Lack of skilled workers and overregulation are among the issues undercutting Long Island manufacturers. And they’re in the crosshairs of the Long Island Manufacturing Task Force, unanimously approved this month by the Suffolk County Legislature. Legislator William Lindsay III (D-Bohemia), who introduced the task force bill, will chair the pro-production panel, formed in response to 8,000-plus job openings at Long Island factories (as counted by the Long Island chapter of the Workforce Development Institute) and other frightening factors. With representation from Suffolk’s departments of labor and economic development – as well as the county’s Industrial Development Agency and downtown-revitalization programs – the 17-member task force will clear a new school-to-factory floor path to good-paying, economy-supporting manufacturing jobs, according to the man who created it:
Not the “Suffolk County” Legislative Manufacturing Task Force? The message is that I view us as being one region. We continuously put up all these different imaginary borders, when our economy crosses over borders and crosses over lines. It’s important to view the manufacturing industry as a Long Island industry, not just a Suffolk County industry.
Cross wired: Ideally, I would have like to have included [Nassau legislators] on the task force, but it’s so difficult to create cross-county legislation. I didn’t want to hold this up due to government bureaucracy.
Border crossing: I plan to. We’re trying to figure out the actual responsibilities of each task force member now, and as we do, I plan to reach out to a couple of legislators in Nassau County that I know to see if they’d be interested in participating, or having some representatives participate.
Shybunko-Moore, the merrier: I plan to ask – and hope she accepts – (GSE Dynamics President) Anne Shybunko-Moore to come and lead the task force with me. Anne is a true leader in the Long Island manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing an entire economy: Some people don’t realize how important manufacturing is to the economy. It’s not just the high-paying jobs manufacturers bring with them, it’s all the supporting businesses they help create and maintain.
Help (desperately) wanted: One of the universal priorities we’ve already found, with manufacturers across all different segments, is trying to find enough qualified applicants to hire on the entry level. One of the primary goals here will be to really spread awareness and help students understand, as they choose a future career path, that they can choose manufacturing as a viable option.
Back to school: Academia will be a critical element to this, both at the primary and secondary levels. One of the things I hope will come out of this is that partnerships will be created between the manufacturing segment and schools on the primary, middle and high school levels, a single path for a manufacturing workforce.
Like she isn’t busy enough: I will also invite, and I also hopes she accepts, Rosalie Drago of the Workforce Development Institute to be a part of this task force. I’ve worked with Rosalie in the past and I’ve seen how strongly she advocates for getting into the high schools and middle schools and teaching students about opportunities in manufacturing.
Regulating the regulators: That’s a difficult issue, and it’s one where I’m looking forward to hearing some more specifics from the task force members. I want to try first to identify the levels of government where [manufacturers] are hitting the biggest obstacles.
Task master: I think Long Island has a strong manufacturing future. If we can create an environment where we have the necessary employee base, it would be almost impossible for these manufacturers to leave Long Island and go to other parts of the country where it’s less expensive to operate.
Interview by Gregory Zeller