The Composite Prototyping Center in Plainview Thursday signed an agreement to become the first regional satellite for a Department of Energy national composites center in Tennessee.

The agreement positions the regional center, a unit of the Long Island Forum for Technology, to compete for almost a quarter-billion dollars in contracts and grants from the public and private sectors, CPC director Leonard Poveromo said.

Composite materials will play a pivotal role in the aerospace and automotive industries, where their strength and light weight can "improve efficiency [and] avoid greenhouse gas emissions," Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary at the DOE, said in remarks at the signing ceremony in Plainview.

The agreement with the DOE's Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tennessee, runs for three years, with possible extensions if goals are met.

Rep. Steve Israel likened Long Island's role in developing composites to its storied place in aviation history.

"This is the equivalent of 'Roy' Grumman sitting in his garage," the Huntington Democrat said, referring to the origins of aerospace manufacturer Grumman Corp., once Long Island's largest employer.

Poveromo said the CPC already has more than a dozen companies using its advanced equipment to produce composite parts.

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John K. Smith, president of employee-owned Cox & Company in Plainview, said using CPC equipment to fabricate parts for de-icing systems used on business jets is economical and allows for "tweaks on the fly."

"It's a great thing for us," he said.

Composites are created when two materials are combined to create a new product with superior properties. Modern composites usually refer to reinforced plastics like carbon fiber.

Thursday, a team from Patchogue-based Nordan Composite Technologies, which makes parts for motor sports, was making a composite hood for an Aston Martin race car at the CPC.

Poveromo, a former Grumman engineer, said the 25,000-square-foot Composite Prototyping Center, which received $15 million in state funding, would attract businesses throughout the Northeast seeking expertise and advanced equipment for creating composites.