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Diaz to host Eco Summit

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Bronx Council on the Arts’ Deidre Scott wants to promote creative industries. Monroe College president Stephen Jerome wants to create jobs. Westchester Square business leader John Bonizio wants to lower taxes. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wants the Bronx to go green collar.

In order to succeed, Scott, Jerome, Bonzio and Diaz Jr. need each other. Enter The Bronx Economic Summit, a daylong Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation event at the New York Botanical Garden on Wednesday, November 18.

Bronx businesspeople have worked separately in disparate neighbors for too long, the borough president said. The time has come, he added, to plan together for the borough.

Panel discussions will address large-scale development, cultural assets, the green economy, unemployment, start-ups, retail corridors, public funds and the Bronx brand.

The keynote speaker will be Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, a New Mexico-based non-profit established to push environmentally-friendly construction. Mazria plans to link unemployment, greenhouse gas emissions and federal investment.

The country is down 1.6 million construction jobs since Wall Street crumbled in 2008 and Bronx unemployment stood at 15.5 percent in October, the state Department of reported. The construction sector will bounce back; why not ensure that it bounces back green? Mazria wants to know. The Brooklyn-born architect thinks more federal money should be invested in private construction.

“If the federal government helps generate jobs, it’ll get a return on its investment in the form of city and state taxes,” he argued.

Scott of Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA), a summit panelist, needs Bronx power brokers to understand that art equals money. It revived SoHo and Chelsea, to some extent Harlem and DUMBO. The BCA Bronx Culture Trolley has added energy to the Grand Concourse and Mott Haven but the creative industries are rarely mentioned on par with manufacturing and healthcare. Not so at the November 18 summit, where Scott will tout partnerships with the new E. 161st Street BID and the businesses of Westchester Square.

Westchester Square business leader John Bonizio, also a panelist, plans to condemn City Hall’s attitude toward retail corridors. Although small businesses account for 85 percent of Bronx jobs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg alienates retail corridor patrons through parking tickets, and then backs big-box developments, Bonizio said. If the November 18 summit begets a plan at odds with City Hall, at least Bronx business leaders will understand the problem, he added.

“I think the borough president should be commended,” Bonizio said. “He listens.”

Jerome of Monroe College, a summit moderator, is wary of a master plan. If the November 18 summit leads only to 500 new jobs, he’ll be thrilled. Jerome thinks that borough heavyweights – the hospitals, the colleges, the cable firms – need to hire Bronx residents. Monroe is ready to train those residents, he said. The Bronx, no longer a welfare borough, wants to work, Jerome explained.

The summit will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free. Visit http://events.boedc.com/ for reservations.

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