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Letter: Development council has boosted Long Island’s economy

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

A major issue this year will be how the state budget distributes economic development funding [“Lawmakers decry councils’ ‘cronyism,’ ” Business, Feb. 2].

As the co-vice chairmen, we know that the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council is helping businesses and creating jobs.

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took office, he unveiled a new policy for economic development funding. Rather than Albany bureaucrats or local elected officials distributing funds, Cuomo created regional development councils composed of business and academic leaders and other stakeholders.

Their mission is to develop long-term economic plans to create jobs. There are strict ethical standards built into the process, and no one has a vote on a project in which there is any potential conflict of interest.

This year, the State Senate has proposed ending the councils and going back to the old policy of having local legislators distribute funds. The governor has said he would end the funding rather than resort again to a politically driven process.

The state’s efforts have been working. In the last six years, regional councils have received nearly $4.6 billion for more than 4,100 projects. On Long Island, we have secured more than $400 million for 400-plus priority projects.

We have supported the revitalization of downtowns in Westbury, Riverhead and Wyandanch; made strategic investments in emerging research and bio-tech companies; and supported core industries like manufacturing, commercial fishing and agriculture. We also have supported funding for the Nassau and Ronkonkoma hub projects.

Long Island unemployment has gone from 7.2 percent to 3.9 percent, and we’ve added more than 100,000 jobs since 2010. Our economy is growing again. Let’s keep it going.

Kevin S. Law, Stuart Rabinowitz

Editor’s note: The writers are, respectively, the president and chief executive of the Long Island Association business organization and the president of Hofstra University.