Long Island Forum for Technology has laid off half its staff and reduced the services it provides directly to local manufacturers, officials said Friday.
The nonprofit, known as LIFT, was started nearly 40 years ago to help companies in Nassau and Suffolk counties use technology to improve their product development and operations, particularly those related to manufacturing. The group helped to create research centers in homeland security and composite materials in Bethpage and Plainview.
LIFT executive director William Wahlig said Friday that it had “struggled” financially, which led the organization recently to lay off four of its eight employees and to make changes to programs. He said there are no plans to shut down.
LIFT’s woes are occurring against a backdrop of declining numbers of manufacturing jobs on Long Island and increased competition from groups such the Hauppauge-based Aerospace and Defense Diversification Alliance in Peacetime Transition, or ADDAPT.
Wahlig said the financial crunch should ease once a five-year, $5 million contract is finalized with Empire State Development, the state’s primary business aid agency.
Empire State Development recently designated LIFT and Stony Brook University — over other local applicants — to be a Manufacturing Extension Partnership center for Long Island. The center, part of a national program, will help small- and medium-sized factories use technology more effectively. In previous years, LIFT had the MEP designation by itself.
An Empire State Development official confirmed that one of the losing bidders has challenged the recent award to LIFT and Stony Brook.
Separately, a portion of the LIFT headquarters in Bethpage could become a Start-Up NY tax-free zone for tech businesses with ties to SUNY Old Westbury. The building is already home to the Morrelly Homeland Security Center.
“We are changing our model a little bit. . . . We are outsourcing some services,” Wahlig said in an interview. “We are rebuilding within our core” around the facilities in Bethpage and Plainview.
He also said ex-LIFT employees are still helping local plants to improve operations through technology but are now paid by the companies, not LIFT.
Barry Shorten, chairman of the LIFT board, said the changes would allow “us to concentrate on critical growth areas including composite prototyping, business innovation and workforce development.”
Stony Brook economic development chief Yacov Shamash said the university’s MEP program has “many partners . . . we will continue work with LIFT if it can support the MEP mission.”