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Biz leaders discuss economy

Business leaders and entrepreneurs came together Friday for a special conference at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral for one goal: to rebuild the economy of southeast Queens.

The church was the site of the 17th-annual New York Community, Church and Business Empowerment Conference and dozens of residents and small businesses attended to find ways to enhance their ventures. The Rev. Floyd Flake, head of the church, spoke to the hundreds of participants of the importance of the conference for the community, saying small businesses can bounce back from the recession with a little push and brainstorming.

“The realty is that we have to deal with the outcomes. We must take responsibility to take care of each other,” he said.

Representatives from borough-based agencies — such as the borough president’s office, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Queens Economic Development Corp. and corporations such as Axa Investments, Con Edison and New York Life — were on hand to give advice and help to interested participants.

Carol Conslato, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said the conference has helped to open new doors for businesses because it showed how they could use churches to expand their reach. In a neighborhood such as Jamaica, which is abundant with various church groups, entrepreneurs have access to new community leaders and members, according to Conslato.

“There can be an opportunity there that you didn’t know about,” she told the members.

The business groups at the conference, such as Lukas Skordas of Walgreens pharmacy, said that strategy was important to success. Skordas, who works out of a Forest Hills branch of the chain, said returning customers always value a personal approach to making a sale.

“We want to help out the people. [The conference] lets people know we are there for them,” he said.

Seth Bornstein, president of the Queens EDC, agreed and advised participants to be patient and thorough ´╗┐in their business plans. Although partnerships with community groups can be beneficial, this will not lead to an overnight change in the market, according to the president.

“Economic development is a long process,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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