The Babylon Industrial Development Agency is partnering with the Regional Plan Association to produce a sweeping report on industry in Babylon Town that will guide long-term efforts to spur economic growth, officials said.
The seven-month study will seek to paint a detailed portrait of Babylon’s industrial economy and to outline steps the town and the agency can take to better serve existing industrial companies and attract new ones, according to agency leaders.
“We’re competing against everyone on Long Island” for new business, agency CEO Matthew T. McDonough said. “So we want to have attractive industrial parks to bring them to Babylon.”
As part of the study, which is called the Industrial Corridor Project, the agency will attempt to survey the town’s 1,700 largest industrial companies — from aerospace manufacturers to wholesale bakers — to gauge their satisfaction doing business in Babylon and to compile them in a database.
Industrial Development Agencies are public benefit corporations that aim to draw businesses to their municipalities and keep them there through tax breaks and other financial incentives.
Tasked with conducting the surveys are agency employees Frank and Tom Dolan, who will spend the next five months going door-to-door in Babylon’s industrial districts to find out how many people companies employ, how they rate Babylon’s economy, and whether they plan to stay in the town, among other questions. Frank Dolan is the IDA’s senior project manager; Tom Dolan is vice president for business development.
The Dolans, who are brothers, made the rounds in Deer Park on a Wednesday afternoon earlier this month.
“Some of these industrial parks, they’re so run-down,” Frank Dolan said, as the pair drove past a stretch of squat gray warehouses.
Guidelines on facades, landscaping and other design issues in local industrial parks will also be included in the report, McDonough said. If followed, he added, the guidelines could benefit residents through rising property values and the town through added tax revenues.
The report will also include recommendations related to zoning, traffic patterns and logistics in Babylon industrial parks, according to Moses Gates of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning group headquartered in Manhattan.
The guidelines and recommendations are aimed at helping industry thrive in the town without getting in the way of residents or other businesses, he said.
“We definitely want to keep that variety” in Babylon’s economy, Gates said. “But we want to organize it a little more, or put in place some policies that make it a little more rational.”
The Dolans’ first stop of the day was WeldBuilt Industries in Deer Park, a company with about 40 employees that manufactures vehicles for the towing industry, according to its corporate development manager, Joseph McCaffrey.
McCaffrey showed the Dolans around the property on Grand Boulevard and filled out the six-page survey in a conference room.
“We never discuss leaving” the town of Babylon, he told the Dolans.
But “we wish things were better,” he added. “We wish the cost of living on Long Island were less.
“And if you could get me young people interested in mechanical engineering degrees in college, that would help,” he added.
The shortage of both low-cost housing and high-skilled labor on Long Island are common complaints among survey respondents so far, McDonough said.
The study will seek to address the skilled-labor shortage with proposals for workforce development policies that the agency can adopt, he said.
As for the housing crunch, McDonough suggested that the residential development initiatives underway in Wyandanch, Copiague and elsewhere in Babylon Town could mitigate the problem.
While such projects have frequently involved rezoning industrial land for other uses, McDonough said the goals of nurturing industry and catalyzing housing construction do not conflict with one another.
“How are we going to address long-term the issue of creating jobs for those folks in those residential buildings that we’re building?” McDonough asked. “Where are these people going to go to work?”
“The population is growing throughout the region, and you have to plan for the housing as well as the jobs,” he said. “It all goes together.”
The two organizations plan to release the report in August, McDonough said.
BABYLON’S INDUSTRIAL BUSINESSES
There are around 5,000 commercial and industrial businesses in Babylon Town hamlets. About 1,700 of them are industrial businesses in at least 10,000-square-foot buildings. They include food product manufacturers, wholesale traders, stone distributors, pharmaceutical companies, machine fabricators and others. One hundred and seventy seven businesses in the town currently receive financial benefits from the Industrial Development Agency.