By GREGORY ZELLER
Stony Brook University and the Long Island Forum for Technology have been awarded a five-year funding deal to foster manufacturing in the region, with a focus on next-gen technologies and the life sciences.
Called the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the program combines federal and state dollars to offer each of the state’s 10 economic development zones about $1 million a year. Hofstra University and ADDAPT had also submitted bids.
LIFT has held the local contract for years, primarily using the money to focus on issues facing local aerospace manufacturers. This time around, the state sought to align the MEP contracts with the so-called “priority clusters” identified by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council system – in Long Island’s case, biotechnology.
And that requirement quickly led to the LIFT-SBU partnership.
“We were not traditionally in biotechnology,” conceded LIFT executive director Bill Wahlig.
Although the contract has historically made up about 50 percent of his organization’s operating budget, Wahlig said he believed the Stony Brook partnership would ultimately expand both LIFT’s mission and its balance sheet.
“We’re focusing now on providing services and becoming more of an advocate for manufacturing,” Wahlig noted. “And we’ll back-fill some of that money with projects and opportunities coming from our new relationship with Stony Brook.”
There’s also synergy in the state’s decision to go with the LIFT/SBU proposal, Wahlig said, pointing to state-funded centers at Stony Brook in biotechnology, advanced technology and more.
There’s also opportunity, as the partnership allows both LIFT and SBU to increase their reach, according to Yacov Shamash, SBU’s vice president of economic development. In short: The partnership and new MEP are less about moving away from Long Island’s existing manufacturing base and more about “assisting high-tech industries that also need manufacturing services,” Shamash told Innovate LI.
“It’s very complementary. Stony Brook University has a lot of economic-development tools for technology and biotechnology (companies), and now we’ll use those to support Long Island’s manufacturing sector as well.”
Shamash was quick to note that the university and LIFT aren’t the only two partners that will provide services under the new contract. Nassau Community College, NYIT and even Farmingdale State College – which threw its hat into the MEP ring on a separate proposal – will all be involved in the new manufacturing-focused partnership, according to Shamash.
“We’ve worked with Farmingdale before and we’d like to continue doing that,” he said. “We’ll be talking to Suffolk County Community College as well.”
This more-the-merrier approach will open the Long Island MEP to additional facilities and personnel, Shamash added, which should help the regional consortium achieve the milestones necessary to extend this latest funding deal. Unlike previous MEP contracts, this one comes with an option for an additional five years of funding after the first five expire, providing milestones are met.
“They’re basically the same metrics we’ve been doing for the past 10 or 15 years,” he added. “I have no doubt we’ll meet or exceed them.”
LIFT’s board of directors is also viewing the new MEP as an opportunity, according to Wahlig, “not only to increase our access to technology but to increase the depth of services we provide.”
“Stony Brook and LIFT are both very excited about this,” Wahlig said. “We’ll get a real synergistic effect out of this. I think it’s going to be highly successful.”