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Merchants see the future

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The newly formed Bronx Merchant Coalition held their first meeting on Wednesday, March 4, sharing ideas and visions for the future.

Representatives from each merchant association found this meeting to be a positive one, pushing forward change in a productive manner.

“This makes sense and is long overdue because each of the merchant groups has to go through a learning curve and here the coalition provides the assistance and guidance each groups needs to remain on the same page together,” said Robert Ruggiero, president of the Morris Park Merchant Association.

Chaired by Bob Bieder, of the Castle Hill Merchant Association, the meeting concluded with three main proposals.

“We started working on ideas for the stimulus package, some of the money will be distributed by state legislators,” said Bieder. “We are asking for a portion be set aside for small businesses to receive lines of credit for up to $ 200,000 at a low interest. Ninety percent of Bronx businesses are small businesses, and if we are to maintain the economy and save jobs, small businesses must thrive.”

The coalition reached out to Assemblyman Michael Benedetto for assistance with their request.

“We are looking into that, and if this can be done I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Benedetto. “With the stimulus package there are still a lot of question marks, but we are going to be working on that and hopefully bring some of that money into our district. In many cases small businesses are the backbone of our economy and something has to be done for them.”

Secondly, each economic corridor will be conducting a survey to determine the most pressing economic challenges it faces. Following this, each merchant association will rate or ‘grade’ the elected officials that represent them for all of the topics brought up on the survey. “This grading process will enable us to give constructive feedback to the electeds,” said Beider.

Finally the group will request that any elected official running for office address the coalition.

“The coalition is an apolitical group, we don’t care what party you’re a member of,” said Beider, “we just want to know what the issues are and how they will handle what is important to the small businesses.”

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