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OpinionEditorial

Halt exodus of key LI employers

In the last two years, more than a

In the last two years, more than a dozen key companies left Long Island, were acquired by firms based elsewhere, or relocated jobs off the Island. This is not going to end well -- unless bold steps are taken. Photo Credit: iStock

Long Island is bleeding.

And no one is doing enough about it.

In the past two years, more than a dozen key companies left Long Island, were acquired by firms based elsewhere, or relocated jobs off the Island.

This is not going to end well -- unless bold steps are taken.

Thanks to our incubators and other efforts, many companies are born on Long Island. They create jobs, pay taxes, generate excitement and grow. Their employees spend money here.

Disappointingly, then they leave, taking jobs, revenue and economic impact with them. Some are bought by a firm based elsewhere. Others are wooed by another state governor or city mayor.

Sometimes, it's the cost of doing business. Taxes, rents and the cost of living are just too high. Sometimes, it's about the lack of public transportation. Others decide to leave if the Island lacks a cluster of companies in a key industry.

The most recent example came last week. CBC Americas Corp., a Commack pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor, said it will move to North Carolina and lay off 46 employees.

It's not a new story -- but that's part of the problem. Nothing's changed in the region's response to such departures. Local leaders write a report, hold a forum and throw up their hands.

Long Island lost about half of its publicly traded companies in the last 15 years.

Remember OSI Pharmaceuticals? The drugmaker was going to be the next big thing and anchor of a new biotech industry here. But in 2010, the company was bought by a Japanese firm called Astellas, which shut down OSI's local operations three years later.

That should have sparked change.

Instead, since then, such moves have picked up speed at an alarming rate, hitting businesses of all sizes and types.

What's more, it seems many companies aren't even trying to stay. Time and again, local leaders and industrial development agency officials say companies announced plans to leave without letting anyone know in advance.

The Suffolk IDA said First Data, which received $3.3 million in tax breaks in 2003, never contacted the agency before announcing plans to head to Long Island City last month.

So, let's start with communication. There has to be a regional approach to do more to check in with businesses in critical industries and with those that get county assistance. Call when nothing's wrong to take the temperature. That could be enough to see a red flag when someone is thinking of jumping ship.

Leaders of established local businesses can help by acting as big sisters or big brothers to others and, potentially, catch them before they're gone.

But that won't stop the bleeding.

For that, the Island needs a screaming wakeup call.

It goes beyond talk of big, essential unfunded ideas, like the Long Island Rail Road's third track.

Hope for the future won't entice a business to stay today -- or tomorrow.

And stop looking for the next Grumman, either as a single company or as a single industry. That's time traveling backward -- and won't work now.

It's time not only to retain but to step-up recruitment. A volume of companies just might help to stabilize the patient.

That doesn't require IDA assistance to companies that will leave anyway. Instead, grow and keep newborn companies. Give research institutions and incubators tools to create lots of them. The more we create, the more likely some will be successful, and stay.

And recruit locally. Encourage Manhattan firms to build offshoots here. Persuade those looking at other pricey spots to choose the Island instead.

All that must go hand in hand with reducing taxes and making the region more business-friendly.

It's time for leadership -- from all levels of government, and top business executives and advocates, too.

This isn't a new conversation -- but while everyone talks, the problem worsens. So, stop talking and start finding bold solutions -- before another dozen companies leave, too.

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