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ON Oct. 24, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and I attended the first ever city-sponsored food manufacturer business expo and networking event where more than 100 New York City based immigrant food manufacturing businesses connected with brokers, buyers and wholesalers from the food industry.

The expo also marked the beginning of a competition for immigrant entrepreneurs to participate in an international trade show.

The competition is open to New York City-based immigrant food manufacturers, with four companies to win a booth sponsored by the Economic Development Corporation in the National Association of Specialty Food Trade Summer Fancy Food Show, in June 2012, in Washington, D.C.

The international show is expected to attract more than 15,000 buyers from around the world to source products for their stores and restaurants for the year to come.

When immigrants come to New York City, they enrich our culture and our communities — but they also build our economy.

Entrepreneurs from around the world come here to start businesses and create jobs, and we must do everything we can to support their quest to build better lives.

Food manufacturing is a growing sector of the city’s economy, and the expo will further strengthen the connections between the established industry and new start-ups.

This expo is the result of both the mayor’s immigrant entrepreneur initiatives and the speaker’s FoodWorks initiative, which is part of a larger effort to grow the local food economy by supporting the city’s food manufacturers. 

Over 100 New York City-based food manufacturers attended the expo, in order to develop skills to expand their business and access new markets.

The event included networking opportunities with buyers, distributors, suppliers and industry experts; as well as technical assistance workshops led by professionals in the field.

Over 19,000 New Yorkers work in over 900 food manufacturing firms, and about 70 percent of those working within the food manufacturing industry are foreign-born.

The competition to participate in the National Association of Specialty Food Trade Summer Fancy Food Show is designed to help address challenges faced by local food manufacturers, including limited resources to plan for growth; difficulty in fully accessing local, regional and national markets; and access to technical assistance services.

In preparation for the Fancy Food Show, the four winning companies will receive promotional services, as well as expert marketing and technical assistance to help them refine their pitch, display and business plan to successfully obtain and fulfill larger contracts.

New York City’s immigrant population has more than doubled since 1970 — from roughly 1.4 million to 3 million — and immigrants now represent nearly 40 percent of the city’s population and 43 percent of the city’s labor force.

Immigrants are a significant and important piece of the city’s entrepreneurial economy: Immigrants make up 49 percent of all self-employed workers in the city compared to 25 percent in New York State and only 12 percent in the U.S.

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