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Boro biz speak with Fed on how to grow economy

The Fed came to Queens last week for a series of discussions with business owners to determine what the economy needs to get back on track.

New York Federal Reserve Bank President Bill Dudley and Executive Vice President Joseph Tracy toured the borough Friday, stopping at several locations from Astoria to College Point to speak with the men and women who create jobs, services and products.

The tour started with a speaking engagement by Dudley before the Queens Chamber of Commerce and other leaders at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing, during which he discussed inflation and other hot-button economic issues. The next stop was aimed at examining the economic development opportunities created by Silvercup Studios in Astoria, followed by a lunch with business leaders in Flushing.

The entourage then stopped in at Crystal Windows and Door Systems in College Point, where they toured the facility and spoke with the company’s vice president, Steve Chen, who made his concerns about the future and his economic needs clear to Tracy. Dudley had to attend an unexpected meeting about Spain’s economy and had to miss the College Point visit.

“We are now the very largest window manufacturer in Queens and New York City. We’re very happy to be in New York, but there are still many challenges here,” Chen said. “We’re not seeing as many large-scale projects as we saw in 2005 and such, but we are starting to see a lot of smaller projects again.”

Bob Nyman, the company’s marketing director, expanded upon those concerns, saying the tight credit market is one of the most serious impediments to the expansion of small and mid-sized businesses in the city.

“Our hope is they’re here to learn about small and mid-sized businesses and what we need in order to foster growth,” he said. “Loosening of credit would be good for businesses and customers. What that actually means is hard to say, and that’s the difficult part.”

Tracy said banks want to return to their bread-and-butter role of funding businesses’ needs, but the economy has not rebounded fully enough for many institutions to feel comfortable enough to open their coffers to many businesses.

“We had one banker at lunch who was trying to underscore the challenges for banks,” Tracy said. “Banks can’t stay in business without making loans, but ... it’s difficult to tell during this period of economic uncertainty whether a business is going to survive and thrive and be able to pay back the loans.”

He said he sees a rosier future for businesses and banks alike, however, and that the credit market should hopefully begin to thaw in coming months.

“There’s still this question of if these are really high-quality loans that are going to be able to be paid back, but hopefully this will become the case more often as we move through this year,” Tracy said.

The final stop on Tracy’s tour was the Jamaica Foreclosure Prevention Services Program, where he discussed loan modifications and other methods for helping clients with foreclosures.

The insights Tracy, Dudley and their associates collected in Queens will be used to help inform economic decisions at the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Tracy said.

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

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