Hicksville optical lens firm to relocate to Central Islip

Universal Photonics' president Neil Johnson at his office Universal Photonics' president Neil Johnson at his office in Hicksville on April 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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A Hicksville-based manufacturer of materials for specialty optical lenses is relocating to Central Islip after the town lured the company with financial incentives.

Universal Photonics Inc. is the latest company to benefit from the Islip Industrial Development Agency's aggressive pursuit of businesses to move into town, with jobs and funding in tow.

In 2013, the IDA brought 15 companies to the town that have invested a projected total of $179.8 million, retained 1,708 jobs and created 542 more, according to town officials.

"This administration has really been pushing new jobs and growth," said town Councilman Anthony Senft.

After outgrowing its current site, Universal Photonics had considered moving to South Carolina, said IDA Executive Director William Mannix. Islip instead stepped in with a benefit package of property tax abatements and exemptions from mortgage recording and sales taxes, worth an estimated $689,000 over 10 years.

The company now plans to spend about $3.8 million to buy, renovate and equip a 55,000-square-foot facility at 85 Jetson Lane in Central Islip. The company will also retain 60 high-tech jobs locally, according to town officials.

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"They were really very good in understanding our business and our market. It was a refreshing experience to have that," said Photonics president Neil Johnson speaking of the IDA. "We love New York and we love the Island. We want to stay here but we also want to be globally competitive."

The IDA plans to hold a public hearing on the project in the coming months.

Mannix, who has been executive director since 1992, said the IDA can sometimes help boost business activity among companies already located in Islip.

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He cited a recent agreement in which the IDA helped Ronkonkoma-based Wenner Breads receive flour shipments more efficiently through the Brookhaven Rail Terminal in Yaphank.

"It's another example of the relationships that we build," Senft said.

The IDA played a role in bringing Islip's biggest private employer to town. In the 1980s, vitamin manufacturer NBTY Vitamins, also known as Nature's Bounty, laid the groundwork for what would eventually become a multimillion-dollar business employing more than 2,000 people in the company's locations around Islip.

A more recent success story was BE Aerospace. Mannix said the aviation firm's lighting division was set to leave Long Island for Seattle before the IDA persuaded the company to stay in Bohemia, keeping 154 local jobs and growing another 30 jobs.

Mannix said the town is now seeing a trend in generic pharmaceutical companies moving into Islip. "The potential for growth in that industry is huge," he said.

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"We are as business-friendly as you get," Mannix said of the IDA's approach.

Senft said that the IDA stimulating job growth in Islip was the best way to "help our community."

"Our goal is to bring in as many high-paying jobs as possible," Senft said. "Government doesn't fix the economy. Entrepreneurs fix an economy."

 

Companies lured by Islip IDA

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The Islip IDA has helped lure these companies to the town or helped them expand:

Sysco

Invagen

Alcan Packaging

Whitson's Foods

Fisher Scientific

Ultimate Game Sports

Source: Town of Islip

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