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Cuomo: Long Island council must pick one key industry for extra state aid

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to supporters at a rally for him and other elected officials at the IBEW Local 25 union hall in Hauppauge on Oct. 12, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has asked the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and nine other councils across the state to each designate one key industry for extra state business aid, officials said Thursday.

No two regions can designate the same industry, the officials said at a meeting of the local council in Melville. Other industries could receive aid, but the designated ones would be eligible for more.

Later, Kevin Law, the council's co-vice chairman and president of the Long Island Association, said the Island's chosen industry could be biotechnology/life sciences.

"In our strategic plan of four years ago, we talked about building the innovation economy," he said in an interview. "We've created a group to look at this, and life sciences has been suggested."

Each council must develop a strategy for expanding its designated industry.

The initiative is potentially controversial because the councils have striven since Cuomo created them in 2011 to steer aid to multiple industries. The Long Island council has boosted agriculture, pharmaceuticals and education, among others.

The same industry often serves as the economic mainstay of several regions, as farming does upstate.

"We don't want overlapping industry clusters between regions," Matt Watson, deputy director for science, technology and innovation at Empire State Development, said in Melville. Empire oversees the councils.

The initiative is part of the fifth annual competition for up to $750 million in state tax credits and grants. Long Island could win up to $105 million and a minimum of $90 million.

The industry-cluster mandate sparked discussion at the LI council meeting.

"Just because you aren't in the [designated] cluster doesn't mean you aren't important" to the economy, said Stuart Rabinowitz, council co-vice chairman and Hofstra University president.

Ryan Silva, the Empire State Development official responsible for the councils, agreed, saying, "No percentage of the award [of state business aid] is guaranteed for the cluster."

Minutes later, advocates for the fishing and aerospace industries made pitches for why their sectors should be designated for more state support.

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