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Don’t miss this chance to think really big for Long Island

Members of the Long Island Regional Economic Development

Members of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, left, Doon Gibbs, Stuart Rabinowitz, center, and Kevin Law, right, make a presentation to the governor's panel for regional development during a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Albany. Credit: Hans Pennink

There have been missed opportunities in economic development on Long Island, when we could have done something new, but failed.

We don’t often capture that moment before it happens. Now, there’s another chance. The annual Regional Economic Development Council competition has begun. Previously, the Island received up to $100 million from the state per year, disbursed to many small projects, rather than a few regionally significant ones. Let’s do it differently.

Developers, local officials and others should offer projects that require bigger funding outlays, but could create more jobs and expand economic activity. Instead of asking for a parking garage or new machinery, consider a broader proposal that covers more territory, adds to public transit or ripples through the economy. Then, Long Island’s council, and state agencies that allocate funds, should reward such efforts.

That’s especially important for the portion of funds that comes from the Empire State Development Corp. Each region will get either $10 million or $20 million from that pot. Usually, it’s allocated to a dozen or more projects. Instead, award it to one or two applications with bigger needs and bigger ideas, like moving Hempstead Village or Huntington Station redevelopment forward, or a new proposal for the Nassau Hub. Other agencies, from energy research to labor, can do the same. Rather than giving $20,000 each to 10 companies for staff training or market research, for instance, perhaps fund one or two workforce development or recruitment programs to prepare workers for new industries, like biotechnology.

To succeed, the council should adopt policies that reward innovative ideas and emphasize those goals in applicant workshops. Council members and state officials should change how they make awards. Then, the region, rather than dozens of tiny projects, will really win.

— The editorial board