BY SALVATORE ISOLA
While the Mets were on the road on May 16, Queens business leaders headed to Citi Field for a day of networking.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce held its annual Business Expo & Luncheon in the stadium’s Foxwoods Club, and over 140 exhibitors from all areas of commerce showcased their products and services.
“We have established relationships with the leaders and the major organizations and BIDs in Queens,” said Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Chamber. “We believe in the power of unity and working together for the common good.”
The event was beneficial to newer companies, such as first time attendee RCG Mortgage, who said the connections they made would benefit the company in the long run.
One of the expo’s most popular assortment of tables was the food pavilion, with Ben’s providing latkes and pastrami on rye, The Smokehouse serving Jamaican jerk chicken, and Uncle Jack’s Meat House sampling meatballs, to name a few.
Before the end of the day, former Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca and Mr. Met made the rounds, speaking to exhibitors and posing for photos with attendees.
A panel called “Why Tech Needs Queen” featured Chamber vice chairman Thomas Donovan, Long Island City Partnership president Elizabeth Lusskin, and Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC.
“You as talent running the company, you will be happy here,” Lusskin said of doing business in Queens. “This is a pragmatic place and a practical place, but it’s also cool and funky and exciting. You will be able to get other people to come work with you and do the great things that you want to do.”
When the floor was opened to questions, an attendee commented that Queens “lost our Disney,” referencing how Times Square’s transformation was enabled only by Disney opening a store there.
“We don’t know who’s going to be the next Disney, so what we want to do is make sure that this is a place where all business is welcome,” said Lusskin.
“If you have a vibrant startup culture, you got a bunch of small, young companies, then the big ones will come,” Samuels added. “Because they are going to want to hire the people working at those small companies, and they’re going to, frankly, want to buy those small companies.”
One of the biggest challenges the borough faces, according to Grech, is making Queens a destination.
He recalled attending the opening of the TWA Hotel the day before and marveled at how successful the $286 million gamble has been at stirring buzz and excitement for the borough.
“Business people can be flown in internationally for meetings in one of the most beautiful hotels anywhere in the world,” Grech said. “That’s about destination.”