As an accountant and new president of the Farmingdale-based networking organization Advancement for Commerce, Industry & Technology, Thomas Murray has a unique vantage point on the Long Island business landscape. In addition to heading the 500- member ACIT, Murray, 58, is managing partner of the accounting firm Albrecht, Viggiano, Zureck & Co.
Over ACIT's 50-year history, its networking events have helped Long Island transform from a defense-related economy to a diversified business landscape, Murray said.
What's the Long Island business climate like right now?
It's a great opportunity for businesses. People can buy real estate -- it's much less expensive. They can finance it with very low interest rates. There are a lot of opportunities in the mergers and acquisitions area, and if you're an entrepreneur and you're willing to take certain risks, I think this could be looked back on one day as a great period of opportunity.
What's one problem facing the Island's economy?
I heard a panel say that Long Island has to act more like a region and not be competing with itself; you know, Nassau versus Suffolk, one township versus another. We have to learn to attract businesses here as a region and not just steal them from one another.
What's your goal as president of ACIT?
To increase the number of active members . . . getting some younger people involved and seeing areas where we may be underrepresented.
Through ACIT and AVZ, you've seen businesses both thrive and fail. How do the survivors gain business?
Referrals from other satisfied customers . . . the whole networking concept. I've seen companies that really go out of their way to build a sales force and to sell internationally. About 25 years ago, our firm joined an international organization of accounting firms called BKR International, which has about 150 firms around the world. If our clients need assistance in London or in Australia or in China, we can turn to one of the other BKR members. It helps us compete with larger CPA firms.
As a partner at AVZ, what are you seeing?
The end of 2012 had a flurry of activity that I had never seen in 36 years, because of the uncertainty of what the tax code was going to look like after the "fiscal cliff." So our clients . . . took the opportunity to transfer business interests maybe from one generation to the next.
Your firm just released a Long Island Economic Survey and Opinion Poll. What's the overall outlook?
People think we've hit bottom and things are starting to get better . . . 50 percent of respondents project an increase in revenue in 2013. We have more companies looking to hire people than let people go in 2013.
NAME: Thomas Murray, president of Advancement for Commerce, Industry & Technology in Farmingdale.
WHAT IT DOES: "Our mission is to champion business development by providing a quality network and a variety of forums where members can build successful relationships, create business opportunities and remain competitive in a rapidly changing world."
ROLE: Executive director