Etsy on the make in Dumbo

Etsy on the make in Dumbo
Kushner Companies

A company that helps do-it-yourselfers market their wares online is expanding faster than we can crochet a beer cozy.

Etsy is planning to move a few blocks from its current Dumbo home into new, bigger digs in the planned Dumbo Heights development inside the former Watchtower buildings at the foot of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The added elbowroom will allow the craft juggernaut to ramp up its operations, a company rep said.

“We believe this new building will help us attract and retain better talent here in Brooklyn and accelerate growth,” said Etsy spokeswoman Sara Cohen.

Founded in a Fort Greene apartment in 2005, the corporation currently employs 350 people at its headquarters on Washington Street between Front and Water streets. It plans to move around the block in 2016, becoming an anchor tenant for the properties formerly owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses that developer Kushner Companies hopes will become a hub for technology companies, and growing by 300 workers by 2019. Etsy is getting a fat $5-million in state tax breaks for its trouble.

The government giveaway is part of an economic development program meant to encourage job creation and is contingent on Etsy keeping the new positions in the state.

“They don’t get anything if they leave New York,” said Elizabeth Bird, from Good Jobs NY, a subsidy watchdog. “They can’t take the money and run.”

Politicos often offer the get-out-of-taxes-free cards to entice out-of-state companies to move to New york, but Etsy was already established in the borough and never considered leaving, according to Cohen.

“Brooklyn is our roots and we believe it is our future to remain headquartered here,” she said. “We didn’t threaten to take our current jobs elsewhere or move our headquarters out of state.”

The question with Etsy, which has eight offices around the world, was about where it would add jobs.

“It’s always easier to recruit engineering talent in SF,” Cohen said, referring to San Francisco.

Per the company’s plan, it will add 40 positions at its Hudson, New York office in addition to the Brooklyn slots.

A neighborhood business booster was unconcerned about the government handout, saying that the company deserves whatever it gets.

“Etsy is the quintessential creative technology company,” said Alexandria Sica, executive director of the Dumbo Improvement District. “And it’s one of the great success stories of Brooklyn over the last decade.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Watch this space: The former headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is set to become a tech complex.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham