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Island Park's first Black Chamber of Commerce 2nd V.P. aims to bring diversity

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Upon becoming the first Black business owner to serve as second vice president of the Island Park Chamber of Commerce, Joe Manning said it was just the beginning of his quest to bring diversity to the chamber.

“I feel proud — not just to be African-American; I’m just proud, period,” Manning said. “I attended meetings waiting for my opportunity, and now it’s here, and I’m going to get some of these local businesses to join. There’s going to be some other things going on. With diversity in a community, different things happen.”

Manning, who was voted into the position by the five-member chamber board on April 13, is a partner and vice president of sales and marketing for Mega Business Systems, which moved from Whitestone, Queens, to Long Beach Road in Island Park in 2019. MBS, founded in 2005, has two other locations, in Rochester and Mount Laurel, N.J., and it will soon expand as far as Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Soon after coming to Island Park, Manning said he wanted to join the chamber to foster its growth and network. Now, as second vice president, he said, he hopes to help other businesses and partner with other chambers, including in Long Beach, where he’s from, and Oceanside, as well as the county’s African American Chamber of Commerce. In his role, Manning is tasked with increasing chamber membership and generating revenue by developing marketing strategies and ideas. Mark Berman is the current chamber vice president, while Barbra Ru-bin-Perry is the president. She called Manning “a real asset.”

“I’m de-lighted that he’s part of the chamber and that he’s such an active member,” she said. “He has already introduced new businesses to our chamber and intends to bring more, which I really like. Joe’s a real go-getter.”

With coronavirus restrictions easing, Rubin-Perry said she was looking to increase membership, as well as chamber diversity, with Manning’s help.

“I welcome diversity to the chamber,” she said. “I would like the chamber to really represent the businesses in the community as closely as possible. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad that he’s a member, and an active member. I invite all the businesses in Island Park to join the chamber. The more we have, and obviously the more diverse we are, the more useful we are to each other.”

Manning said he planned to reach out to local businesses owned by people of color to join, including a barber shop, deli and nail salon. “I’m here to bring unity      . . .,” he said. “I came to bring my business here, and I’m going to be here for a long time. This business is growing.”

Manning said that community outreach was also one of his major goals. He said his business and the chamber partnered for a Thanksgiving turkey drive. He added that his business is a vendor for the Village of Island Park, and it meant a great deal to him that Mayor Michael McGinty and the village board trusted the firm to handle their needs.

“Eventually we’re going to benefit from each other and learn something different,” he said. “I just want to do some good business with some good people.”

Manning said he operates with three mottos: to not get angry about what one allows to happen; nothing is constant except for change; and iron sharpens iron.

“My goal is for everyone to win,” he said. “I want everybody to win.”