Nassau Coliseum

Nassau Coliseum Credit: Chris Ware

Thomas Conoscenti is a Nesconset-based economist who studied the Coliseum referendum for the Association for a Better Long Island, a private real estate group.


What does Nassau County want from its Hub? To answer the question, you have to appreciate the economic forces that dictate whether you become Silicon Valley or Detroit.

Regional economies grow because of their ability to export goods and services. The greater the income generated by a county's export sector, the greater the potential for growth within the local sector. From the 1940s to the 1990s, Long Island's military industrial base was the export engine for our economy. Long Island quickly moved beyond the status of a bedroom community for Manhattan; the ability to export economic output to other regions of the country is what made modern Long Island.

The Veterans Memorial Coliseum was built in 1972, when our economy benefited from that military aviation prowess. The region exported more than 66 percent of its total output to other parts of the country, supporting 33 percent of the local industries. That was then.

This is now: In 2011, the export base has fallen to 56 percent and supports 44 percent of the local economy. As the export share of the economy becomes equal to the local share, Long Island -- and specifically Nassau County -- faces core questions about what businesses it needs to protect its future, the property values of its homeowners, and its ability to cover municipal debts and responsibilities.

It will be at the Hub where these questions will be answered. Above and beyond a local arena, this 77-acre parcel is the last opportunity to create a business environment that actually creates export value.

Ultimately, developers may see synergies with neighboring Hofstra University, leveraging the academic campus to create alliances with commercial tenants. Incentives may be offered to create a digital information campus for corporations driving the next phase of the 21st century economy. Even defense companies that now wield electrons to defend our nation could be induced to grow their presence here.

Regardless of what the Hub ultimately looks like, without the means to export, it will never fulfill its potential to create jobs, revenue and local investment. As much as we love to root for the home team, it's not about hockey. It's about exports.