A rendering of the proposed Midway Crossing development in Ronkonkoma.

A rendering of the proposed Midway Crossing development in Ronkonkoma. Credit: JLL/Crawford Architects

When Gov. Kathy Hochul earmarked a pot of $350 million for Long Island earlier this year, it was a welcome move, albeit one tinged with election politics. Now the election is over, but Hochul's work here isn't done.

The money, known as the Long Island Investment Fund, was meant for big projects that would boost the region with jobs and economic opportunities. Hochul, working with Empire State Development officials and the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, has doled out $56.5 million to four deserving entities — the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State College, and Long Island University. The new buildings, labs and technologies will pave the way for growth in research and academia and could help build the research and life sciences corridor the Island has dreamed about for decades.

But that's just the beginning. Another $50 million from the total pot will go toward a competition among startup companies and $50 million is meant for training. That leaves nearly $200 million for other efforts that will produce real change across Long Island. It must be well-spent.

It would be easy — but the wrong strategy — to throw money at small, relatively insignificant projects that apply for a piece of the pie. It's much harder, but better, to spotlight larger projects that could propel the Island's economic future — like innovative efforts in manufacturing, technology, and life sciences that could ripple through the region.

Among key projects likely up for consideration: Midway Crossing, the proposal for the Ronkonkoma Hub that would include a new life sciences center, a convention center, and more. Midway Crossing is critical, and the focus of recent discussion and advocacy, but it's still in its early stages and ultimately will need both public and private investment to move forward.

Support from the fund could give such projects the boost they need to become regional game-changers.

Officials must be careful and thoughtful in their analyses and decisions, with time limits on when the state funds must be spent and follow-up to make sure the work gets done. Attempts to develop the Nassau Hub, for instance, tell a cautionary tale: The Hub received past "transformative" money but nothing has been built and the money remains unspent.

For future allocations, economic development officials should consider what will best benefit Long Island. This isn't a housing-oriented pot, so the focus must be on high-quality jobs that will serve as industry building blocks, the kind of development that will attract other development and investment in communities and industries that need it most.

Hochul gave Long Island a tremendous opportunity. So far, the region has used it well. But there's more to do — and the Island must get this right.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.