No. 94: George Bailey, 42 unicorns and a robot with good penmanship

It’s Monday: A great start to the short week everybody and welcome new readers, including John, Michael, Nancy, Eddie, Robert, Pete and more. Happy to have you aboard. Don’t forget to send tips, news items, shameless plugs, criticisms and corrections to

Speaking of short: The shortest day – and longest night – of the year are tomorrow. Here’s the science.

Well, whattaya know about that: Christmas is soon upon us and with it the opportunity to revisit, once more, Frank Capra’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Faithfully trotted out for the holidays each year since 1974 – when the owners forgot to renew the copyright and it slipped into the public domain – the film is less a Christmas story than a dark parable about failure and success and how we might best measure them.

Author Philip Van Doren Stern would have had his own notion. After failing to get a publisher interested in his short story, “The Greatest Gift,” he eventually turned it into a 24-page pamphlet, a sort of extended Christmas card that he mailed to friends in 1945. One landed in the hands of an RKO Radio Pictures exec, who bought the rights hoping Cary Grant would be interested. (He was, but decided to make The Bishop’s Wife instead.)

Capra took over the project, rewrote and renamed it and hustled it through production for a Dec. 21, 1946 release with James Stewart starring. It did only so-so at the box office and was creamed at the Oscars by The Best Years of Our Lives. And yet, millions of people still tune in to watch it each year, to ponder just how wonderful life really is.

The answer, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and Capra wisely left it at that. Where the Potters of the world see schmaltz and false sentimentality, those with a bit of George Bailey inside find comfort in knowing there’s value in just doing the best you can.

(Especially if it’s with Donna Reed.)

We’ll be pondering ourselves this week, so no Friday newsletter. Have a great holiday.

Expected very soon: Albany is poised to name names in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which channels serious federal dollars to support manufacturing efforts in the state’s 10 economic development zones.

LIFT, which has had the contract for years, has partnered with Stony Brook University in the renewal bid. Hofstra, Farmingdale State College and North Shore-LIJ have teamed up on a counter proposal, with a third coming from ADDAPT, the aeronautical-focused support group. Stay tuned.

The Debrief: We check in with Greg Blyskal, man on the ground at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale State College, where there have been many fits and a few starts but things are finally looking up.

Do this: EY has kicked off the 30th running of its Entrepreneur of the Year program and is looking for those of you with passion, ingenuity, vision, drive, ambition, etc. Nominations accepted until March 1, New York awards in June, super exclusive Palm Desert nationals next November.

Horns of plenty: The 42 startups that became billion-dollar unicorns in 2015.

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About our sponsor: The Long Island Business Development Council has helped build the regional economy for more than 45 years by bringing together government economic development officials, developers, financial experts and others for education, debate and networking. Visit

No tombstone left unturned: The Russians are studying the DNA of Czar Alexander III with hopes they’ll be able to confirm, fully and at long last, that the remains of his grandson, Czar Nicholas, and Nick’s wife Alexandra and their five children, are really them.

Better leave now: Scientists have discovered a new planet, believed to be habitable, that’s a short, short 14 light years away. (Short, short being relative.)

Sorry, about that: Dell, which said it did not anticipate cutting staff as it took itself private last year, has since whacked 10,000 jobs, according to a regulatory filing. (They still employ 98,300.)

Saw this coming: Gillette has sued upstart competitor Dollar Shave Club overpatent infringement, including its blade cutting edges, which are made of carbon, then overcoated with chromium and an outer layer of synthetic resin polytetrafluoroethylene. (Full disclosure: I’m a Gillette test shaver.)

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Pumped up: Frank Lloyd Wright designed a gas station that was supposed to have been built in Buffalo in 1927. They built it in Minnesota 30 years later. Still in business, BTW.

Bond. Not that Bond: This one’s a robotic handwriting service that will sign cards, pen notes, address envelopes and mail them. $500 for it to learn your handwriting, or use one of the company’s stock styles. About $3.50 per card but cheaper in bulk. The machines also handle brushes and markers. There’s an app.

Keep ’em coming: Congress quietly approved a measure last week that extends the EB-5 “cash for visas” program for another year. New York developers have raised $3.7 billion from EB-5s, mostly from wealthy Chinese.

Stuff we’re going to: The unveiling of the AVZ economic survey and opinion poll, with Rick Lazio, Jamie Moore and more, Jan. 7, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Crest Hollow, Tom Murray and Kominicki co-moderate, $35 or call 631-913-4258 for display tables and sponsorships.

Plus: A tech networker hosted by Innovate, LISTnet and LaunchPad, Jan. 19, 5 to 7:30 p.m., Jewel, free to attend but the drinks cost money.

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Compiled by John Kominicki. Thanks for reading.