Queens Borough President Donovan Richards hosted his inaugural Queens Tech Fair at the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation’s new state-of-the-art Greater Nexus co-working space on Parsons Boulevard on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Richards is committed to making the borough a thriving hub of technology and innovation, but that couldn’t happen until the jobs in the sector are truly accessible to Queens residents, especially women and people of color who have been historically shut out.
“We will fight to ensure that Queens addresses these disparities,” Richards said during his opening remarks. “Those who are stepping into this space, we see you, we acknowledge you, and this is why I’m proud to be here at Greater Nexus holding our inaugural breaking barriers to entry tech fair to light a fire, a spark of innovation and turn it into a flame.”
The fair featured a litany of resources and interactive workshops geared to the borough’s residents from disadvantaged communities with an interest in breaking into the industry. Google, JetBlue, the Long Island City Partnership, T-Mobile and Microsoft manned individualized hiring stations.
“Something I’m really excited about is a Microsoft racial equity initiative,” Richards said. “And that’s really taking a look at what’s going on all across the country and how we can support African American communities by strengthening those communities.”
There were one-on-one mentoring opportunities in partnership with Cornell Tech as well as a “breaking barriers to entry workshop,” courtesy of Nigeria’s Lagos State Ministry of Science and Technology.
“Historic economic disinvestment across many of our Queens communities has held far too many families back for generations, but the days of being disadvantaged are done,” Deputy Borough President Ebony Young said. “The Queens Tech Fair is a down payment on our push for change.”
In October, Richards and Young launched the Queens Tech + Innovation Challenge in partnership with the Queens Economic Development Corporation, a multi-month competition for Queens-based entrepreneurs — offering free business classes, mentorship opportunities, and networking sessions, as well as $20,000 in seed funding for five winning local startups — which has already received more than 70 applications with weeks to go before the March 1 application deadline.
“A strong tech ecosystem isn’t just the future of Queens — thanks to the leadership of Borough President Donovan Richards and others, the Queens tech sector is growing and thriving right before our eyes,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “Right here, at the Greater Nexus in Jamaica, the Queens Tech Council recently opened one of our first Queens Tech Incubators, where we will be supporting the growth of Queens-based startups. We are proud to support the inaugural Queens Tech Fair, and know this event will become even bigger and better in the years to come.”