OPINION: Post-Amazon, NYC needs to foster a sense of stability for businesses

Thomas Grech is president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of Queens Chamber

Thomas Grech is president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of Queens Chamber

By Thomas Grech

Special to the Eagle

In the past few weeks we’ve been hearing a lot of “I told you sos” from opponents of Amazon’s move to Queens, who feel as though the news that several tech companies would be adding jobs in New York vindicates their opposition to the project that would have brought 25,000 jobs to Long Island City and generated $27 billion in revenue for the City and State. 

Those celebrations should be paused for a moment and we should all take a long look at the bigger picture. 

New York has a lot of assets that appeal to tech companies. CNBC recently released it’s America’s Top States for Business list, and New York finished in the top-10 for education and number 4 for Technology and Innovation. This is what initially attracted Amazon to our city, and the location in Long Island City gave the company easy access to transportation, including several subway, bus and commuter rail lines, and LaGuardia and JFK airports. 

Unfortunately, for all its assets, New York also has a reputation as a hostile place to do business. In the category of “Business Friendliness,” New York finished 49th. The anti-business sentiment fostered by the vocal opponents of the Amazon deal has added to this unwanted reputation. I fear we’re fast approaching the point where companies will feel as though New York’s liabilities outweigh our strengths, and will take their business elsewhere. 

Organizations like the five borough-wide chambers of commerce go to great lengths just to keep existing businesses with 25-50 employees in our city because we know how important those jobs are to our communities. We see everyday how businesses owners are struggling with burdensome regulations and unfunded mandates. What business leaders and owners need from the city and state is a sense of stability and welcomeness. This is true for businesses of all sizes- from giants like Amazon to your local corner store. 

Folks from across the political spectrum should be concerned that New York is seen as a hostile place to do business. We all want good-paying jobs in our community, and tax revenue to invest in essential public services.

The Amazon deal would have created 25,000 jobs in Queens, and leveraged $3 billion in tax incentives for $27 billion in future revenue. That's a lot of money that could have been spent building new schools and increasing teacher pay, making necessary improvements to conditions in our public housing and constructing more affordable housing, and fixing our broken public transportation system and crumbling infrastructure. 

These are investments that would make New York a better place to live, work and do business, and benefit everyone. But they’re only possible if we have a strong economy. New York has a lot going for it, but if we are to continue creating good jobs, we need to address our weaknesses, and create a more stable and welcoming business climate. 

Thomas Grech is the president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.