With Confidence Levels at a Record High, Let’s Boost Long Island’s National Profile

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Bob Quarte, partner with AVZ & Co. and HIA-LI Board Member and former Chair, moderates the February 13 HIA-LI Economic Summit.

Long Island’s business community is facing the future with confidence at record levels.

We know that the significant work HIA-LI is doing with the Economic Impact Study and Opportunity Analysis will spur growth and development. Because of this, HIA-LI’s Long Island Economic Confidence rating is also high.

Now we need to project this confidence outward to other markets. Our advantages should be positioning Long Island as an economic development magnet.

That was the big takeaway from HIA-LI’s 25th Annual Long Island Economic Summit held February 13 at the Windwatch in Hauppauge. Panelists included six top-tier representatives of Long Island’s business community.

As always, the annual conclave’s centerpiece was the release of the AVZ Economic Survey and Opinion Poll. Results were presented by a HIA-LI Board Member and a former Chair, Bob Quarte, a partner with AVZ & Co.

Bob said confidence in the national economy had hit a record high of 7.5, while Long Island’s economic confidence rating had attained a 7.2 level.

“This 7.2 rating is the highest we’ve ever seen,” Bob reported, on the occasion of the AVZ survey’s silver anniversary. “It matches our 1999 and 2000 levels.”

Some 77 percent of respondents had increased company revenues in 2018. Ninety-five percent had increased prices for products or services, and 43 percent had expanded their staffing.

Chris Valsamos, President and CEO of Castella Imports, urged Long Island to promote itself more forcefully:

“Long Island must advertise itself as family-friendly,” he said. “We have excellent schools, recreation, and employment opportunities.”

“Our region should stop playing defense and start playing offense,” said Kevin O’Connor, BNB Bank’s President and CEO, striking similar chords. “We offer so many pluses, including our institutions of higher learning and proximity to New York City.”

“Locally, confidence is high,” said Michael Fener, executive director of Northwell Health. Echoing Kevin O’Connor, Michael highlighted our nearness to The Big Apple as “a benefit for Long Island.”

“This region has world-class institutions,” said Rich Humann, President + CEO of H2M architects + engineers. But, he added that there is a serious “talent gap in the engineering industry.” Rich urged the expansion of STEM education.

“Stony Brook graduates are getting jobs,” Dr. Anne-Marie Scheidt, Economic Development Director at Stony Brook University, told attendees. “Many get multiple offers before graduation, especially in STEM fields.”

Sometimes I think we’re so close to Long Island that we forget what a great place it is to do business. So let’s take our panelists’ advice — and tell the world!

Click here for a copy of the 2019 AVZ Economic Survey and Opinion Poll.

Public Officials Talk Business Growth

From left: HIA-LI Board Chairman Joe Campolo; State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim; Suffolk Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory; HIA-LI President & CEO Terri Alessi-Miceli; Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter; and, Congressman Lee Zeldin.

Public policy has a major impact upon whether our businesses become profitable and whether our organizations succeed. That’s why HIA-LI regularly brings our members face-to-face with elected officials to discuss issues of concern to the Long Island business sector.

In this spirit, the HIA-LI convened our Annual Meeting and Legislative Breakfast on Friday, January 18 at the Hamlet Golf & Country Club in Commack.

Moderated by Board Chair Joe Campolo – Managing Partner at Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP – the discussion focused on business climate issues, housing, taxes, and other topics.

Panelists included Congressman Lee Zeldin, Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, and Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.

Congressman Zeldin and Legislator Gregory cited higher education’s role in sustaining economic growth. “Unemployment is at an all-time low,” the Congressman said, “but a skills gap still exists.” He said Long Island needs a “technical training route” for non-college-bound students.

Presiding Officer Gregory praised Suffolk County Community College for “helping companies fill the skills gap.” He advocated for greater emphasis on STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to help ensure the competitiveness of our regional workforce.

Supervisor Carpenter praised the Town’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA), noting its high level of accountability because the Town Board also functions as the IDA Board. She pinpointed Castella Imports of Brentwood as a big IDA success story in the Town.

Assemblyman Fitzpatrick said that high taxes – elevated by public sector pensions – have triggered out-migration from Long Island. “If government were smaller,” he said, “and pension costs were lower, we’d have a lower tax burden.”

As an economic development strategy in the Town of Smithtown, Supervisor Wehrheim reported that the Town is now situating workforce housing within business districts. Last summer, site plans were approved for such developments in Smithtown and Commack totaling 154 new units.

In today’s intensely competitive marketplace, the public and private sectors must collaborate and cooperate. Our Annual Legislative Breakfasts help bolster this essential, symbiotic relationship.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this breakfast event a success!

HIA-LI’s 2019 Agenda Aims to Boost Long Island’s Competitive Status

Click the image above for a copy of our 40th Anniversary Report.

Coming off our 40th anniversary last year, the HIA-LI is looking to the future and carrying forward our momentum into 2019.

We’re working together to promote the interests of the Long Island business community – and of America’s second-largest industrial park. And we’re fueled by the knowledge that everyone benefits – our companies, our organizations, our employees, and our households – when we successfully strengthen Long Island’s regional competitiveness.

This year, HIA-LI will center much of our attention on three strategic initiatives:

First, we’ll build upon the groundbreaking work of the Hauppauge Industrial Park Task Force – chaired by Joe Campolo, Esq., of Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP – which focuses on elevating the park’s economic impact.

Initiated through the collaboration of our members, along with the Suffolk County IDA, the Regional Plan Association, and Stony Brook University, HIA-LI is now working with James Lima Planning + Development to pinpoint ways to maximize the Park’s growth and competitiveness.

One component of our Task Force work will be to fortify relationships with Long Island’s educational institutions to help better meet the workforce needs of the region. We’ll also be looking at re-branding the Hauppauge Industrial Park to better reflect the pride we have in this critical economic engine.

Our second area of concentration in 2019 is the HIA-LI Solar Initiative – co-chaired by Jack Kulka of Kulka Construction Corp. and Scott Maskin of SUNation Solar Systems – which will leverage our park’s 20 million square feet of unused rooftops. Solarizing this untapped resource will reduce electricity costs, generate jobs and revenues, and help preserve our environment.

And third comes our Small Business Task Force – chaired by Rita DiStefano of Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates – which is working to enhance HIA-LI’s ability to engage with Long Island’s small business community.

Our small and mid-sized business owners have asked us to concentrate on three critical needs: The first is to find, train and retain good talent. The second is to promote business development and generate fresh revenue streams. And the third is to secure financing that facilitates business growth.

While we’re always looking to recruit new board members, this year we’ll be specifically aiming to attract young entrepreneurs to our association, to our park, and to the Long Island region’s leadership ranks.

And it makes sense to mark your calendar now for one of our seminal annual events, the HIA-LI 31st Annual Trade Show, which this year will be held on Thursday, May 30.

In 2019, let’s keep working together to elevate Long Island as one of the country’s great and vibrant economic centers.

40 Years of “Personal Touch”

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Pictured from left: Grant Hendricks, Vice Chairman, Suffolk IDA; Hon. Ed Wehrheim, Supervisor, Town of Smithtown; Terri Alessi-Miceli, President & CEO, HIA-LI; Jack Kulka, President & Founder, The Kulka Group and HIA-LI Lifetime Board Member; Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Director, Middle Country Public Library; and, Joe Campolo, HIA-LI Board Chair and Managing Partner, Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP

I’ve said it before: One special attribute of HIA-LI is that we bring “a personal touch” to our work.

This pleasing dimension of our operations was evident at last week’s 40th Anniversary Gala at Stonebridge in Hauppauge.

We were able to have some fun, interact socially, honor some great friends, and reflect on HIA-LI’s many accomplishments over four decades.

It’s nice that HIA-LI doesn’t default into clinical-style, by-the-book networking. Instead, we enjoy each other’s company. We engage each other as people, not just business prospects.

It calls to mind my initial encounters with the group about 30 years ago. As an executive with Dale Carnegie Training, I was a rank-and-file member of HIA-LI, hoping to drum up some local business.

But what treatment I received! Marcy Tublisky introduced me to virtually every CEO in the organization.

My first reaction was, “This group is different. Sure, they’re all aiming for business success. But these people bring ‘a personal touch’ to the whole enterprise!”

And it was a personal thrill for me last week when we recognized four honorees:

We applauded an HIA-LI founding father and development icon Jack Kulka — President and Founder of The Kulka Group — who was there on Day One in 1978.

We recognized the Miller Business Center of Centereach, represented by Middle Country Public Library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. Few know that HIA-LI had been poised to launch our own business library years ago when we realized that the nearby Miller Business Center was an ideal partner to fulfill our needs.

Attendees also praised the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency – represented by Vice Chair Grant Hendricks – which aggressively promotes the growth of our business park.

Supervisor Edward Wehrheim spoke for the Town of Smithtown, our final honoree. He’s already begun building upon the legacy of former Supervisor Pat Vecchio in facilitating the enrichment of our complex.

And I was truly surprised and humbled to be given an award by the HIA-LI board. It is my honor to serve as president and C.E.O., and I share this honor with the outstanding staff at HIA-LI who work hard every day in order to make my job look easy.

We also recounted some of HIA-LI’s achievements over four decades, including our growth from 350 to nearly 1,000 member companies.

HIA-LI remains an effective agent of regional economic growth, while maintaining the “personal touch” that facilitates relationship building among members. And HIA-LI keeps advocating for the Hauppauge Industrial Park, whose 1,350 businesses and 55,000 employees make it America’s most job-rich industrial park east of the Mississippi River.

We’ve leveraged dozens of assets for the Park and its member firms, such as a Northern State Parkway exit ramp, a dedicated COPE car in cooperation with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the country’s first-ever industrial park-based childcare centers, dozens of sewage, lighting, and road improvements, and a truly lengthy list of other deliverables.

Click here to check out our 40th Anniversary Report for a more complete list of accomplishments, current initiatives, and along with the history of HIA-LI.

So, bravo to you, HIA-LI! And congratulations on 40 proud years of successful business advocacy – all carried out in a way that maintains a warmly appreciated “personal touch.”

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Honoring Those Who Helped Us Reach 40

All right, time to put yourself in my shoes for a minute – and picture how exciting it is to witness HIA-LI’s dedicated staffers and volunteers finalizing preparations for Thursday’s 40th Anniversary Gala at the Stonebridge Country Club in Hauppauge.

We’re all busy getting ready for a delightful night of dinner, dancing, and nostalgia at this wonderful venue.

HIA-LI will celebrate four decades of commitment to enhancing Long Island’s economic climate and expanding growth opportunities for our members.

But the high point will come when we join to recognize four honorees for their leadership and dedication to Long Island.

We’ll be honoring:

Jack Kulka, an HIA-LI Lifetime Board Member and President and Founder of The Kulka Group. In 1978 when the Hauppauge Industrial Park experienced a three-day power outage, Jack Kulka was one of our original founders – along with several other business owners – who helped form the Hauppauge Industrial Association to advocate for the Park’s interests and for the Long Island business community. Jack was one of the first to envision Hauppauge as a major business crossroads for our region.

The Kulka Group is a highly regarded developer of waterfront residences, community complexes, retail and industrial centers, hotels, and corporate offices.

The Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, which has an extraordinary record of success helping local companies expand or renovate, build or add new facilities, or relocate to Suffolk County. In the past three years alone, the IDA has helped to create or retain 5,600 jobs – and leveraged some $454 million in private investment.

Currently the Suffolk IDA is partnering with HIA-LI to build the future of the Hauppauge Industrial Park, the largest in the Northeast with over 55,000 employees and 1,300 companies.

The Miller Business Center, a regional resource for businesses, entrepreneurs and not-for-profits. Located within Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, the center provides HIA-LI members with valuable business resources and personalized research support.

The Town of Smithtown, home base for the vast majority of the Hauppauge Industrial Park. Under former Supervisor Pat Vecchio and now Supervisor Edward Wehrheim, the Town has continued to be enormously supportive of HIA-LI by helping us navigate zoning challenges and leverage a myriad of infrastructure improvements.

OK, so now that you’ve worn my shoes for a minute, it’s time to change into your dancing shoes – for some fun at Thursday’s Gala!

Festivities begin at 6 pm – and I look forward to seeing you there!

Mentorship is Essential

From left: Domenique Camacho-Moran, Farrell Fritz P.C.; Terri Alessi-Miceli, C.E.O., HIA-LI; Karen Frank, Omnicon, an HBM Prenscia subsidiary; Theresa Ferraro, East/West Industries; Gwen O’Shea, Community Development Corporation of Long Island; and, Anne Shybunko-Moore, GSE Dynamics.

In 2010 I was invited to participate in a roundtable hosted by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on elevating women’s status in business with other esteemed women business leaders. She emphasized the importance of mentoring, equality and life/work balance and much more.

At the roundtable, I shared a personal story from many years prior about advice I had received from a male mentor.

His counsel?

Practice the profession of being a superior businessperson, whether I was male or female. Comprehend profit and loss statements and balance sheets, and learn how to develop revenue streams. His simple advice was lucid and relevant, and I never forgot it.

As I listened around the room all of us had mentors that were helping to lift us up and guide us along our journey.

At that roundtable Senator Gillibrand encouraged all of us to take an active role in helping generate more female business leaders and devise new platforms for ongoing discussion. Our ultimate goal would be to propel more women into executive suites.

HIA-LI accepted the challenge. We heeded the Senator’s call by instituting a panel series highlighting the challenges women face in the workplace.

It didn’t surprise me that at HIA-LI’s highly successful, Eighth Annual “Women Leading the Way” panel and networking breakfast held November 29, with many executive suite and young females in the room, the value of mentor support was a recurring theme.

HIA-LI is grateful to our moderator Domenique Camacho-Moran, a partner at Farrell Fritz P.C., as well as panelists Karen Frank of Omnicon, a HBM Prenscia subsidiary; Theresa Ferraro of East/West Industries; Gwen O’Shea of the Community Development Corporation of Long Island; and Anne Shybunko-Moore of GSE Dynamics.

Panelists agreed that life/work blending and support is essential for building women’s already impressive status in today’s business world: some ten million women-owned firms employ more than 13 million workers and generate more than $1.9 trillion in sales.

Panelist Karen Frank urged women to build their own strong networks. Through mentoring and network building, Karen said, “we can navigate this landscape better than in the past.”

This forum isn’t just a place to sip coffee and discuss women in business once a year: it’s a real-life mentoring event and a vibrant networking marketplace.

Moreover, it’s become a proud and valuable HIA-LI tradition. Thanks to all for making it a success!

We Believe in the Spirit of Giving

Pictured: HIA-LI staff volunteering at Long Island Cares, 2016.

The holiday season is the time of year when we turn attention to helping others – and to the spirit of giving.

Since our founding 40 years ago, HIA-LI has consistently recognized the value of community service and volunteering. We like to extend a helping hand, because our fellow Long Islanders benefit from our actions. And it’s through these actions that we help to build a stronger community.

Yet at the same time, we ourselves get a feeling of satisfaction through giving. HIA-LI is proud, for example, to sponsor The HIA-LI Scholarship Fund, which provides more than $12,000 annually to college-bound children of our members.

In addition, HIA-LI is one of the biggest business supporters of Long Island Cares’ summer food drive.

It may be hard to believe, but right here on Long Island, some 117,000 vulnerable children face heightened levels of food insecurity every summer. That’s because they’re not receiving free school breakfasts and lunches during July and August.

In response, HIA-LI supports vibrant food drives every summer, thus helping our community’s young people meet their basic nutritional needs.

From a different perspective, HIA-LI itself is sustained year-round by the generous, helping spirit of hundreds of our own volunteers.

We truly love how our HIA-LI boosters step-up to volunteer in numerous ways. Some are  soliciting raffle prizes, or offering to help staff a registration desk, or volunteering by meeting, greeting and helping to shepherd guests around our events, some of which are large-scale affairs.

You may not realize just how many of our team members are volunteers taking their own  personal time to lend support. And they benefit too, by enriching their own relationships and  business connections.

Long Island is a true community because we care about each other. We are eager to help one  another. So let’s all recommit ourselves to the spirit of giving this holiday season.

Small Business Task Force Tackles Character

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Rita DiStefano moderates the panel at HIA-LI’s November 1 Small Business Task Force Open Forum.

There were some important take-aways from last week’s Small Business Task Force Open Forum, “Hitting the Mark: Character, Competence, and Chemistry that Create Effective Culture.”

  • First, these forums are critical to educating small and mid-sized business owners – who account for 80 percent of HIA-LI members – with best practices from other companies and organizations who have gone through the growing pains that they are likely going through.
  • Second, before anything else, character is critical. You want to surround yourself with employees who have the values, work ethic, and dedication needed for success.
  • Third, when interviewing potential employees, ask questions that help bring out character. Questions such as: Where have you volunteered?  What is your life mantra?

My sincere thanks to Task Force Chair Rita DiStefano, Director of Human Resource Consulting for Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, for another successful and well-attended forum, which was held at Simplay Entertainment.  Rita, along with Task Force members Sue Gubing, Joe Garofalo, Allan Lippolis, Elana Zolfo, and AnnMarie Scheidt put together a sterling lineup of panelists:

Because small businesses don’t often have the bandwidth and staff found at larger organizations, HIA-LI’s Small Business Task Force was created to boost engagement with Long Island’s small business community.  It does that by listening to their needs and addressing issues with concrete, proven solutions.

Since its inception the Task Force has identified three major areas that small businesses find challenging:

  1. Personnel: Finding, training, and retaining talented employees.
  2. Business Development: Creating new and innovative revenue streams.
  3. Financing: Gaining access to capital in order to have adequate funds to grow.

To address these concerns, the Small Business Task Force began holding Open Forums with the goal of providing continuous support and information for members. Previous topics have covered how to attract and retain the millennial workforce, how to create a positive and attractive work culture, how to be a leader, and more.  The Task Force will continue to support businesses, address their concerns, and find solutions.

Rooftops Provide Solar Opportunities

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Pictured at a recent HIA-LI Solar Initiative Town Hall Meeting are, from left: Scott Maskin, President, SUNation Solar Systems, and HIA-LI Solar Initiative Co-Chair; Terri Alessi-Miceli, President & CEO, HIA-LI, and Joe Campolo, Managing Partner, Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP, and HIA-LI Board Chair.

What do you do when you have 20 million square feet of unused rooftops?

Go solar!

And why not?

  • There would be no negative environmental impact from trees having to be cut.
  • It would supply low-cost electricity for HIP businesses as well as to low and moderate income residential customers.
  • It would generate 50-100 construction jobs created during the build-out period as well as $40 million in total construction revenue.
  • And it would produce an estimated $4 million in annual payments to building owners in the Park.

That’s why HIA-LI’s Energy, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee formed the HIP Solar Initiative.  This cooperative initiative will provide economies of scale previously unattainable and going solar will allow building owners to take advantage of substantial economic benefits.

As stated by Lifetime Board Member Jack Kulka, Chair of HIA-LI Energy, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee, “The HIP Solar Initiative provides the unique opportunity to various businesses in the HIP to upgrade their aging roofs while concurrently installing state of the art solar systems at substantially discounted costs.”

According to Michael Voltz, Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables for PSEG Long Island, PSEG encourages businesses to consider installing solar because it’s clean, renewable energy that helps reduce energy costs and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel.

“The Hauppauge Industrial Park has vast roof area and vast untapped solar potential. Through this innovative program, the HIP has the potential to become a national leader in renewable energy while keeping Long Island dollars at home, said HIA-LI Board Member Scott Maskin, CEO of SUNation Solar Systems.  “It’s exciting to play a part in fortifying the PSEG grid, while delivering economic benefits to HIP building owners, tenants, and local residential ratepayers. It’s a win-win all around.”

The project would also differentiate the HIP as a leader in distributed energy generation in the United States.  It would also help to achieve Governor Cuomo’s initiative to have 50 percent renewable energy in New York State by 2030.

This is yet another example of how HIA-LI – formed 40 years ago with a prime directive in making the HIP the finest concentrated working environment on Long Island – is always on the lookout for ways to enhance members’ opportunities to positively impact their bottom line.

Building owners interested in participating in the program can learn more here.

Working Closely with our Government Partners

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From left: Hon. Phil Boyle, State Senator; Terri Alessi-Miceli, President & C.E.O., HIA-LI; Hon. Lee Zeldin, Congressman; Hon. Michael Fitzpatrick, State Assemblyman; Jack Kulka, Lifetime Board Member, HIA-LI; and, Joe Campolo, Board Chair, HIA-LI.

HIA-LI has always prided itself on having outstanding relationships with government officials. Many of our elected and appointed leaders have supported the HIA-LI throughout the years and at critical times have been just a phone call away.  That is something we, and our members, very much appreciate.

It has resulted in numerous projects and improvements such as:

  • A new highway exit off the Northern State Parkway.
  • Securing a COPE patrol vehicle dedicated to the Hauppauge Industrial Park through the Suffolk County Police Department.
  • Establishing the first childcare center in an industrial park on Long Island.
  • Obtaining a $600,000 transportation grant from former Congressman Steve Israel to look at egress and digress in the Park.
  • Establishment of an overlay district that allows for increased building height.
  • Expansion of the Park’s sewerage project.

All of this and more has happened because of our strong relationship with government officials.

On October 19, 2018, we took another important step in our advocacy and partnership with local and regional public officials by hosting a Board Legislative Breakfast where more than two dozen elected leaders and their representatives attended.  HIA-LI understands the importance of communicating our members’ concerns to governmental leaders and the benefits of working with them in a collaborative manner to find solutions.

At the October 19 breakfast, Joe Campolo, Board Chair and Managing Partner of Campolo, Middleton and McCormick LLP, reviewed the proactive work being done in the Hauppauge Industrial Park and the “Opportunity Analysis” that this is being conducted to help identify ways that the Park’s economic power can be channeled to maximize its contribution to Long Island’s long-term growth and competitiveness.

Scott Maskin, HIA-LI Board Member and Co-Founder of SUNation Solar spoke about the progressive work being done with our Solar Initiative.  There are 20 million square feet of unused rooftops that can be utilized as a solar asset, helping to lower energy costs for businesses while increasing the quality of our environment.

Rita DiStefano, HIA-LI Board Member and HR Consultant for Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl spoke about the urgency to continue helping small businesses via our Small Business Task Force. Since more than 80 percent of HIA-LI member companies are considered small to midsize businesses, this is another critical step for us. We realize that small business doesn’t have the bandwidth that larger companies have and the open forums this task force has created can help them lead and grow their organizations.

HIA-LI continues to be a catalyst for change, and I feel blessed to be leading an organization that has not only has its heart and footprint in the Hauppauge Industrial Park but across this bi-county region.