Plan looks to regain LI's high-paying jobs

October 26, 2011 by JAMES T. MADORE / james.madore@newsday.com

A meeting of the Long Island Economic Development

Long Island's economic future lies in a diverse mix of industries, many of them technology-oriented, and a skilled workforce able to respond to change, local leaders said in a draft development plan to be released this week.

Regaining the high-paying jobs lost from the defense industry in the 1990s, the leaders said, will require growth in advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and health care, homeland security, information technology and clean energy. The companies may be smaller than Grumman Corp., once the region's dominant employer, but will benefit from collaborations with research institutions such as Brookhaven National Laboratory, the leaders said.

The draft plan by the Long Island Economic Development Council, shown to Newsday, lays out a five-year strategy for creating jobs. The document will likely be revised based on public comments made at two hearings scheduled for next week.

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Stuart Rabinowitz, co-vice chairman of the 22-member council and Hofstra University's president, said he hoped the plan would foster actions that "improve the lives of every single resident. . . . We have to replace Grumman. We lost tons of good paying jobs."

Ultimately the plan will identify up to 10 big development projects that could potentially "transform the economy," though those projects haven't been selected yet. More than 40 applications requesting a total of $600 million have been received, including those for redevelopment of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Heartland mini-city in Brentwood.

The final plan is due to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Nov. 14 and will compete with nine others for a portion of $200 million in state tax credits and grants. The plan also will help determine which of 374 smaller building projects that the council recommends will vie for $800 million in state aid during 2011-12.

The plan, "A New Economy for a New Long Island," serves multiple purposes. It introduces state leaders to Nassau and Suffolk counties, their assets, weaknesses and future challenges. The draft offers ways to jump-start growth by identifying areas where investment is needed, such as worker training, affordable housing and mass transit.

While emphasizing technology companies, the council called for helping farms tap into the burgeoning market for locally grown food and replenishment of fishing stocks, particularly scallops. The leaders also emphasized the importance of protecting beaches, historic downtowns and open space -- key factors in luring tourists who spent $4.6 billion here last year.

In what the council described as a "holistic" approach to job creation, the draft plan stipulates an end to racial segregation and improved educational opportunities for new immigrants.

There is an "economic imperative of addressing social issues . . . to improve the lagging skills of many immigrant and other minority students who are projected to comprise a larger and larger share of the workforce," the council wrote.

The public and council members have until Nov. 3 to offer revisions to the draft plan, and Long Island Association president Kevin Law, council co-vice chairman, predicted there would be "significant changes. . . . This is a first step."

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