BY BENJAMIN FANG
The Queens Chamber of Commerce is bringing its services on the road to Queens neighborhoods.
On September 12, leaders from the chamber joined Assemblyman Michael DenDekker at the Jackson Heights Shopping Center to launch the “Pop Up Chamber” program.
Funded by a grant from Empire State Development, the initiative allows the chamber to provide resources to small businesses at a hyperlocal level.
According to Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber, of the organization’s 1,100 member companies, 90 percent have 10 or fewer employees.
“We help the mom-and-pops all over the borough,” he said. “They are the lifeblood of our economy. “We not only help those businesses stay alive, but prosper and grow,” Grech added.
Services that the chamber will offer include information on bidding opportunities, Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) certification, business loans and financing tools.
They will also provide access to small law firms and accounting companies that can help small businesses adhere to new rules and regulations coming from the city and state.
One example is sexual harassment training. According to Grech, the chamber is offering members a discounted rate for the training, which is now a requirement for businesses.
“We’re trying to work hard on the carrot part of the equation to minimize the stick down the road,” he said.
After conducting a few trial runs over the last few weeks, the pop-up chamber program will begin appearing throughout communities, usually in shopping centers, commercial strips or other main street operations where small businesses operate.
The pop-up chamber compliments another Queens Chamber program, Chamber on the Go, which is funded by the city. DenDekker, who represents Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and parts of Woodside, helped secure the grant for the chamber.
He said he wanted the organization to help mom-and-pops in his district, especially to get through the “bureaucracy of compliance.” Despite a recent report by the state comptroller indicating that Jackson Heights had a low storefront vacancy rate, DenDekker said many stores could use the help of the chamber.
“A lot of small mom-and-pop businesses that open up don’t know all the complexities of working with the city,” he said.
The assemblyman added that bringing the chamber’s services to the community is crucial because most small business owners don’t have the time to leave their stores for meetings.
If the pop-up is near their business and available during the day, owners can simply walk outside, ask questions, learn new information and set up follow-up appointments.
“I hope that many of my businesses take advantage of it,” DenDekker said. “Anything we can do to help those businesses so they can continue to employ people who live here is a positive benefit.”