LI economy: Fair to partly cloudy

AVZ co-managing partner Tom Murray.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The regional economy got a little good news on Thursday, as AVZ presented its annual economic survey and opinion poll.

The Hauppauge accounting firm’s 22nd annual assessment of the Long Island economy was chock full of glad tidings, including boosted confidence in the regional and national economies – the highest since the start of the recession in 2008 – and rising revenue and hiring projections.

While the numbers were still, in many cases, below their pre-recession highs, the increase in survey responses indicating an increase in employees receiving annual raises (now 86 percent) and a slight decrease in respondents forced to reduce their prices (to 10 percent) were among the “many economic markers that point to a robust economy experiencing steady growth,” according to co-managing partner Tom Murray.

Things were somewhat less rosy in a panel discussion following Murray’s opening remarks, in which former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, Long Island University President Kimberly Cline and ADDAPT chief Jamie Moore gave a more blunt assessment of the obstacles facing local businesses.

Speaking largely in national terms, Lazio lamented a 2015 marked by stagnant wages, a 30-year low in startups and the fact that more U.S. businesses closed than started.

“I’ve seen good times, I’ve seen bad times and I’m not sure which this is,” Lazio noted.

Still, Long Island’s economic indicators are “pretty good” relative to the national numbers, according to Lazio, and while they’re still behind their pre-recession levels, national housing starts are on the rise.

Moore also warned that there are still economic “icebergs ahead.”

“By and large there’s optimism,” he said. “It’s conservative optimism, but there’s optimism.”

Asked to define the biggest challenge of 2016 and beyond, Cline suggested businesses should become more nimble and better embrace the rising millennial generation.

“They’re very passionate about their work and they want to give back,” the LIU president said. “We need to understand them because they don’t think like us. And we need to adjust our world to understand that.”

Moore agreed: “We need to focus more on brain gain rather than brain drain,” he said. “Who are we bringing in to foster innovation here? That’s the big question.”

Added Cline: “We’ve always had an innovation economy. If we continue that, we’re going to have a really bright future.”