Three winners of the 2007 "40 Under 40" awards presented by

Long Island Business News - "the ones to watch," says the magazine - look

ahead at the local economy.

As a professional event planner whose success stems from my ability to network

throughout Long Island's various business circles, I am concerned that as the

economy tightens, small-business owners and managers will retrench like

frightened turtles into their shells. Too often I hear company decision makers

say they are cutting back on the number of networking events they attend or

host with other businesses because of cost-cutting or concerns about where the

economy is going. If anything, these people should do just the opposite: The

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best way to counter declining sales is to widen one's potential customer base,

and the best way to do that is to get out and meet new people.

Of real concern to me as a 30-something business owner is the lack of

action by local elected officials to stem the loss of my contemporaries.

According to the Long Island Association, the number of residents between the

age of 20 and 34 in Nassau and Suffolk counties declined by 128,248 in the

1990s.

Long Island's municipalities need to create affordable housing as well as

nurture a social and cultural environment more attuned to the interests of

young adults. Thriving downtown nightlife with apartments over storefronts and

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mixed-use residential-commercial complexes - along the lines of what they are

trying to create in Patchogue Village - should be the rule rather than the

exception.

After all, the brightest businessperson in the world producing the greatest

gizmo or service area cannot do it by herself. Small businesses and large

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businesses alike need people to grow. Without growth there is a death, and if

Long Island keeps losing its young folk businesses both small and large are

doomed.