Helping Asians leverage buying power

Updated: 2014-06-02 11:38

By Elizabeth Wu in New York (China Daily USA)

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As part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Asian American Federation hosted a citywide Asian Pacific American policy roundtable at the Queens Borough Public Library in Flushing. The discussion highlighted ways Asian-Pacific Americans could leverage their purchasing power to educate and influence corporations and discussed programs that work with entrepreneurs to launch new businesses, the challenges of owning a small business and what elected leaders can do to help small businesses overcome economic downturns in order to flourish and thrive.

The panel began with a welcome by Jo-Ann Yoo, the federation's interim executive director, and keynote remarks by Chinese-American US Congresswoman Grace Meng. New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim and Chinese-American New York City council member Peter Koo also addressed the audience.

The Panelists were Betty Lo, vice-president of community alliances and consumer engagement at Nielson; John Choe, One Flushing director and founder;Agha Muhammad Saleh, business owner and founder of the Asian American Merchants and Neighborhood Alliance; and moderator Howard Shih of the Asian American Federation.

Meng said: "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to enrich our nation and make tremendous contributions to virtually every facet of our society. But as we celebrate the accomplishments, we must also address the ongoing needs and concerns of the AAPI community."

By improving education, immigration reform, assisting small businesses, providing opportunities for economic success and tackling quality of life matters and other important issues, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community can be further strengthened, Meng said.

Council member Koo echoed similar ideas. "We need to put our buying power to use to ensure that those who wish to succeed commercially in our community do so by being respectful to our culture and our linguistic diversity," he said.

Koo described his personal experiences coming to America. "Forty years ago I came to the US to study pharmacy," said Koo. "I went to the pharmacy and said 'Where are our people?' "

Koo also expressed the need for Asian Americans to have equal entitlement in education, work, and business. One sixth of Asian Americans live below the poverty line, he said. "Just because we are doctors, lawyers, engineers they think we are model citizens and don't need the help of the government, but we share the same burden of disease and poverty," he said.

Helping Asians leverage buying power

Choe said up to 30 percent of Asian Americans who live in Queens are poor and suffer from lack of housing and food. "Stereotypes and perceptions portrayed on TV of Asians are not accurate," he said. "We have to get new information out." Ten percent of Asian Americans are jobless and Flushing has one of the greatest concentrations of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese businessmen, said Choe.

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein also talked about passing the dream act as a way to help Asian Americans. Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and New York City Council Member Mark Weprin were also on hand for the event.

During the panel discussion, Agha Muhammad Saleh described his views on undocumented workers. As a small business owner, "We provide employment to undocumented workers because as human beings we have the responsibility to help the undocumented workers, without discrimination, whether they are documented or not," said Saleh.

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 Helping Asians leverage buying power

Congresswoman Grace Meng (center, first row), Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (second from right, first row), New York City Council member Peter Koo (third from right, first row), Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (third from right, second row), New York City Council Member Mark Weprin (fourth from left, second row), Jo-Ann Yoo, interim executive director of the Asian American Federation (second from left, second row) and other officials celebrate the economic contributions of Asian Americans at the Citywide American Planning Association Policy Roundtable at Queens Borough Public Library on May 31. Elizabeth Wu / for China Daily

(China Daily USA 06/02/2014 page2)