During a press luncheon at the Delhi Palace restaurant in Jackson Heights last week, Crowley indicated that India's burgeoning middle class - some 300 million strong - could represent a tremendous untapped opportunity for American businesses.
"We need to reconnect the dots that were broken," Crowley said of the distancing effect of sanctions the United States imposed on India in the late 1990s because of its nuclear testing program.
But Crowley, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and a member of the House Committee on International Relations, said he would also like to see Indian corporations locate some of their facilities here.
"It's my hope that India will take a page out of the Japanese playbook," Crowley said, referring to the Japanese automobile manufacturers' setting up car plants in North America.
Given New York City's historical position as a gateway for Indian immigration to the United States - there are 40,000 South Asians living in the portions of Queens and the Bronx that Crowley represents - he said his district would be a prime destination for Indian industry looking for a foothold on the American continent.
"It's any member of Congress' dream to have a nation like India come into his district (generating jobs)," Crowley said in a telephone interview.
Earlier this year, Crowley met with officials from Mumbai, India-based Tata Industries, a technology and energy company that recently opened an office in Rochester, N.Y. to encourage it to set up a Queens office. And while leading a congressional delegation in India in January, Crowley met with representatives from Reliant Insurance, encouraging the company to establish a Queens presence, Crowley spokeswoman Suzanne Anziska said.
It is just one of the ways Crowley is looking to attract jobs to a district that has seen its unemployment ranks grow by 54,700 people over the last three years.
Crowley said he is also working to attract defense dollars to the area. In 2002, there were 500 defense industry employees in his district, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Maspeth, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and College Point and portions of the Bronx. These employees work in everything from the manufacture of aircraft parts to simulation testing for defense contractors' components, according to the congressman's research.
"We're trying to do all we can to support them and to make sure that Queens gets its fair share," Crowley said.
Crowley also hopes to amend the rules that govern the distribution of federal anti-terror funds through the proposed Hero Act, which he introduced with fellow New York legislator U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella (D-N.Y.) last year.
During the luncheon at Delhi Palace, Crowley said the Hero Act was the single most important piece of legislation that he was working on.
The bill calls for a four-year, $14.75 billion federal funding package for first responders - fire, police and emergency medical services. The bill, he said, would allocate a minimum of one-third of the total funds to the five cities deemed by federal agencies to be the most vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Current legislation limits federal disbursements of anti-terror funds for first responders to $700,000 per entity, he said. That means New York - an obvious target for terrorists with a population of more than 8 million - can receive no more than other, smaller cities, such as his wife's native Billings, Mont., he said.
"I love Billings, Mont.," Crowley said, "but the threat of a terrorist act in Billings is less than in New York."
He said New York City has already received "most, if not all" of the $20 billion that the federal government promised to help rebuild the city after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which Crowley lost a first cousin.
Reach reporter James DeWeese at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157, or by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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