A Long Island lifer – he earned an undergraduate degree at C.W. Post and an MBA at Adelphi University before serving as president of the Lake Success-based subsidiary of Norwegian biotech firm Invitrogen Dynal AS – Greg Blyskal knows better than most what makes the Island’s economy tick. His life’s lessons, including his faith in innovation and technology as LI’s best economic hopes, have been reaffirmed at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale State College, where the first-and-only executive director has held the reins since 2000. In his words:
ROUGH START: We had a bit of difficulty in the beginning because of the operating agreement with the state. It tied us to state procurement processes that could take years, which quickly became a disadvantage in terms of working with dynamic companies. We couldn’t respond as quickly as we wanted.
TURNING POINT: When OSI Pharmaceuticals wanted to expand here, we had an opportunity to change the operating agreement to a ground lease. If we had remained in the operating agreement, any renovations OSI wanted to do would have to go through state processes, and Astellas – which had taken over OSI – wouldn’t have stayed. The state realized if they kept the operating agreement, the Bioscience Park would just keep limping along and we’d never have an opportunity for real activity.
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW: OSI was primarily in Broad Hollow Bioscience Park’s original building, which is 62,000 square feet. It’s been empty since they left (in 2013). We’ve had some interest recently from a couple of companies and we’ll be doing follow-ups after the holidays.
HIS LIPS ARE SEALED: They’re bioscience-related companies, but I won’t say more than that. We don’t like to talk about companies in the mix for space until they actually land here. There’s a lot of things that happen between the time they start looking at space and the time they actually move in.
HALF-FULL: We’re looking for a tenant who will take at least half of that building, which will put us in a good position to operate the facility with the proper income. At that point, we’d have the option of using that additional space to either expand the companies coming into the second building or adding some other companies to the first building.
TIMETABLE: “When” is just too speculative. It takes more time with larger spaces than it does with early-stage companies that just need a couple thousand square feet.
ABOUT THAT SMALLER BUILDING: We have several companies lined up to lease space in the second building, which is 40,000 square feet. If everything falls into place, the building will be fully occupied in the first quarter of 2016. When you’re working with early-stage companies, you try to match their dates: when they want to move in, when they will finalize financing. There can be time lapses on their side. They may need to add something to their space – a fume hood, for instance – and we don’t usually put additional services like that in place until they make a firm commitment. All these things can slow down a lease commitment.
HELPING HAND: One thing we do to help the process is, if a company has certain specialized equipment it needs to purchase, we can consider purchasing it and having them pay back the costs through their lease term. That way, they’re not only leasing space and providing a service on Long Island, but what could be an enormous initial capital expense is instead phased in slowly.
THE YEAR GONE BY: It’s gone quite well this year. You could say that 2015 was spent setting up 2016. There’s only one company here right now (South Dakota-based MitoGenetics LLC), but the 40,000-square-foot building is fully committed. And even though we lost some time on the 62,000-square-foot building, that’s starting to come along now, too.
STATE OF AFFAIRS: We were ready to hire a commercial real estate broker in the summer of 2014 to help us showcase [the former OSI space]. But these buildings are part of the Start-Up NY program, and the program asked us to wait because it was hiring two commercial brokers, one for the eastern part of the state, one for the western. They thought they’d have it done by that summer, but it didn’t get approved until June 2015. So we lost a full year there.
FULL CIRCLE: Then the broker hired by the state indicated that he didn’t have the time to market the building the way we wanted to market it. So ironically, we’re in talks now with the commercial broker we were talking to in 2014. I think we’ll have that broker on board by January.
THE YEAR AHEAD: We’re definitely looking to expand the services offered here. One thing we’re looking to do is not just have bioscience companies doing their own work, but providing laboratory and research services to other Long Island companies – a mix of companies developing their own products and providing third-party research for others.
THE SCIENCE OF STABILITY (OR VICE VERSA): I think innovation is a great hope for Long Island, where you already have institutions in place that form the foundation of an innovation industry. A lot of other areas around the country try to get into bioscience, but maybe have one or possibly two institutions to support that. Here you can look at the research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Stony Brook University, the Feinstein Institute, Brookhaven National Lab … Long Island has the institutions to support a real bioscience cluster, and to me, that’s really exciting.
Interview by GREGORY ZELLER