Queens Chamber of Commerce and St. John’s Talk Business

February 3, 2023

At a pregame reception held before the St. John’s University Men’s Basketball team squared off against the Pirates of Seton Hall University, local New York City business leaders, small business owners from Queens County, and senior members of the University talked about business, sports, and the ever-changing business of sports.

Gathered in the cozy Faculty Club on the Queens, NY, campus for the pregame networking event sponsored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce were active members of the Queens Chamber, local small business owners—many of whom are graduates of St. John’s—looking for ways to leverage the power and reach of the Queens Chamber with business opportunities in the borough and beyond.

Founded in 1911, the mission of the Queens Chamber is to foster connections, educate for success, develop/implement programs, and advocate for members’ interests. It represents more than 1,300 companies with over 125,000 Queens-based employees.

In his welcoming remarks, Thomas J. Grech, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, was effusive about the people and possibilities that Queens County provides. “Queens is open for business; we want your business, and we are always looking for ways to harness the diverse talent and the hard-working people of the borough. St. John’s does a fantastic job of attracting students to come to live and learn in Queens—and we want to keep them living and working here when they graduate.”

St. John’s is one of the nation’s most diverse institutions of higher education, enriched by a tapestry of cultures that complement an internationalized curriculum. Its New York City roots also give deep connections to the companies and opportunities found in one of the world’s most globally connected cities.

Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of St. John’s, extended words of welcome. “St. John’s is a business, and just as you invest in your businesses, we invest in our students. We are making a major investment in the health sciences with the construction of our new St. Vincent Health Sciences Center.”

He added, “Continue to look to St. John’s students and graduates when you hire and continue to support, root for, and do business with St. John’s.”

Brian Browne, Associate Vice President of University Communications and Public Affairs, acknowledged the long and collaborative relationship between St. John’s University and the Queens Chamber. “St. John’s is proud to be a contributing member of the Queens Chamber and to work with their leadership, especially Tom Grech, to advance business in the borough. The University, our varied academic programs, and the many ongoing capital projects on campus are just some of the touch points and opportunities for further business development now and in the future.”

Mike Cragg, Athletic Director at St. John’s, then spoke of some of the many ongoing changes in collegiate sports, including policies addressing name, image, and likeness (NIL), a term that describes the means through which college athletes are allowed to receive financial compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness through marketing and other promotional endeavors.

“If you are a business owner, we want to hear from you and share ideas and opportunities to support our student-athletes and their success,” he said.

Concluding the lively event was an appearance by Robert Cornegy, a former member of the New York City Council and Chair of the Council’s Committee on Small Business. Standing six-feet-10-inches tall, Mr. Cornegy was once designated by Guinness World Records as the tallest politician in the world.

Long before he was elected to public office, he played his first year of college basketball under Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON as a backup center on the 1984–85 Final Four team. “Coach Carnesecca and St. John’s taught me as a 17-year-old college kid valuable lessons that I keep with me today,” he said. “I believe in St. John’s and the Queens Chamber; I believe and understand the importance of business, and I applaud you all for sharing those ideals.”