CONEY ISLAND — Randy Peers, the new president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, laid out an ambitious agenda as he spoke at the organization’s annual dinner on Wednesday, outlining plans to establish a political action committee, embrace technology and set up micro-lending programs for fledgling business owners.
“We definitely are not your grandfather’s chamber of commerce,” he told a crowd of 400 chamber members, elected officials and civic leaders in the ballroom at Gargiulo’s in Coney Island.
Peers vowed that under his tenure, the chamber would offer full-throated support to entities like Industry City, which, he said, create jobs and are dedicated to economic development.
Peers, who became president in September, said the chamber would offer micro-lending programs to assist small business owners in gaining a foothold in a fast-moving economy. He noted that 84 percent of businesses in Brooklyn are small businesses that employ fewer than 10 workers.
“For those of you who know me, I’m a builder,” Peers said during a PowerPoint presentation called “Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce — Vision 2020 and Beyond.”
Peers announced that the chamber will establish the Brooklyn Free Enterprise PAC to give the organization the ability to amplify its message. “Advocacy is where the rubber meets the road,” he said.
The chamber will make use of technology to move Brooklyn’s economy forward, he said. “You cannot fear technology but rather leverage technology to create a new chamber for a new age,” he said.
In his presentation, Peers noted that “much has changed” in the borough over the past decade and that there are “new industries driving our economy.”
Some of the most dramatic changes can be found in technology, real estate and the arts.
Another new driver of the economy is tourism. “Folks, we’re a tourist destination now. Fifteen million people visit our borough every year,” Peers said.
While Peers is new to the president’s role, he has a long history with the chamber and served as a vice president of economic development several years ago.
He has a lengthy resume as a leader in civic life and in the non-profit sector. He served several terms as chairperson of Community Board Seven in Sunset Park and is the former CEO of Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), a workforce development organization that offers young adults education and job training.
A few years ago, Peers moved to Pennsylvania to serve as president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. But the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors lured him back to the borough.
The dinner had light-hearted moments. At one point, Peers proudly held up the New York-Penn League championship trophy won this year by the Brooklyn Cyclones. Gary Perone, the team’s assistant general manager, brought the trophy to Gargiulo’s.
The chamber, which was founded in 1918, has more than 2,200 members, according to its website.
Among the new president’s plans: sponsoring an energy summit to discuss renewable energy and wind power; setting up focus groups; writing a white paper on business issues and sending it to lawmakers; working more closely with minority, women and immigrant business owners and establishing a Brooklyn Professionals Committee.
Peers also outlined his “Meds and Eds” initiative, in which the chamber would meet with leaders of hospitals and colleges, as well as representatives of Business Improvement Districts.
“The chamber can bring people to the table,” he said.