Last Thursday, dozens of the association’s members met at the Clearview Park Golf Course for its annual meeting and open house.
BBA President Ed Probst, who assumed the mantle of leadership from founder Judy Limpert last April, said the organization offers not just a networking arm for local businesses, but a collective voice to the media and local lawmakers.
The business group was instrumental in establishing the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID), supports capital projects, and donates to local charities.
At its annual meeting, Probst confirmed the BBA’s board of directors and offered updates on upcoming events.
“It’s always a great turnout,” he said. “We’re really looking to grow our membership.”
Probst, a BBA member for nearly 17 years, previously had a business on Bell Boulevard. Today, he’s a principal at the Vanguard Insurance Agency on Long Island, but is still active in the Queens business community.
He said some of the challenges that face his members today include high taxes, high real estate prices, and increasing government regulations.
“Everybody knows doing business in New York is always challenging,” he said. “It’s harder to turn a profit.”
A year ago, Probst and a few of his board members surveyed businesses in Bayside to learn what they were most concerned about. The number one answer was parking, he said.
“That’s something that’s very challenging thing to work on, something that takes a lot of collaboration in order to get done,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in that regard.”
The association hosts four quarterly networking and educational events per year. All of its events are free for members, includes dinner and a guest speaker, and are usually hosted at a Bayside business.
Its latest event on March 13 featured an employment lawyer who gave attendees pertinent information on anti-harassment laws.
At its next event on June 6, BBA will invite a speaker to talk about sales training and marketing. The following event in September will have a presentation on anti-stress, and how business leaders can decompress to stay effective.
“We try to diversify,” Probst said. “We try to bring in a relevant speaker and give back to our members.”
The annual meeting featured Eunkyong Choi from the NYC Office of the Taxpayer Advocate and a representative from State Senator John Liu’s office.
Another guest was Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, who offered his take on the economic state of Queens.
“I think the economy is still going full speed ahead, but I’m also worried about the business climate in Queens and New York City,” Grech said. “Our members and businesses in general are getting hammered by all these regulations and taxes.
Grech said he considers the BBA a “trusted partner and friend” of the Queens Chamber. He wants to partner with them moving forward to have a more “powerful voice” for local businesses.
“If Amazon demonstrated anything, it demonstrated that grassroots helped defeat, at least temporarily, Amazon,” he said. “I want to start working from the grasstop, and get the leaders of all these different business associations together on the same page and fight for the same things in Queens County.”
Grech, who has been advocating for Amazon to return to the table to renew talks to bring a campus to Long Island City, said a coalition of businesses, elected officials and unions will continue to work toward that goal.
He said Governor Andrew Cuomo has had “a number of conversations” with senior leadership at the tech giant.
“I would suggest that it’s not over yet,” Grech said.
Before concluding the BBA meeting, Probst reminded members of two big events that are planned for this year. One is the third annual “Day at the Races” on June 20, where members spend a day at Belmont Park.
The other is its annual golf outing, which is set for September 19 at Clearview Park Golf Course. Probst said the event had 106 attendees last year, but they’re aiming for 120 golfers this year.
In his second year as president, Probst said he wants to grow the membership and get the word out that BBA serves the greater Bayside community.
Their membership fee is $150 per year for an individual and $300 for a corporate member.
“Reach out to myself or one of our board members if you’re interested,” he said.