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Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Yanping Nora Soong
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Yanping Nora Soong

A sector known for its distinct restaurants, bakeries and small businesses, the greater Flushing area continues to grow as one of the most dynamic and culturally diverse economic centers in the “World’s Borough.”

Between 2000 and 2009, the number of businesses in Flushing grew by 37.6 percent, compared to 5.7 percent in the rest of the city. However, community leaders say there is room for improvement regarding business conduct and practices.

The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce — an organization which aims to encourage economic growth, inclusive diversity and shared prosperity in Flushing — held the first meeting of its “Blue Ribbon Panel” on Nov. 30. Entrepreneurs, civic leaders and elected officials spoke out about the need to raise business standards in the bustling district and discussed how to improve the area’s business environment.

Attendees discussed matters of workers’ rights, maintaining quality of products and services, customer service improvements and corporate responsibility to neighbor and community. Worries regarding cross-cultural communication in the area were also raised at the panel, with participants citing a lack of English-language signage and difficulty interacting with other store managers and workers in the area as ongoing concerns.

In response, the chamber has begun marketing initiatives designed to address storefront signage readability in collaboration with business owners. The chamber is also working with Monroe College and the Queens Library to get the word out to the business community about English language programs being offered.

“Property owners have great responsibility to improve, maintain and protect the appearance of their businesses and our shared environment,” said Peter Tu, executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association.

Other ideas presented at the panel to improve business relations in the area included developing protocol and policies for small business owners who wish to increase cultural inclusion, distributing manuals explaining how to treat customers with respect and creating resources for businesses interested in hiring English-speaking employees or displaying English language marketing materials.

The chamber has already developed a “blue ribbon” initiative, which recognizes businesses with the highest standards by awarding them with special signage for their storefronts.

“One of the motivations for creating our chamber was to address the need for better business practices in our community,” said John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “We should not wait for the next business scandal to happen before taking action — whether it is a restaurant or an entire industry caught not paying its workers fairly — but find ways to educate our business community and work with government to increase compliance with existing laws. And if those laws no longer make sense, work with our elected officials to change them.”

“Flushing has a thriving and highly competitive business community that we must be sure is not left behind by our rapidly evolving economic climate,” Councilman Peter Koo said. “By working together with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, we seek to support and uplift our local businesses. The needs of our businesses are varied and in constant flux, but they often contain similar threads, which is why it is important that we come together to discuss how to raise standards across the board right here in Flushing.”

Photo via Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce/Facebook

Photo via Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce/Facebook

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