westchester, a growing advocacy organization that champions the work of local nonprofits.
Photo courtesy of HBO
16. You might run into Steven Spielberg, Sarah Jessica Parker, or the cast of The Blacklist on your lunch break
Film and TV is big business in Westchester, where every week it seems another notable show or movie is shooting. According to County Executive Latimer, the boom is a serious boon: “It is a point of pride for residents; it brings in revenue and creates jobs in the county; and it reaffirms that Westchester has some of the most diverse architecture around.” Natasha Caputo, director of Westchester County Tourism, is optimistic about the county’s media future: “We expect 2018 to be a great year for [film and TV] activity in Westchester. Demand continues to grow, and the volume of scouting requests rises every year.”
Ritz-Carlton's BLT Steakhouse
17. You can easily impress clients here
Meet for drinks at the Ritz-Carlton. Take them to Winged Foot for 18. Casually name-drop celebs from your neighborhood — maybe Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Bruce Willis, or the Clintons? Point out all the big-city chefs — Jean-Georges, Michael Psilakis, and Joe Bastianich, to name a few — who’ve come north and elevated our dining scene. Introduce them to the latest trendy workout (they’re all here now: SoulCycle, Orangetheory, HIIT, hot yoga, etc.), or talk biz during scenic walks along the majestic Hudson. Uncork the priciest vintage from the 70,000-plus-bottle wine cellar at Crabtree’s Kittle House. If none of that works, the deal probably wasn’t meant to be.
IAC Applications, Photo by Stefan Radtke
18. We have killer workspaces
Need a sprawling suburban office park for your company’s HQ? Try The Summit in Valhalla, Southern Westchester Executive Park in Yonkers, or The Centre at Purchase, for starters. If you prefer downtown digs, join prestigious firms like New York Life, Danone, and Heineken USA in White Plains’ CBD, or lease space at the iPark in Yonkers to be neighbors with Kawasaki Rail Car, IAC Applications, and ContraFect Corporation. The storied Platinum Mile along I-287 is back in a big way, with office options and mixed-use spaces for firms of all sizes. For small bizzes, solopreneurs, and freelancers who need more than a Starbucks table, the coworking scene in Westchester has exploded: Stark Office Suites provides fully furnished office solutions countywide, while Serendipity Labs (Rye), KOI Creative Space (White Plains), Ground Floor Coworking (New Rochelle), The Hudson Collective (Dobbs Ferry), and ThePowerLab (Yonkers) offer membership-based coworking options.
Rendering by Humphreys & Partners Architects
19. We’re urban (seriously)
We’ve long held the reputation of being a luxury burb, but our cities now hold their own as urban destinations. Between 2000 and 2010, the populations of White Plains and New Rochelle grew by 7%, Peekskill by 5%, Ossining by 4%, and Port Chester by 4% — and judging by the number of new apartment towers springing up, that trend will only grow. You can’t go more than a few blocks in White Plains, Yonkers, or New Rochelle without bumping into a TOD project, which signals the confidence of developers and city governments in our downtowns. As Millennials, baby boomers — and companies seeking to lure today’s workers — continue to show an affinity for the urban live-work-play lifestyle, our cities are poised to meet that need.
Photo by Stefan Radtke
20. We love a good mom & pop
We are ardent supporters of the small and family-owned businesses that are the heart of our towns and employ a healthy chunk of our workforce. You can find thriving Westchester family-owned businesses in every sector, from real estate firm Houlihan Lawrence (celebrating 130 years of operation), Scarsdale institution Wilson & Son Jewelers (est. 1905), auto whizzes Pepe Auto Group (launched by Gene Pepe 50 years ago), and upscale grocery purveyors DeCicco & Sons, to name just a few.
21. We’re getting more diverse
Talented people from all over the US settle in Westchester, offering a rich potential employee pool. Diversity has grown steadily in the 21st century, and our business sector reflects it: According to the US Census Survey of Business Owners in 2016, 30% of Westchester County firms were minority-owned in 2012, up from 23% five years prior. And diversity initiatives at leading firms like Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) are becoming more common. According to WMCHealth’s chief diversity officer, Mecca Santana, the medical network frames diversity and inclusion as business imperatives and focuses on promoting women’s leadership and learning how to sensitively serve vulnerable populations, such as LGBT and non-English-speaking residents. “Diversity without inclusion is never enough,” Santana says.
22. You might have heard that health tech is the future?
Our reputation as a growth center for biotech, med-tech, and healthcare innovation is not just hype. We’re home to the one-two punch of Regeneron — New York State’s largest biotech company, with some 2K employees at its Tarrytown HQ — and Acorda Therapeutics, which has racked up multiple best-places-to-work accolades and whose MS drug, Ampyra, generated more than a half-billion in 2017 sales. We’ve also got BioInc@NYMC, the Hudson Valley’s only biotech incubator, as well as a pending $1.2 billion deal for a major bioscience-and-tech center in Valhalla. In our hospital/medical-center sphere, we’ve got depth for days: NewYork-Presbyterian, Montefiore, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Northwell Health all have a Westchester presence, while homegrown providers, like Westmed Medical Group and CareMount Medical, keep the population (and the economy) healthy.
23. Our IDAs are A+
With help from our robust Industrial Development Agencies, our downtown economies are on the rise. These IDAs offer economic incentives for businesses to develop and grow here, assisting with critical infrastructure upgrades that help connect the county. And the impact is clear: The Westchester County IDA created approximately 20,000 jobs from 2010 to 2017. The county’s Local Development Corporation (LDC) joined the effort in 2014 and so far has provided more than $800 million in tax-exempt financing to hospitals, schools, nursing homes, libraries, and social service agencies, stimulating more than 1,500 jobs in the nonprofit sector. Our municipal IDAs are going strong, too. By 2016, the Yonkers IDA had approved projects worth $566.8 million, creating an estimated 1,333 full-time jobs and 1,900 construction jobs since its inception. New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, and Peekskill also have IDAs, each spearheading exciting developments.
24. Some of our most powerful execs are women
Breaking the glass ceiling is slow-going: This year, less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. On the upside, a few of them work right here in Westchester. At the helm of Purchase-based PepsiCo since 2006, Indra Nooyi has been No. 2 on Fortune’s annual list of Most Powerful Women for the past three years. Armonk-based IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is also a regular on that list, while CEO Denise Ramos leads Fortune 100 firm ITT Inc. in White Plains. Female entrepreneurship is also flourishing here, epitomized by leaders like Sharon Rowe, creator of EcoBags and author of The Magic of Tiny Business; clothing designer Eileen Fisher, whose Leadership Institute nurtures girl power; and Dr. Marsha Gordon, who moves it all forward as president/CEO of the Business Council of Westchester.
25. We haven’t given up on media (yet)
You’ll have to excuse us for tooting our own industry’s horn, but as the media continues to get assaulted from all angles, Westchester has managed to hold on to a quality daily newspaper in The Journal News, as well as hyper-local community news sources like The Examiner and DailyVoice.com, as well as numerous Westchester-centric bloggers and social media personalities, not to mention our own publication and Westchester Magazine. We’ve still got local TV news outlets News 12 and FiOS 1, and popular local radio stations like The Peak, WHUD, WVOX, and WVIP. The industry may be downsizing, but Westchester residents and businesses still understand the advantages of robust local media.