Jorge Silva-Puras, regional administrator for the Small Business Administration, addresses...

Jorge Silva-Puras, regional administrator for the Small Business Administration, addresses the Long Island Forum for Technology at the first meeting of the Long Island Rail Suppliers Alliance. (Dec. 14, 2011) Credit: Newsday, 2011 / Audrey C. Tiernan

A local industry that would build parts and security equipment for the nation's railroad companies took a step toward becoming reality earlier this week, when executives of 65 small businesses gathered in Bethpage to create the Long Island Rail Suppliers Alliance.

The Long Island Forum for Technology, which is trying to put together a rail parts industry on the Island, held the meeting Wednesday at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage. It featured a keynote address by U.S. Small Business Administration regional administrator Jorge Silva-Puras.

LIFT outlined some lofty goals for the alliance, which is designed to help companies team up to bid on big contracts. One is to secure at least one major rail contract for Long Island companies within the year.

Puras noted LIFT was one of just 11 organizations across the country to receive a $250,000 SBA grant to help small companies. LIFT decided to focus on the rail parts industry, said LIFT president Frank Otto. If such an industry gets off the ground, it would be brand new on Long Island, which for decades has concentrated on aviation.

Jamie Moore, LIFT's workforce program manager, said the organization is seeking to hire a company that will help identify contracts Long Island companies could compete for.

"The infastructure of the country needs a lot of work," Moore said. "Rail is part of that infastructure."

Moore said the alliance, headed by former LIRR president Ken Bauer, hopes to identify 18 large contract opportunities, put together three bidding teams and train 100 people in railroad procurement.

Ultimately, Bauer said, "we hope to have multiple contracts." He estimates 100 LI companies have the capability to make railroad parts.

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