As the new president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Andrew Hoan’s goal is vigorous but sustainable economic growth
By Jessica Jones-Gorman
Andrew Hoan was working for Volunteers of America, heading corporate fundraising efforts like Operation Backpack’s outreach to the homeless, when he took a call from the office of Marty Markowitz that would change the course of his career.
“It was around the holidays when the former Borough President called about a local toy drive,” Hoan said. “He was trying to get toys for kids in public housing because he wanted all of the kids in his borough to have a really nice Christmas. I can remember hanging up the phone and just being floored by this request. Why is the Borough President calling for toys? Doesn’t he plan bigger things? It was my first interaction with a public official that left me inspired, and compelled to learn more about the role of local leaders.”
So, Hoan forged a connection with Markowitz’s staff, assisting him with several charitable events and drives. Less than a year later, Hoan joined the Markowitz team.
“My first job was to answer phones and take complaints,” Hoan laughed. “But it was through that position that I learned the depth of people’s problems and how to fix them. Someone would call about their garbage not being collected on 13th Street, for example, and I could make some phone calls and help them get a response. But that was what Marty taught me: Even on the simplest level, you are able to make a difference.”
After a few months of fielding resident complaints, Hoan moved over to urban planning and development before being placed in charge of capital funding. He said that the six years he worked for Markowitz shaped him in numerous ways.
“Marty took every minute of his job seriously and worked around the clock to make Brooklyn a better place,” Hoan said. “Both he and his chief of staff, Carlo Scissura, had such a remarkable vision for the borough and went to great lengths to get things done.”
When Markowitz’s term was ending in 2012, Hoan took an executive role with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, working directly for Carlo Scissura, who became president and CEO of the Chamber in September of 2012. During his tenure, membership grew by roughly 200 percent, to a total of 2,100 members, and the Chamber launched innovative new programs, including Chamber on the Go, Explore Brooklyn, and Brooklyn-Made.
“Over the past several years the organization’s role as an advocate for the borough and its business community has grown substantially,” Hoan said. “And there are so many projects that mean a lot to me personally,” making mention of the Fourth Avenue rezoning and reconstruction.
“It’s the perfect example of how we can work with local offices to come up with a vision and transform something,” Hoan said. “What was once an unsafe high-speed motorway is now much more pedestrian friendly—a place where development is now occurring, and we are very proud of that.”
Under Scissura’s leadership, Hoan was also responsible for planning the revitalization of the historic and long-vacant Bedford-Union Armory, answering the Crown Heights community’s growing demand for new athletic and recreational facilities, event space, and affordable housing and office space.
“I consider myself blessed to have been a part of this type of reform,” Hoan said. “To convert a long-vacant and unused military installation into a facility for the entire community has been an incredible journey.” For Hoan, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that is exactly why he settled here almost two decades ago.
“The reason I came is the reason everyone has: This is a place that captures the imagination and inspires. People from all over the world want to come here because it’s full of opportunity and culture. It’s also obviously a cool place to live because of our diversity, but at the same time very different from Manhattan, in part owing to a strong sense of community.”
After being appointed President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in December, he planned to innovate even further.
“There is a lot of development currently happening in Brooklyn, of course, so it’s a very exciting time,” Hoan said. “There are new office spaces and manufacturing facilities going up and thousands of jobs being created. We’re working on big and bold ideas, like the Brooklyn Queens Connector and city-wide ferry service.”
As president of the fastest-growing Chamber of Commerce in New York State, Hoan said that it is his responsibility to promote economic development across the borough while serving as an advocate for its member businesses.
“My first position here started on November 5, 2012, a few days after Hurricane Sandy had ravaged the city; we visited Deno’s Wonder Wheel, in an amusement park that was just devastated, then into the basements of all of these businesses that were completely decimated,” Hoan said. “We saw the flooding and other damage firsthand, and that’s when I realized what the Chamber can do. We are here to help small businesses during good times and bad; we don’t just help them to expand, but are also there for recovery and assistance… whatever is needed.”
The focus of Hoan’s first few months in his new position is to prepare for the organization’s centennial year (the Chamber will turn 100 in 2018).
“We want to celebrate the past, present, and future of the local economy and of the organization itself,” Hoan said. “We’ve created a five-year strategic plan, a sort of road map that begins with the centennial celebration and continues with the creation of a one-stop office for the Chamber, an economic hub that will be our home, with education rooms, classrooms, and venues for speakers to engage business members.”[On assisting after Hurricane Sandy] “We are here to help small businesses during good times and bad; we don’t just help them to expand and grow, we also are there for recovery and assistance… whatever is needed.”
Hoan is also in the progress of planning a Brooklyn Night in both Albany and Washington D.C., where local businesses can meet with elected officials to show them what the borough is all about.
“This is our chance to showcase all of the food and beverages and other wonderful products that are manufactured right here,” he explained, adding that he also intends to continue the Chamber’s active community role.
“We want to turn to elected officials and other members of the community to help us create a borough-wide blueprint for economic development,” he said. “We value that sort of input—want residents to tell us what they think the borough should become. I also want to know what improvements they want us to invest in…about different opportunities and projects that will further accelerate success.”
And according to the new president, nothing is out of reach.
“We are going to create jobs, invest in new business, and continue to build,” Hoan concluded. “For 100 years, the Chamber of Commerce has existed to support business and make Brooklyn even better. And that’s exactly what we are going to continue to do.”
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
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