Company owners and business groups in Flushing are a diverse bunch, but they do not always communicate with each other.
That is what prompted one man to start an economic development project called One Flushing to try and form a more cohesive and vibrant commercial community.
John Choe launched the project last week at its new headquarters, at 39-01 Main St., and was joined by lawmakers and many of the existing business advocacy groups he hopes to partner with.
“There are plenty of good organizations and projects in Flushing,” Choe said in an interview after the ribbon cutting. “I think the problem is that we don’t really coordinate our work with each other, which is a big part of what we want to do.”
Choe’s venture is also an undertaking by the nonprofit Asian Americans for Equality, which funds One Flushing. Asian Americans for Equality is a Manhattan-based organization that advocates for the rights and quality of life of minorities and immigrants.
Choe envisions his role as a central hub connecting the many diverse businesses in Flushing with the many opportunities, grants and programs that are out there for the taking.
For example, the Queens Economic Development Corp. recently announced a Mandarin language course to help contractors become licensed by the city. Choe partnered with the corporation, and the program will be run out of his office.
But Choe also wants to connect businesses with other businesses, which often operate isolated in smaller cultural spheres.
To really expand, companies need to get into the mainstream economy and start branching out beyond a small sphere of customers, according to Choe.
“Maybe we can have a referral between an African-American and Latino business, or between a Jewish and Chinese business,” he said. “We live in such a populated area, but we sometimes don’t even know who our neighbors are.”
But connecting different groups of entrepreneurs is not strictly business.
He also wants to use art to connect on a more personal level.
Choe is in talks with Flushing Town Hall to create some sort of art exhibit where different cultures and generations share their experiences through either photographs or stories or any manner of medium.
Choe can navigate between all the businesses, civics and government programs and organizations because of his political history, he said.
He served under both John Liu’s tenure as a Flushing city councilman and his current role of city comptroller, and even ran for Liu’s vacated Council seat in 2009.
Choe was inspired to improve access to grants, programs and other helpful information for entrepreneurs after his mother died earlier this year.
She had run a grocery store on Staten Island as an immigrant entrepreneur for a decade, but things started to go downhill a few years ago.
Faced with what Choe called a harassing landlord who wanted to evict her to develop the property and mounting fines from the city, his mother had to close up shop.
“She had nowhere to turn for help,” he said.
If Choe’s mother had known her rights as a tenant, other rules and regulations or even how to obtain low-interest loans, her store might have been saved.
And those will be just some of the services Choe hopes to connect people with through the new office.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community News Group
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