Debrief: Happy landings with Daniel Preston

Man with the plan: Daniel Preston wants to win hearts and minds with his EPCAL strategy.

With the fate of Riverhead Town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton still very much in the air, Daniel Preston would like to throttle things back a bit. Half-truths and wild speculation have been part of the EPCAL story since Grumman pulled out a quarter-century ago, and CEO Preston’s Luminati Aerospace LLC, which is looking to purchase the storied property for $40 million and revive Long Island’s dormant aerospace industry, has not been spared: It’s already parted ways with one corporate partner (unofficially Facebook) and other dramas have generated some typically EPCALish headlines. But Preston’s plans – involving workforce housing, a computer-aided manufacturing school and, potentially, thousands of good-paying jobs – deserve a fair shake from the town, the media and the public, the entrepreneur insists, and not just because one of New York’s most successful real-estate tycoons is on board (maybe). Preston’s positions:

By air: Luminati believes the true value of EPCAL can only be realized if it’s used for the purpose for which it was designed. In addition, aerospace is known to generate one of the biggest lifts to the local economy, which is why many states, such as South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana and Florida, pay aerospace companies significant sums of money to move there.

And by land and space, too: Luminati intends to reactivate both runways and reestablish Calverton’s and Long Island’s prominent position in aerospace research and manufacturing. Luminati’s envisioned manufacturing base at EPCAL will encompass anything next generation in composites: air, space, automotive, with a heavy emphasis on Department of Defense work.

Forty million reasons (and that’s just for starters): Luminati understands that the Town of Riverhead has operated at a deficit (at EPCAL) since Grumman moved out almost 25 years ago. Even more important than the immediate $40 million positive impact on Riverhead’s finances that will result from Luminati’s purchase of EPCAL is Luminati’s coherent vision and development of EPCAL, which will result in thousands of high-paying jobs and an ongoing boost to the local economy and Riverhead.

Labor pains: One of the biggest problems Luminati has been faced with is how to get enough local skilled employees. And it is disheartening to see so many multigenerational Long Island families come to an end when the latest generation has to leave to seek employment elsewhere.

The workforce awakens: Luminati wants to home-grow its workforce, and its first preference will always be to hire locally. To accomplish this goal, Luminati is establishing training facilities at EPCAL so the local workforce can acquire the necessary skills. 

Back to school: Luminati intends to partner with Haas Automation, the largest computer numerical control machine-tool builder in the United States, to establish a school for computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing and CNC. The school will be open to anyone to be employed by Luminati or other Long Island companies and tuition will be funded by New York State.

Coming together: Luminati also has partnered with Plainview’s Composite Prototyping Center to establish a custom curriculum for educating, training and certifying composites technicians right here on Long Island.

The Catsimatidis factor: Luminati will partner with United Refining Energy Corp., a company owned by John Catsimatidis, to develop EPCAL. Mr. Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Real Estate has led the development and renovation of considerable commercial, industrial and residential space. Luminati and United Refining will jointly fund the acquisition of the property and United Refining will fund the development of the property, unless other funding sources are identified.

Interview by Gregory Zeller