This past Nov. 4, Franky Jorge, vice president of operations at GalaFresh Farms in Baldwin, was sworn in as the new chamber president by County Executive Laura Curran at Baldwin’s American Legion Post No. 246.
The Herald reached out to Jorge with a few questions regarding his background, his role in the Baldwin community and plans for the chamber.
Herald: What is your personal relationship with Baldwin and with its business community? Tell us about yourself.
Jorge: I was born in Jamaica, Queens, and lived the majority of my life just a couple of towns down in Malverne. At a young age, I would love to tag along with my father to work and really take in as much of his knowledge as possible. One of the things I learned early on was that giving back to the community is a vital part of being a responsible business owner.
My father served in the Freeport Chamber of Commerce for many years and eventually served as President. When the opportunity to invest into the Baldwin community presented itself, joining the chamber was one of the first things I did, even when we were still in the early construction phase. I am fortunate enough that the community really embraced what we did here at GalaFresh and hopefully GalaFresh will be here for many more years to come.
H: What do you perceive are the strengths of the Baldwin business community? The weaknesses?
J: The main strength of Baldwin businesses is the people. The Baldwin business community consists of a very diverse group of hardworking and dedicated individuals. These individuals are not only hard working in their direct businesses, but we see them all of the time giving back to the community, and that is what really stands out.
When it comes to weaknesses, I can't really name any, but there are some disadvantages we face in the Baldwin Business community, such as extremely high taxes, utility costs, limited parking for many businesses, especially our Grand Ave., Merrick Rd. and Atlantic Ave. businesses. Hopefully in the future we can see improvement in these difficulties.
H: What projects or initiatives do you plan to continue from previous chamber administrations? What new projects or initiatives do you plan to introduce yourself?
J: The previous administration did a tremendous job and I was fortunate to learn so much from Erik Mahler and other past presidents, such as Ginny Foley. There are many things I wish to continue, such as the Veterans Banners and Baldwin Day, and of course, there are some ideas brewing on new and exciting events and projects the board and I are working on.
I will not get into specifics on these until they are finalized. What I will say is that we will continue working on modernizing the chamber, getting our membership promoted digitally through social media and e-mail blasts, upgrading our website and much more.
H: Due to various town, state, and federal projects, Baldwin is said to be about to enter a period of rapid development. What do you see as the chamber's role in all of this?
The chamber’s role in the development of Baldwin is absolutely vital. The Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s main goal is to further the interests of the businesses in this town, and rapid development is key for local businesses to thrive.
We have been in constant communication with various developers and planners, and have given our full support and ideas. We hope to see shovels in the ground very soon, and with it, an increase in clientele for all Baldwin businesses.
H: Baldwin has become more culturally diverse as well as seen great population growth in the last 20 years. How does the chamber plan to address and be responsive to these changes?
J: I believe the chamber has been very responsive to these changes. I am a testament to that. Our membership is very diverse and continues to increase in diversity. The United States, and more specifically, New York was built on this diversity, and Baldwin is going to grow and strengthen with that same diversity.
H: Can you share with us your most memorable anecdote regarding your membership with the chamber?
J: The first time I was invited into the Baldwin chamber board meeting will always be memorable. Before I officially joined the board, I sat in at a meeting to see what I would be getting myself into if I did decide to join.
What I quickly realized is that each board member was passionate about making Baldwin a more beautiful place and making sure the local businesses were well represented. I knew that this was something I definitely wanted to be a part of.