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Long Island’s Future: Innovation & Infrastructure

May 7, 2015

The Real Estate Institute at Stony Brook University held the Spring Symposium LI’s Future: Innovation & Infrastructure on April 24, at Farmingdale State College. The event brought key individuals from Long Island together to discuss how both innovation and infrastructure will drive the growth of the Long Island economy. Mr. John Kominicki, President of Innovate Long Island, discussed how Long Island had historically benefited from the defense industry. However, as a result of the industry exiting the island, the economy has needed a new catalyst to support its growth. Innovation, he went on to say, is the answer the region has been looking for.  Mark Lesko, Executive Director of Accelerate Long Island, noted that “the innovation economy has seen explosive growth and the addition of new key people” on the Island.  

The various speakers all shared their views on how innovation is the force that will drive the prosperity of the Long Island economy. Long Island is seen as already having the pillars of innovation such as research institutions that include Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the North Shore/LIJ Hospital System, and Hofstra University. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory alone has spun out 25 companies.  Various organizations that support entrepreneurs and innovators have been created and they have seen success in recent years, including LISTnet, LaunchPad Long Island, the Long Island Angels Network, Accelerate Long Island, and LI Tech COMETS. All of these are private organizations that support new ideas and the growth of entrepreneurial success on Long Island.

The public sector has also shown support for innovation on Long Island. A newly formed Tech Task Team recently held its first meeting. This team is made up of business leaders from the tech industry as well as public officials, with the goals of uniting Nassau and Suffolk counties and supporting the future needs of the tech industry on Long Island.  Mr. Lesko summed it up nicely by saying” there are many seeds in the garden and we need to tend to them.”

With all of the rapid growth of these start-ups and tech companies, real estate and related infrastructure becomes even more important in supporting the future economy of Long Island. The second half of the symposium was moderated by Mr. Michael Stoler, President of New York Real Estate TV, LLC and Managing Director at Madison Realty Capital; and consisted of topics such as the lack of sufficient rental units as well as various transportation challenges that face residents and commuters. One speaker noted that while Long Island historically was developed to not be like New York City, it is important to now see that some urban characteristics can help. Infrastructure, such as housing and transit, has the ability to strengthen the entire region. The railroad infrastructure is considered one of the most important assets on Long Island due to its connectivity to New York City. Another speaker commented that we can no longer segregate areas for housing, commercial, and industrial uses. Access between each of these areas is more important now than ever as new generations place an ever increasing emphasis on lifestyle factors such as access to public transit and social establishments such as restaurants. The demographics on the island are changing. It was noted that the only demographic currently growing on this Island is the aged 55 and over segment.  People who are in the 19-34 year old range are moving off the island. As Mr. Kevin Law, President and CEO of the Long Island Association so eloquently stated, the Island is going through “brain drain and birth dearth.” The panel went on to discuss that there needs to be more multi-family dwellings built as well as expanding and enhancing the rail and sewer systems.  The importance of developing energy efficient buildings where young, environmentally conscious people will want to live and work was also a key discussion point.  One speaker wrapped things up by saying that although it is impossible to force people to stay on the island, it is possible to create an environment that attracts talent and encourages people to want to stay here. 

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