At Asian Americans for Equality, we have always believed in the importance of equitable economic development. The organization was, in fact, founded in 1974 to fight for good jobs at a construction site in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Four decades later, we remain dedicated to fostering job opportunities through small business creation and workforce training.

In the second part of our series leading up to AAFE’s 10th Annual Community Development Conference, we’re taking a look at some of the efforts now underway to generate good jobs and to create more opportunity for entrepreneurs in the communities we serve.

When hundreds of community leaders gather for the conference Oct. 25 at NYU’s Kimmel Center, we will be talking about the need to simultaneously address New York’s housing crisis as well as economic development in immigrant communities. Affordable housing is essential — but so is making sure that our neighbors are provided with all of the tools to better their lives.

This is why AAFE and our partners devoted so much time this year to working with neighborhoods in Queens to strengthen commercial corridors. Our efforts have concentrated on bolstering existing businesses, creating a strong environment for entrepreneurship and leading community-wide planning initiatives.

Thanks to a Neighborhood 360°  grant from New York City’s Department of Small Business Services, our organization along with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and the Flushing Business Improvement District greatly expanded our services to businesses in Downtown Flushing. The grant came on the heels of a Community District Needs Assessment which engaged neighborhood stakeholders through focus groups and individual surveys. We formed a local steering committee to develop a marketing plan for Flushing’s vibrant and diverse businesses. Just a few weeks ago, a dynamic new website (Flushing Fantastic) was launched to support all types of shops, cultural venues, restaurants, hotels and historic landmarks.

Meanwhile, AAFE continues to lead Flushing 2050, along with a broad community-wide coalition, a grassroots visioning project aimed at addressing long-term quality of life issues in the neighborhood. We have also collaborated with the Department of Small Business Services on a Commercial District Needs Assessment on Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens. Local stakeholders are helping to create a vision for the commercial area in their own community.

While many of these initiatives were launched in the past year or two, AAFE’s commitment to economic development is well established. Our small business affiliate, Renaissance Economic Development Corporation, has been dedicated to providing low-interest loans and counseling services to start-up businesses for more than 20 years.  Just in the past fiscal year, Renaissance provided 108 loans and deployed $4.2 million in capital into the local economy.

At AAFE’s Community Development Conference, we’re looking forward to sharing this year’s successes and lessons learned, exchanging ideas with our counterparts in other organizations and looking ahead to the coming year’s challenges.

An afternoon panel discussion will be devoted to economic development in today’s immigrant workforce. It will be led by Lena Afridi from te Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development. Panelists include: Christine Auyeung of the Robin Hood Foundation, Brian Chen of the Chinese American Planning Council, Christian Gonzalez-Rivera of Center for an Urban Future, Helen Ho from The Biking Public Project and Ivy Li of AAFE.

AAFE’s 2017 Community Development Conference takes place Oct. 25 at NYU’s Kimmel Center.

For more details please visit the conference website. If you would like to register, please contact:  crystal_feng@aafe.org.