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State agency spent $14 million to boost Long Island’s economy

Empire State Development directed funds to incubators designed to nurture startups that use inventions from local research laboratories, a new report shows.

Stony Brook University's Advanced Energy Research and Technology

Stony Brook University's Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center on June 25, 2012. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The state’s business-aid agency spent more than $14 million boosting Long Island’s economy, with much of the money going to support technology startups that use inventions from local research laboratories, according to a new report for the year ended March 31, 2017.

Empire State Development allocated $1.8 billion statewide in that fiscal 12-month period. The aid came in the form of state tax credits, grants and loans.

As in past years, the lion’s share of state economic development spending went to upstate, a region whose economy has struggled for decades.

ESD is one of a dozen state agencies that allocate funds each year to projects to help grow the economy.

The 128-page report, which was required by the State Legislature, shows the Island in a leading position in terms of funds given to spur the growth of startups.

For example, Stony Brook University received $3.1 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year as part of ESD’s Centers for Advanced Technology program, second only to the Albany area, which won $3.8 million.

Stony Brook is home to three centers focused on electric energy systems, biotechnology and sensors.

“You have some remarkable research institutions, and some of this support is connected to Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Hofstra University and the Northwell Health system all being on Long Island,” said ESD chief executive Howard Zemsky, who grew up in Woodbury. “In regions where there is a lot of research going on, that leads to spinoff businesses based on that research.”

The Island was No. 2 in the state last year after New York City in money for small business training: $305,550 compared with the city’s $813,790.

Nassau and Suffolk counties also received the bulk of $201,759 in state support for research projects by college professors. Stony Brook’s Yi-Xian Qin won $185,746 last year to explore how ultrasound can be used to treat early bone fractures, an ESD spokeswoman said.

Separately, the report shows Stony Brook’s Long Island High Technology Incubator was home to 367 jobs in the year ended March 31, 2015, the most recent data available — the most incubator jobs for any region.

The Stony Brook incubator also generated $32 million in economic activity in 2014-15, second only to New York City’s $125 million for two incubators.

Incubator tenants “show great promise and historically . . . the state has not done a good job of tethering them to the state, to the local community,” Zemsky said in an interview. “They would leave for Boston, California or somewhere else. Now we’re trying to keep them because young companies create more jobs than those who have been around for more than 20 years.”

Local business leaders said the ratio of private money matching state funds is high with Island projects.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association business group, has helped win state funds as co-vice chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. Law said, “We have incredible assets to leverage like our research institutions and a high-trained . . . workforce to create an innovation economy here.”

Backing LI’s economy

Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, allocated more than $14 million in state tax credits, grants and loans on Long Island in the 12 months ended March 31, 2017.

  • $3.1 million, Centers for Advanced Technology (business incubators)
  • $3 million, Regional Economic Development Councils Capital Fund (grants for building projects)
  • $1.1 million, Excelsior Jobs Program (tax credits for expanding companies)
  • $750,000, Transformative Economic Development Program
  • $695,000, Restore NY grants to local governments
  • $499,963, Centers for Excellence (business incubators)
  • $305,550, Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (grants to train small business owners)
  • $205,773, tourism promotions

SOURCE: 2017 ESD annual report

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