Robert Coughlan, co-owner of Tritec Real Estate Co. Inc. in...

Robert Coughlan, co-owner of Tritec Real Estate Co. Inc. in East Setauket, said "there's a large segment of our population that is not doing well...Their jobs aren't coming back." Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Long Island economy will come roaring back later this year as COVID vaccines and federal stimulus checks are widely distributed — but it may not for everyone, top executives said on Thursday.

The local leaders from banking, education, health care, real estate development and professional services said some changes caused by the pandemic won’t be undone. These include the loss of low-wage jobs at service businesses, reduced corporate travel, more online shopping and less time in the office.

The leaders said policymakers must look out for the newly displaced to ensure poverty and income inequality doesn’t worsen in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"The overall economy is positioned well to grow quickly…There’s a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines and a lot of pent-up demand [to spend by businesses and consumers]," said Robert Coughlan, co-owner of Tritec Real Estate Co. Inc. in East Setauket, one of the region’s largest developers.

"However, there’s a large segment of our population that is not doing well…Their jobs aren’t coming back," he said during the HIA-LI business group’s 27th annual Economic Summit.

Coughlan and other participants in the virtual event predicted that shoppers would return to downtowns as temperatures rise, helping to sustain restaurants, shops and service businesses that are still operating.

The executives said when employees return to the office, they will find more open space for meetings but far fewer cubicles.

"People will not be [in the office] every day, but...

"People will not be [in the office] every day, but I think they do need someplace to go," said Kevin O'Connor, CEO of Dime Community Bank in Hauppauge. Credit: Barry Sloan

"You don’t have an organization if you are fully remote," said Kevin O’Connor, CEO of Dime Community Bank in Hauppauge. "We will still have offices where people need to go."

Rich Humann, CEO of H2M Architects + Engineers in Melville, predicted...

Rich Humann, CEO of H2M Architects + Engineers in Melville, predicted there will be a lot of hiring in some sectors as the economy bounces back.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Rich Humann, CEO of H2M architects + engineers in Melville said how employees feel they were treated during the pandemic will determine if they switch employers. He predicted there will be a lot of hiring in some sectors as the economy bounces back.

"If you’re not really committed to making sure your employees are satisfied and have opportunities in your firm, you’re going to lose them as things open up" in the economy, said Humann, who also is chairman of the HIA-LI board.

Nonprofits are likely to take longer to recover than other sectors,...

Nonprofits are likely to take longer to recover than other sectors, said Christine Riordan, president of Adelphi University in Garden City. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Nonprofits, including the Island’s 15 colleges and universities, are likely to take longer to recover than other sectors, said Christine Riordan, president of Adelphi University in Garden City. Nonprofits generate about 20% of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk.

"Nonprofits were hit especially hard during the pandemic," she said. "In higher education, we’re predicting a two- to four-year recovery period."

The other speakers on Thursday’s panel were Wendy Darwell, CEO of the trade group Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and Robert Quarte, a partner in the Hauppauge office of PFK O’Connor Davies accountants.

Quarte and Coughlan expressed concern about the tax increases on businesses and the wealthy that have been proposed by the Democratic majorities in the State Senate and Assembly.

"Raising taxes encourages our wealthier population to leave, which spreads the increase in taxes onto the rest of us who are still here," Coughlan said. "It makes it harder to retain people on Long Island."

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