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Panel of local leaders to devise COVID-19 recovery plan for LI's economy

Long Island Regional Economic Development Council co-vice chairmen

Long Island Regional Economic Development Council co-vice chairmen Stuart Rabinowitz, left, and  Kevin Law and  Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairwoman of the REDCs,  on Feb. 23, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A panel of local business executives, university presidents, union leaders and nonprofit officials has been directed by New York State to come up with a plan for Long Island’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011, will suggest ways to boost business activity and hiring. It also will recommend which building projects should receive quick governmental approvals because they will employ hundreds of construction workers, council leaders said Tuesday.

They said the council will look for remedies to the economic and technological disparities of minority communities that came to light during the pandemic and identify ways to assist downtowns that are seeing higher numbers of vacant storefronts.

The Long Island council’s recovery plan is among 10 being developed by Regional Economic Development Councils across the state. The plans are due to Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, by Sept. 25.

ESD CEO Eric Gertler said the REDCs are being asked “to identify which sectors of their economy have proved resilient, what is working, and what needs to be retooled given the new environment. This kind of strategic planning will help us ensure that the regions are well positioned to recover and grow as we face the ‘new normal,’ ” he told Newsday.

During the Long Island council’s 90-minute virtual meeting on Tuesday, co-vice chairmen Kevin Law and Stuart Rabinowitz said the economic development plan devised in 2011 and updated annually is still relevant but needs tweaks to address the coronavirus-induced recession.

“Our first plan was conceived as the Great Recession was ending — but there are a lot of strategies that will continue,” such as capitalizing on local research institutions and growing the biotechnology industry, said Law, president of the Long Island Association business group.

Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University, agreed, saying the biggest change to the council’s agenda this year is the absence of state grants and tax credits because of the soaring state budget deficit. “We’re not distributing funds at this time,” he said.

Long Island has been a big winner six out of nine times in the annual REDC competition. The local council has secured $727 million for 885 projects.

The funding has gone to redevelopment projects such as Wyandanch Rising, colleges, new sewers, worker training programs, and equipment to help modernize factories.

“We’re really trying to do so much less than we’ve ever done before and that’s going to be very hard and disappointing,” said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul, chairwoman of the REDCs, adding the state needs $500 billion from the federal government to make up for lost tax revenue and COVID-19 expenses.

Hochul and others said the council should address the lack of child care for working parents, which has been “exacerbated” by the pandemic because some day care centers have closed permanently.

Hochul said, “The economy doesn’t get going again until we have children back in school and the key is child care.”

Council members predicted the Long Island economy would rebound, though they didn’t state a time frame.

“I think it will come roaring back once no one is frightened or scared” about leaving their home, said Harvey Kamil, vice chairman of vitamin manufacturer The Nature’s Bounty Co. in Ronkonkoma. “Once we end the scaredness [among consumers] and we add confidence, the economy is going to come roaring back.”

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