The Debrief: Linda Amper is breathing life into the life sciences

The Long Island Association has hired former OSI Pharmaceuticals exec Linda Amper to help launch Long Island Bio, a business-development platform to be co-chaired by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory chief Bruce Stillman and Canon USA Executive VP Seymour Liebman. The biotech, pharma and life sciences platform is right in Amper’s wheelhouse: The PhD (healthcare administration, Columbia Southern), who also holds a master’s in public administration from LIU Post, spent years in senior-executive positions with OSI and the New York Blood Center. With her new position as “chief people officer” at Woodbury transit-tech specialist Clever Devices and her self-titled business consultancy, Linda E. Amper LLC, on the rise, these are busy days for the veteran executive – and critical ones for the Island economy. Her view:

VERY CLEVER: I’ve had my own consultant practice for the past two years, and Clever Devices was one of my clients. They asked me to come in-house and introduce best practices to the organization. I found their field fascinating, so I agreed to come on board as their chief people officer, focusing on people, obviously, and business strategy.

LEARN BY DOING: My first supervisory role was probably my most challenging. I was the youngest supervisor of all my colleagues. No one mentored me or showed me the ropes, and all of a sudden, I was responsible for making decisions. That experience probably helped form the type of leader I’ve been through my career: a transparent, open-door mentor.

PERSPECTIVES: When I was at the Blood Center, I was the executive director of the Long Island region. That certainly gave me a good overview of the Long Island economy, but I’d say the best view came when I was at OSI, for several reasons. I was involved in the community because we had a culture of giving back. I sat on the LIA board and I participated in the Energeia Partnership. Each experience, in its own way, gave me facetime with people from all of the segments that drive the Long Island economy.

BIO FUEL: The LIA retained me as a consultant to help them prepare a strategic plan, mission statement, etc., for their committee, to help get it off the ground. Personally, I hope Long Island Bio really starts to put a focus on creating a real biotech corridor on Long Island. That’s something I’ve always wanted to see, from back in my OSI days.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: I have friends in the biotech sector in the Boston area, and when their company gets bought, there’s another biotech company next door waiting. They don’t have to worry about uprooting their family.

INNOVATION DECLARATION: Innovation is a crucial component of Long Island’s future economy. If we can’t embrace new ideas and different ways of getting things done, we aren’t going to be able to sustain ourselves. Many have said for years that Long Island is at a tipping point, and I’m passionate about seeing through the changes that are needed.

NOTHING TO FEAR, BUT: People with limited views who are too worried about their own agendas to allow progress to take place. I think people worry too much about their own neighborhoods and the four blocks around wherever they are, and what’s going to happen there. The third track for the Long Island Rail Road is a perfect example: People won’t let it happen in their backyard, then complain about the fact that Long Islanders have trouble commuting into the city.

PLANS TO FAIL: I get very frustrated when I read about Gov. Cuomo’s plans for Long Island. You look at these ideas and shake your head, because you know most of these things are not going to happen in my lifetime. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s the local government’s fault – maybe it’s local government that stops these types of things from happening. Whatever it is that stops proposals like these from going forward, that’s what worries me.

IN TRANSIT: I travel to cities all over the world, and when you’re there you can easily use mass transit to get around. You just don’t have that here, unless you’re in Manhattan, and it’s very important.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: I think Long Island is a beautiful area to live in, but if we’re not careful I don’t think it’s going to be what it is right now 50 years from now. I think it could become a place with a bunch of houses where people have to go somewhere else to work. I have older children and one of them has decided to settle on Long Island, but I look at their taxes and the rest and I wonder how much longer they’ll be able to sustain it.

SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER? Probably an overhaul of our local government.

Interview by GREGORY ZELLER