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!