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SE Queens pols hail new export center

A decade ago, 157-11 Rockaway Blvd. in Jamaica was an abandoned former tire repair shop some neighbors worried would crumble to the ground if anyone set foot in it. Tall weeds, huge piles of trash and illegally dumped materials filled the yard, which also held an old, dilapidated shed.

On Friday, elected officials and business leaders gathered at the location to celebrate the culmination of a years-long effort to turn the site into an economic development machine.

Hailing from across southeast Queens, the dignitaries gathered at the rejuvenated site, in a quiet cement and grass expanse that replaced the filth and mess, to cut the ribbon on the brand-new Jamaica Export Centre, a long-awaited project poised to bring jobs and businesses to the area.

“We have an opportunity now to have an incubator in our community not only to beautify the community, but also to provide economic development and jobs for our residents,” state Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway) said at the event. “The place where we’re sitting now was awful-looking, it wasn’t developed, it was an old, rundown house .... What we’re seeing now in this community is a transformation.”

Located just a short drive from John F. Kennedy International Airport, the modern, 8,000-square-foot center will have the ability to incubate eight export and air freight forwarding businesses with a focus on women- and minority-owned businesses, providing them with a document center and employment and commercial services.

Built under the leadership and vision of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce by using some public funding, the center is a new opportunity to take advantage of the advantageous location of southeast Queens, the speakers said.

Jamaica is so close to the airport, yet often residents never receive any of the benefits such a proximity can provide, Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) said. The export facility will enable more southeast Queens residents to reap the rewards of international trade, he said.

“We’re going to be involved in the importing and exporting that goes on in the airport,” he said. “There will be young business owners who will grow with the airport and we can only grow for it.”

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) led the event, introducing the speakers and extolling the virtues of the project. At the conclusion of the speeches, the assembled leaders made their way to the back gate of the property for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, followed by a barbecue in the center’s yard.

“We will be able to partner with the airport to make life better for our children,” Meeks said as he wrapped up the remarks. “It’s a community coming together to make life better for our residents.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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