The Long Island Association is launching a demographics institute to study the effect of changes in socioeconomic characteristics of the region's 2.85 million people and share its findings with governmental entities and private-sector businesses.
"Our changing demographics impact every important aspect of the Long Island economy, from our schools to our colleges and universities to our businesses and our housing market," said Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the LIA, the region's largest business group.
Using education as an example, Law noted, "We are seeing a decline in student enrollment, and it's going to force school districts to make tough decisions on closing more school buildings. Our Long Island students are primary feeders into Long Island colleges and universities, and as that population shrinks, it's going to force our colleges and universities to be looking or expanding their recruitment efforts off of Long Island.
"And we're talking about our future workforce," he continued. "As businesses try to make plans for the future, we need to know what our workforce size is going to be, as well as their training in education."
Law said the LIA Institute for Long Island Demographics will be led by the association's chief economist, John Rizzo, also an economics professor at Stony Brook University. It is expected to include graduate research students and outside contractors.
The institute is estimated to cost about $200,000 over the next two years, Law said. The Melville-based association is "financing it through our revenues," he said. "The LIA doesn't take money from the government. They're all our private monies."
Rizzo, in a separate interview, said, "I'm very excited about it. This summer I will build this database with doctoral students."
A large database, across the Island's towns and villages and over decades, is important for identifying the "causal effects of economic policy interventions and economic outcomes on Long Island" and to forecast such effects, he said.
Rizzo said the institute's studies would be "complementary to something that's important to the LIA, and that is having direct contact with business people who have their feet on the ground."
Law said the LIA's institute is "prepared to pick up what the Long Island Regional Planning Council used to do for our region and become the clearinghouse for U.S. Census data."
John Cameron, the planning council's chairman, said though the LIA is free to do so, he was "surprised that a business group would take over a planning function" in light of other issues, such as businesses leaving the Island.
He added, "They're aware the council had severe cutbacks in funding" and "could have offered to replace some of the [council's] funding cuts by the counties."
Law responded that the LIA looks forward to working with the council "and sharing any information we're able to assess with them. . . . We're just trying to provide a valuable service to the region."