By GREGORY ZELLER //
With more than 150 companies and 9,800-plus employees, the pharmaceutical/nutraceutical industry is already a Long Island cornerstone – and some major regional stakeholders want to see it grow.
On Tuesday, the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency and the Workforce Development Institute officially introduced “Driving Suffolk County’s Innovation Economy: The Pharmaceutical/Nutraceutical Growth Factor,” a 48-page report detailing pharma/nutra’s impressive growth over the last decade and the unique obstacles the industry faces on Long Island.
Statewide pharma/nutra industry employment has increased more than 64 percent over the last decade-plus, according to the report, while 9,300 of those 9,800-plus Long Island employees are engaged in pharma/nutra manufacturing – representing Long Island’s largest manufacturing sector.
Numbers like those would seem to nominate pharma/nutra as a likely successor to Long Island’s once-mighty aerospace industry, recalling halcyon days when a single industry – filled with high-tech, in-demand, good-paying jobs – served as a regional employment core.
But in addition to recounting past evolutions and listing promising opportunities for fresh growth, the report – presented in conjunction with the Long Island Association – also dives deep into the challenges threatening regional pharma/nutra expansion.
Attracting and retaining qualified workers is right at the top, though pharma-nutra executives interviewed directly for “Driving Suffolk County’s Innovation Economy” cite a number of hurdles, including transportation and tax-structure difficulties specific to Long Island.
Understanding those challenges is the best way to provide “what is needed for continued success,” according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who trumpeted the in-depth report as the product of years of study and collaboration with industry executives.
“When an industry cluster is as integral to our innovation economy as the pharmaceutical/nutraceutical manufacturing sector, it is of vital importance to better understand what makes them tick,” Bellone said Tuesday. “We remain committed to convening and working with all our partners to continue to create a business environment that is conducive to sustainable growth.”
Several of the pharma/nutra executives featured in the report were on hand for Tuesday’s unveiling at the LIA’s Melville headquarters – a very promising sign, according to Suffolk IDA Board of Directors Chairwoman Theresa Ward, who noted that “economic development is a team sport.”
“[‘Driving Suffolk County’s Innovation Economy’] is a continuation of Suffolk IDA’s proactive efforts to examine the county’s economy and pinpoint sustainable economic and job-growth opportunities,” Ward said. “This report is yet another example of regional entities coming together to tackle shared challenges.
“We are thankful to WDI and the LIA for working with us.”
Long Island Association President Kevin Law, who also co-chairs the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, said the report validates the Empire State Development Corp.’s designation of the Island as New York’s official biotech hub – and “should serve as a call for the region to redouble its efforts to … support the sector’s ongoing growth.”
That’s the plan, according to Rosalie Drago, Long Island regional director of the Workforce Development Institute, a statewide nonprofit working to create and retain good jobs and a ready workforce to fill them.
The WDI teamed with the Suffolk IDA and other stakeholders on “Driving Suffolk County’s Innovation Economy” specifically because the pharma/nutra sector “aligns with our regional priorities and has the ability to contribute to equitable and inclusive regional growth,” Drago said.
And she does mean “inclusive” growth: Not only does the pharma/nutra industry accommodate workers with all levels of education, the regional director noted, but Long Island educators are already imparting the science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics skills that future workforce will need – a direct answer to the call of those talent-starved industry executives.
“The defined career pathways can be accessed by Long Islanders with every level of educational attainment, from a high school diploma through PhD,” Drago added. “We have a local emerging and transitioning workforce with the STEAM skills required to power this industry, and educational institutions to foster continued advancement for both our people and our employers.”
Editor’s note: Innovate Long Island founder John Kominicki and Vice President Gregory Zeller are contributing authors to “Driving Suffolk County’s Innovation Economy: The Pharmaceutical/Nutraceutical Growth Factor.”