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Queens needs job seekers: Biz leaders

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Top business leaders from all five boroughs gathered at York College Tuesday morning to discuss ways to spur job growth in New York, and the consensus was that education will play a key role in getting the unemployed back on their feet.

The New York City Economic Development Council held its fourth public meeting at the Jamaica campus and its co-chairman, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, asked for an update on their ideas. Recent economic troubles on Wall Street and around the world have paralyzed companies from investing in the future of business and industry in New York and Goldstein said it is up to the experts who know the city’s potential to guide them back.

“We know there are jobs out there today and there are employers that have the capital to create growth ... but there is a disconnect with employers and people with skills,” he said.

The Economic Development Council was created over the summer by the governor as a way to come up with specific ways of creating jobs in different regions of the state. Members of the council include Marcia Keizs, York College’s president; Gail Grimmett, Delta Airline’s senior vice president for New York; and Carol Conslato, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Robert D. Yaro, president of the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Regional Plan Association, opened the meeting with his recommendations for job growth. He said the city needed to make investments in its quality of life so that businesses, and more importantly highly qualified job seekers, could move to New York.

Yaro said that more investment must also be made to New York’s transit infrastructure. He noted that the subway system is more than a century old and other cities around the world manage their airports more efficiently.

Yaro touched upon the idea that the city could use more convention centers and Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

Friedman said Queens loses millions of dollars a year to Manhattan venues such as the Jacob Javits Center and, with prime locations like Willets Point, it could create a huge boost to the borough’s economy.

“Imagine what a convention center would do to boost Queens’ economy when you consider that today tourists and visitors to our great city are forced to bypass our borough and instead spend their travel and business dollars solely in Manhattan, close to our only convention venue,” he said.

Yaro said the biggest investment that would create jobs would be in education. Since the city is home to more than a dozen top colleges, employers will flock to the city to acquire that new talent.

“We need to act like we’re the biggest college town out there,” he said.

Goldstein agreed and said that beyond capital investment in the city’s school systems, there has to be a new way for administrators to advise their students on their future.

“We have to inform the universities where the jobs are going and how they can be ready to help their students get those positions,” he said.

Borough President Helen Marshall said the committee needed to go bigger when it came to education. She noted that during a job fair at her office last month nearly a thousand college applicants attended, but a lot of them still could not be guaranteed a job.

“You need to find jobs for high school students, too,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 2:08 pm, October 6, 2011
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