LI officials make case for state's tech aid

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Long Island is seeking state help to transform its economy from one built on defense factories and commuter jobs to technology businesses.

Local officials made the case Friday that Nassau and Suffolk counties should be among two regions awarded $25 million each in state aid this year. The Island is competing with Buffalo, Syracuse and the Adirondacks -- all winners of a 2011 competition for development dollars.

A panel of state agency commissioners and think-tank experts will recommend the 2012 winners to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Four judges joined Cuomo Friday for a tour of two laboratories and a manufacturer that all received aid last year.

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council has asked the state for $43.3 million in tax credits and grants for 42 projects. If the help is forthcoming, they predicted it would be matched by $1.1 billion in private and federal money. They said 5,404 jobs would be preserved or created.

"You have the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad -- we're the iRegion," Kevin Law, council vice chairman and president of the Long Island Association business group, told Cuomo and the judges. "We're converting the research out of our great research institutions . . . into commercial products and jobs."

Two of three stops on the bus tour emphasized this point. Cuomo and the judges spoke with cancer researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and walked through a chemistry lab at Farmingdale State College that's used by drugmaker OSI, which began at Cold Spring Harbor.

Council members, during a 30-minute pitch, touted programs at Farmingdale State and New York Institute of Technology to produce more engineers. They outlined proposals for research centers at Winthrop-University Hospital and Stony Brook University.

Cuomo said New York State "is badly behind" California and Massachusetts in commercializing scientific inventions.

However, two of the judges questioned whether the Long Island council's plan does enough to help the poor and people who don't want technological careers. "Not everyone can be an engineer," said RoAnn Destito, commissioner of the state Office of General Services.

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Council vice chairman Stuart Rabinowitz agreed, saying the plan is meant to "even the playing field for all Long Islanders."

Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University, also said the council had preserved or created more jobs -- 6,128 -- than any of the state's other regions. "Invest in Long Island," he told the judges, "and you get more bang for the buck."

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