It all began in 1890, when Irving T. Bush’s father died leaving the young 21 year-old with stock in Standard Oil Company; and two blocks of land in Brooklyn including a pier. Rather than follow in his father’s footsteps working for Standard Oil, Bush decided to develop his newly inherited property into a terminal for importing goods. He began in 1895 with a warehouse which he used to store cotton. Bush engaged the help of Frederic B. Studwell, a gentleman who managed cotton storage in the New York Warehousing Company. Studwell, having learned that cotton business owners were dissatisfied with their current storage options, made an agreement with Bush to invest in building more suitable warehouses at the convenient Brooklyn wharf location of Bush Terminal. Once the warehouses were established, Bush expanded the company to the importation of any kind of commodity requiring storage. From the beginning he knew steamships would be needed to bring in the cotton and other goods to the terminal, but he couldn’t find any steamship owners who were interested. So, he bought his own steamships and established regular shipping to his warehouses. Seeing the success and convenience of shipping to Bush Terminal, other steamship owners soon followed suit and a bustling trade began to build.
The next step was to move the goods from the terminal to businesses. This required railway service, but when Bush inquired into the possibility of establishing Bush Terminal as a station, railway officials weren’t interested. This didn’t stop Bush of course. He ingeniously sent a worker to Michigan to buy two hundred carloads of hay and instructed him to visit every railway station he could locate to make them an offer. The offer was that they would receive business if they would deliver the newly purchased hay to Bush Terminal. Of course no one had heard of Bush Terminal, but because they wanted the business, agreed. Soon they too were using the terminal to regularly to deliver goods by rail for local distribution. From this point Bush knew he had to increase the odds that manufacturers and wholesalers would be drawn to not just use the terminal, but to relocate there. While some were opposed to investing in Bush Terminal, Bush managed to raise the capital needed to construct four buildings and by 1911 it housed 100 manufacturers. From there Bush Terminal exploded into a mecca of manufacturing businesses which relocated from around the world housing over 600 manufacturers from America alone. So what was the draw?
Companies were drawn to Bush Terminal for several reasons. The first reason is also the same as one of Industry City’s claims today—the location allows companies to expand. Another reason was that the location allowed businesses to avoid congestion and the cost of transporting freight carriers; if the supplies were brought into the warehouse directly after arriving at the pier, street congestion could be avoided. Another big reason was that Bush Terminal became an all-encompassing facility; suppliers were housed in the same place as manufacturers, and manufacturers were housed in the same place as retail businesses. Writing about Bush Terminal’s success, Business Digest and Investment Weekly stated in 1919, “It is of, by and for the buyer.” The cost of carting the supplies from the pier to the manufacturer and then to the retailers was virtually eliminated. This was a big draw, but there was more — “lower rentals, better accommodations for employees, more healthful housing, and shipping facilities far better than Manhattan.” Businesses moving to the terminal also benefited the over-crowded lower Manhattan by clearing the roads while keeping tax revenue within the city confines.
BUSH TERMINAL IN 2014 - INDUSTRY CITY
Now in 2014, Industry City (the former Bush Terminal) is once again looking to become the industry capital of New York. Back in 1911, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted, “The Bush Terminal Company has not only created facilities which have benefited the commerce of the port, but has developed an industrial community which has been of important service to the domestic commerce of New York and has brought manufacturers from other communities to carry on their industries in New York and give employment to the labor of this city.” Industry City too looks to expand employment, but the look of businesses will be a bit different.
THE INDUSTRY CITY DIFFERENCE
1911 companies included manufacturers of: men’s clothing, metal signs, hosiery, wallpaper, salt bricks, preserved fruits, coffee, heaters, iron in bulk, cotton goods, coconut, hardware, leather bags, corrugated iron, ladies’ hats, corks, woolen goods, chewing gum, and more. In an ad in The Brooklyn Eagle Bush Terminal assured the doubting business owner that it could readily accommodate any business; Industry City is similarly looking to accommodate any business - with a focus on innovative industries. Although Virginia Dare, a flavor and extract company — and Industry City’s oldest tenant — will be renewing its lease, a major focus is on growing more innovative firms such as the 3D printer manufacturer, MakerBot (http://www.makerbot.com/). But it isn’t just manufacturing that will be going on. Space is also being transformed into modern office facilities and even less traditional accommodations such as the Brooklyn Nets’ practice facility.
One of the biggest marketing techniques Bush Terminal used was to assure potential tenants of its economical savings. In its 1911 ad, Bush Terminal claimed that because the business owner would save money on cartage, insurance, labor, power, and many other services by moving to Bush Terminal, the savings alone would be like getting their space rent free.
While marketing is clearly different, only time will tell if the new owners will match the success of the past.
Read more about Bush Terminal here: BUSH TERMINAL HISTORY
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