LI MacArthur Airport and Tourism: Economic Generators for Long Island

It was a full-house at the March 22 event at Long Island MacArthur Airport, “Taking Business and Tourism to New Heights.”

It’s hard to beat tourism as a business booster.

Economic development professionals will always tell you that one of the best ways for any community to attract incoming dollars is through tourism.

Similar to the benefit enjoyed when customers outside your area purchase your exported products, a dollar spent by a visiting tourist represents the introduction of new, net wealth into your locality.

It’s a pure win, because it’s fresh, outside money coming in.

And the good news is that Long Island business and government leaders know and appreciate this fact. Moreover, they take concrete action to promote and support tourism as a means of enriching the Nassau and Suffolk economies.

To further sharpen our business community’s understanding of the symbiosis uniting tourism and business, HIA-LI hosted more than 200 members of the regional business community at a breakfast panel at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Friday, March 22. The event was called “Taking Business and Tourism to New Heights.”

The panel highlighted Long Island MacArthur Airport, which is owned and operated by  the Town of Islip, and Discover Long Island, the agency formally designated to promote Long Island as a destination for tourism, meetings, conventions, and sporting events.

Speakers included Kristen Jarnagin, President and CEO of Discover Long Island; Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter; Airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken.

Ms. Jarnagin helped to crystallize the theme of the event with the following economic development proverb:

“If you build a place where people want to visit, you will build a place where people want to live,” she said. “And if you build a place where people want to live, you will build a place where people want to work. And if you build a place where people want to work, you will build a place where business will want to be. And if businesses want to be there, you will build a place where people will want to visit.”

Thanks to Discover Long Island data, attendees learned that travelers spent an eye-opening $5.9 billion on Long Island in 2017.

And on the fiscal side, tourism in Long Island generated $722 million in state and local taxes in 2017. And sales, property, and hotel bed taxes contributed to nearly $400 million in local taxes.

By fortifying Long Island’s tax base, the tourism industry enhances the region’s ability to attract and retain private companies.

As most readers know, MacArthur Airport is an indispensable hub of our area’s tourism sector. The airport sees more than 5,000 people fly in and out every day.

And under the leadership of Supervisor Carpenter, herself a former businesswoman, the 1,300-acre airport has systematically maintained strong ties to our area’s business community.

Airport Commissioner LaRose-Arken told attendees that MacArthur ranked as America’s fastest-growing, medium- to large-sized airport, as measured by domestic seats.

She also noted that both Southwest and American Airlines had recently responded to growing demand by introducing larger aircraft, and that Frontier Airlines had expanded its list of destinations reachable from the airport.

“We try to operate our airport like a business,” said the Commissioner. “And over the last four years, the airport has run a surplus.”

Underscoring our business community’s commitment to tourism, several private-sector players recently helped underwrite a Discover Long Island survey designed to help inform future strategies for the industry’s growth.

HIA-LI, National Grid, and the Manufacturing Consortium of Long Island – which also goes by the name of Ignite Long Island – joined forces with Long Island University and Long Island MacArthur Airport to sponsor the project.

As reported by Newsday, the Discover Long Island analysis found that when travelers are told about “the Island’s beaches and parks, museums, restaurants, and other attractions, the likelihood they will visit rose to 65 percent compared with 47 percent when they knew little about the region.”

To further bolster region-wide tourism, Discover Long Island in 2017 initiated its first-ever co-marketing partnership with New York City’s tourism agency, NYC & Co. The joint program positions Long Island as “a great addition to New York City trips” and as the city’s “beachfront backyard.”

During a question-and-answer session, Ms. Jarnagin urged event attendees to always remember to speak positively about Long island.

“Please think about the way you’re speaking about your home and where you live,” she said. “Because when you put something online, people see it all over the world. If everyone hears something negative, why would anyone want to come here?”

Supervisor Carpenter also urged business leaders to make their presence felt at public hearings and speak up in support of development initiatives “because the naysayers are always going to be there.”

We need to work collaboratively with institutions and government entities.  For example, HIA-LI had provided assistance to MacArthur Airport in assessing travel patterns and passenger needs when the air facility had been scoping out growth strategies.

We simply can’t underestimate the value of this airport and tourism in strengthening the economic foundation of Nassau and Suffolk counties.  The deeper the commitment we make to tourism, the more tourism delivers to our business community.

Partnership Between HIA-LI and Town of Smithtown Delivers Long-Term Benefits to the Hauppauge Industrial Park

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HIA-LI President & CEO Terri Alessi-Miceli is interviewed with Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim for an upcoming episode of Smithtown Spotlight.

Especially at the local level, you can’t underestimate the importance of the relationship between business and government.

We see it all the time at HIA-LI, where our ability to meet the day-to-day needs of our members – and to achieve our long-term goals – depends upon the quality of our interactions with local municipalities.

The large majority of the Hauppauge Industrial Park (HIP) is situated within the Town of Smithtown, with the balance in the Town of Islip. Happily, we enjoy vigorous support from the elected leaders of both towns.

They are Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter. Both deserve great credit for their support for the Park.

I recently was privileged to join one of these two officials, Supervisor Wehrheim, as a guest on Smithtown Spotlight, on Channel 18 in Smithtown, which is scheduled to air in April 2019.

During the interview, he repeatedly underscored the value of the Town of Smithtown’s partnership relationship with the HIA-LI and the Park.

“From ‘day one,’ we realized how important the Hauppauge Industrial Park is to the sustainability of Smithtown itself,” the Supervisor – elected in November 2017 – said. “There’s a great opportunity for us to partner, and we went full steam ahead to make sure that this happened in this administration.”

Living up to his commitment, for example, Supervisor Wehrheim has been a regular presence at HIP Task Force meetings and activities, where we are devising ways to maximize growth and competitiveness. Institutional participants include Stony Brook University, the Suffolk County IDA, and the Regional Plan Association.

In the past, the Town had done much road reconstruction work associated with the County’s sewer expansion in the Park. I was very pleased to learn that the Supervisor budgeted for several much-needed infrastructure projects including widening Adams Avenue, improving New Highway, upgrading traffic signals, adding new sidewalks, and removing outdated-looking wooden poles. And going forward, future capital improvements, he said, would be budgeted in on an annual basis.

“Even though it is infrastructure work,” he said, “these are all things that will aesthetically make the park very pleasing to business people when they come in to look at it.”

In 2018, Smithtown gave the green light to 740,000 square feet of commercial development in the Park.

Zoning changes have boosted building height limits from 35 feet to 62 feet high along Motor Parkway, with the future prospect of higher structures more deeply into the park.

“New height requirements are going to bring more high-tech businesses to the Park,” he said.

The Supervisor and I also discussed our HIP re-branding initiative which includes a possible name change for Park.  We also talked about potential zoning changes to allow residential development within the HIP.

Supervisor Wehrheim offered some concrete evidence of the Park’s fiscal value for the Town:

“We just received a Triple-A bond rating from Moody’s, the highest level that can be attained,” he said.

Moody’s cited HIP’s value in evaluating the Town’s creditworthiness, as well as Smithtown’s “partner” relationship with the Park.

With some 55,000 employees, HIP represents some $19.6 million in total tax assessed value and generates about $14 billion in annual sales.

“I see great, great things happening in the future, for the Park and for Smithtown as a whole,” said Supervisor Wehrheim. “And working with Terri has been a pleasure. It’s a great relationship to specifically accomplish great things.

“As a partnership, we’ve really stirred up some real interest and I think it’s going to continue,” he said. “At least I’m going to put all my efforts into making that happen.”

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!