The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is packing up its Downtown Brooklyn office and relocating to Sunset Park’s Industry City in mid-July — a move the organization’s head says will bring the group closer to its constituency.
“My constituency is out there in the neighborhoods all over this borough,” said Randy Peers, president and chief executive officer of the business-boosting group, “and we need to be closer to that.”
The move comes after an especially active year for the business promoter, which worked to keep storefronts open through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing loans and grants, among other initiatives, to aid Brooklyn’s businesses in their recovery.
“It has been quite an extraordinary year for the Chamber,” Peers told Brooklyn Paper. “The pandemic forced us, through business recovery, to get to every corner of the borough.”
The Chamber’s new location in Industry City’s Building 3 will bring the organization and its staffers closer to the types of businesses they can best cater to, Peers said, as the waterfront space serves as more of a hub for small business than the more commercialized Downtown Brooklyn location the group has called home for more than a century.
“Industry City being the center of the creative economy here in Brooklyn, representing more on the small business side of the economy, is really more in tune with the kind of Chamber we’ve become and the businesses we serve on a daily basis” Peers said. “For us, it was a really good fit.”
Along with better access to small businesses, Industry City provides the networking group an opportunity for collaboration and better outreach through the Innovation Lab — the complex’s own career services center which Peers said the business group plans to make use of.
“I think one of the biggest advantages also is just the amenities that we are going to be able to access,” Peers said. “We will be part of the Innovation Lab and really concentrate some of our staffing and workforce development services in partnership with the other groups that operate out of the Innovation Lab.”
The Chamber of Commerce’s new digs — ripe with shops, food, and fun at Industry City — will help retain talent at the chamber, as the increasingly-young staff is attracted to “campus-type” spaces, the chamber’s president said.
“For them, they want to be in a vibrant, creative campus-type environment,” Peers told Brooklyn Paper. “Between the food courts and the event, and the opportunities to interact and collaborate and coordinate across businesses.”
To be a good neighbor, the Chamber will launch a special membership program for fellow tenants — that will include a mix of on-site programming for Industry City tenants, promotions on the chamber’s media channels, and access to the chamber’s events at the complex.
The business-boosting agency will also host their annual trade show at the campus, which is expected to bring 400 attendees and can help raise awareness of tenant businesses.
Along with the new types of services they offer, Peers said the chamber’s move to Industry City fits with his mission of modernizing the organization to provide the tools that businesses need to be successful in today’s world.
“I have this funny saying we put out there, not your grandfather’s chamber of commerce,” Peers said. “Chambers are generally old-school models of business associations, and what I’ve tried to do coming here… was really to transform our chamber to a modern-day chamber that is responsive to new [consumer trends] in terms of serving the business community.”
Peers, who took over the agency in September of 2019, says the modernization plan was put in superdrive when the pandemic hit and they quickly needed to adapt their services to fit the needs of businesses that faced shutdowns and changing regulations.
“And then the pandemic hit, and we kind of even accelerated that process,” the chamber’s president said.
The space will be an increase of 30 percent from their current location at 10,200 square feet and is outfitted with an open floor plan, a high-tech conference room that can accommodate 60-plus people and hybrid in-person and virtual meetings, as well as a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Museum that the public can visit to learn about the business-boosting group’s long history of advocating for borough merchants.
“We are going to do a chamber museum too, which I am really excited about because really the chamber has such an extraordinary history,” Peers said. “We are one of the oldest business associations in New York City if not the oldest being around 103 years and it will be nice celebrating that history.”
And Peers said he hopes the chamber will one day celebrate another 100-year history in their new location in the growing and thriving Sunset Park development.
“We’re just now looking forward to setting the history for the next 100 years,” he said.