The Queens Chamber of Commerce held its annual business expo at Citi Field in person for the first time since 2019 featuring more than 130 exhibitors.
Hundreds of business, government and community leaders attended the event on June 8 following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“This event provides a wonderful opportunity for our members to network and hear from leading experts across a variety of industries,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said.
During his opening remarks, Grech talked about forming the Queens Tech Council soon after Amazon torpedoed its plans to build its HQ2 campus in Long Island City more than three years ago.
“What we’re trying to do is build an environment where we foster things regarding tech for the very same reasons that Amazon showed in the first place,” Grech said, adding that he asked Amazon officials why they chose Queens and they said because of diversity, the borough’s transportation system and its education system
“This Queens Tech Council is all about gathering and harvesting all those important things and making this a place where the kids graduate from Queens College, LaGuardia, Plaza College, they stay in New York,” Grech said. “We are Queens centric, but we’re not Queens myopic. If kids want to build a business in the New York City area, they are going to be welcomed with open arms in Queens.”
First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, an Astoria native who served as “Recovery Czar” during the last administration, delivered the keynote address saying the Adams administration is working “tirelessly to find innovative ways to make government more effective and efficient,” and are no longer treating private industry as the enemy.
“Our role is to make your jobs, your companies, your interaction with the government easier, more effective and more efficient so that we don’t stand in your way and that we encourage your success,” Grillo said. “We like successful businesses and we like successful business people because you spend money in our city. And that’s what we want to see.”
Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim said the tech pipeline in Queens is growing and that there are 3,800 students in the CUNY Queens system who are in Computer Science or related majors.
“Having grown up here in the 1970s and ’80s, Queens was seen, from Asia especially when we came, to be a place to start off your retail store,” Kim said. “But I think things have dramatically changed. While we still have immigrants from all around the world who come here to Queens to do those kinds of businesses, now you see with Amazon stories and all the different nonprofits that are focused on creating this tech environment here, you’re seeing why people are starting to focus here.”
Kim added that the pandemic made it even more evident that the tech industry is critical to a thriving economy. Jamaica’s Jason Clark, the executive director of Tech:NYC, concurred.
“Tech is doing for Queens what it is doing all across the city: leading the city’s economic comeback,” Clark said. “We know tech companies are investing here, we know New Yorkers want access to jobs in tech, now let’s invest in skills training so everyone has an opportunity to join this amazing industry.”
New York City Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Andrew Kimball said Queens checks all the boxes for entrepreneurs.
“From biotech to software development, to prop tech, advanced manufacturing, tech-enabled industries are growing in every corner of our city,” Kimball said. “Big tech is here in a big way. And why is that? It’s because young people want to be in New York. They want to live in communities as Queens has. Queens has everything. It’s got talent. It’s got the schools. It’s got livable communities. It’s got transit. It is happening here across multiple sectors.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.