The Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, has hired Stony Brook University professor John A. Rizzo as its chief economist to analyze the ups and downs of local jobs numbers, housing prices and commerce.
Rizzo specializes in the economics of health care, which is among Long Island's largest employment sectors and drives roughly 20 percent of local economic output. He officially assumes the part-time position on Sept. 1 and will continue to teach at Stony Brook, where he has worked since 2004.
"He is really going to be a great resource for Long Island and the business community," said Kevin Law, president of the LIA.
Rizzo replaces Pearl Kamer, who retired in April after 50 years of studying Long Island's evolution from a New York City bedroom community. He assumes the post as the region's once-booming defense industry fades, Nassau and Suffolk counties struggle to recover from the recession, low-paying jobs increase and the region recovers from superstorm Sandy.
Officials have long hoped Long Island's research facilities would trigger a local boom in high-tech start-up companies to replace lucrative jobs lost in the defense industry's demise. But the movement remains nascent. And while the real estate market is improving, homes continue to sell at steep discounts along the South Shore, where Sandy laid waste to scores of neighborhoods.
Rizzo, 56, was born near Boston, grew up in New Jersey and lives in Port Jefferson. He has a doctorate in economics from Brown University and taught at Yale, Cornell and Ohio State universities before joining Stony Brook's economics department.
"My wife and I have a long-term interest in the Island," Rizzo said, "and I thought this looked like an exciting opportunity."