JFK Chamber turns 40

JFK Chamber turns 40
Patriarch of JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce and decades supporter of many airport Organizations, Rudy Auslander with printed memorabilia of the JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce.
Photo by Jeff Yapalater

JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce is turning 40!

The JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 40th year at the JFK Airport. The concept of an airport Chamber of Commerce was initiated by airport business people from the hospitality, media, cargo, freight forwarders, ground handlers, and airport companies back in early 1978. They wanted to create en environment in which they could gather together to share their common concerns of bringing all businesses in the area together to network, meet prospective customers and work with the various airport entities for the betterment of business at the airport.

It was and still is the only airport Chamber of Commerce in the nation. This makes the JFK Chamber unique and helpful in working closely with the Port Authority. airport vendors, suppliers and consultants, the FAA, and all federal partners to create a community of mutual benefit.

It is committed to the commercial welfare of our members in all matters affecting their enterprise, business practices, employment and livelihood.

In March 1978 the Chamber became official, with its first President Peter Herren, Manager of the Hilton Inn. The Hilton still is a member today and has its premises along Hotel Row on Conduit Avenue. One of the early members and who has spend many years at JFK working with Japan Airlines and as President, Executive Director and a Board member of the Chamber is Rudy Auslander.

Currently Rudy is Chairman of the Mill Neck family of organizations working with the deaf. “Rudy” is considered the Partiarch of the Chamber since he has seen several generations of airport executives, organizations Chamber members, and lived through and contributed to JFK Airport development, changes and growth of both the airport and the chamber.

Rudy believes that the Chamber’s keys to success have been the networking opportunities, the luncheons, business card exchanges and communications with the members. He points to the Chamberline newsletter which was published in the 1980 and mailed to all members. In 2002 a glossy 150 page “100 Years of Aviation” book was produced by the Chamber as well as a business directory which were successes in communication. Today, that spirit still exists with the Chamber doing the same activities that attract new and younger members who are looking to meet professional like minded people, expand their business contacts and develop friendships that will last for years.

The Chamber also gives back to the community with an annual scholarship fund for airport employees, donations to the airport USO, holding the annual golf event, has winter clothing drives, supplies Thanksgiving food for the needy, and its member support the JFK Rotary, KAAMCO, Semantics, and other airport organizations.

According to Rudy, the Chamber had upwards of 500 members during formative years at the airport. He says that the early opportunities at JFK brought in many business seeking to get a “piece of the sky,” as Dolores Hofman, of the Queens Air Services Development office, a division of early member Aviation Development Council, and current Board member said.

Another Board member and businessman since the 60s at the airport, Bruce Abbate fondly members being introduced into the airport community by a printer near the airport. “I got involved because I met a friend who asked me to join. I though it was a good place to network and get business. The Chamber was my entrance to the airport community, many of who are my friends for years.” After more than 40 years doing business at JFK, Abbate strongly believes in referrals so the Chamber is a natural choice for companies.

The current President of the Chamber, Joe Clabby of Corporate Loss Prevention had this to say about why he joined the Chamber,

“We got involved because as a business person you want to do everything you can to grow your business and easier for employees. Chamber was the best way of doing it. Everyone had the same purpose and part of the same community. We were able to make a good friends and contacts. Every time we had a problem we were able to reach out for direction and answers from members.”

Newly active board member, Mark Arbogast from RD Weis flooring has this to say,” The JFK Chamber is invaluable to the members in helping them understand the culture of the entire airport community.

The opportunity to meet with fellow members and participate in the many events like the 9-11 memorial encourages friendship and sharing of best practices as a valued partner in the ongoing care, maintenance and sustainability of JFK airport”.

Social responsibility advocate, businesswoman and Board member Philippa Karteron said, “I’m honored to be the first black woman on the Board and prior to that as a special advisor. It is a privilege to work towards and enjoy the diversity that can be seen in the JFK International Airport community”.

VP of Worldwide Flight Services, Phil Jensen is another veteran of the airport working years in the passenger and cargo areas having been both President of KAAMCO, the airport airline organization, and the Chamber of Commerce, said that he was brought in by Linda and Don Wright.

So he believes strongly that “it pays to help others” since so much of his business at that airport has been built on relationships that helped him and he believes in paying forward. And this worked since Jensen was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement award by the Chamber of Commerce this year.

One issue facing all organizations in the airport and off site is the recruitment of new members. Y

ears ago it was easier for the head of the household to spend more time with organizations. The airline industry was flush, station and other managers had jobs for years. Now the situation is different with both spouses having to work, frequent reassignment to other airports, and the less staff to afford top people to attend meetings such as the Chamber.

This is an ongoing issue but Jensen feels that the Chamber will still grow and is a melting pot where all people and companies at the airport can get together and face the future by looking at each organizations’s strength and joining together when possible to be more effective.

He encourages working together with the airport organizations to achieve more aviation industry participation.

What’s new in the future of the Chamber?

Clabby said “There are so many new different projects going on; one is the 9-11 memorial that needs help and assistance in moving the project forward. We are also working with Farmingdale College and Port Authority in effort to establish and enhance the training opportunities and provide college courses to individuals currently working at the airport where we fee it not only helps the community but the airport the safety, production and competitiveness in world aviation. There are business opportunities in these projects which the Chamber will be able to connect good partners.”

Where does the chamber go and grow? According to Clabby the chamber is connected to JFK. The redevelopment and related projects, workforce development and rebuilding the airport makes the Chamber instrumental in keeping the business community informed, involved and invested in progress being made in the airport.

As to the continued growth and mission of the Chamber, veteran Auslander said that it is important to bring harmony to the community and that he admired the efforts of the present administration to keep the Chamber growling. He also said that one of the things the Chamber can now do is to take the lead and find ways to keep operational costs down.

Having said that, given the upcoming wage increases passed by the Port, it will be more important than ever to find ways to do this.

On the flip side, Jensen, the cargo advocate for the Chamber, suggests that the Port work more assertively with the cargo companies to promote cargo opportunities here and abroad, bring cargo people to more community events and organizational meetings, and to help produce innovative solutions bringing new business to JFK.

One of the intangibles, yet important part of being a member of the Chamber of Commence is the camaraderie.

With the increasing demands of work, the virtual aspect of social media and the small staffs of the airlines and service companies, there is a need for personal contact. The Chamber provides a place for young people to make professional friends and contacts, a place where older experienced airport veterans can act as mentors, a social type club to share work stories and to help share in making the world a little better place by getting involved in community good will.

These are the reasons why the JFK Chamber of Commerce really began, and will continue to flourish as we work together to make it a better place for our lives at JFK Airport according to many of the Chamber members. www.airportvoice.com/archive

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