State team to visit local eco-dev projects

A state team is schedule to visit the Nassau Hub area, where developer Bruce Ratner has begun work on a repurposed county coliseum.

By GREGORY ZELLER // As it prepares to submit requests for another $100 million or more in state aid, the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council is proudly showing off some of its brightest accomplishments to date.

As part of a region-by-region tour of economic-development council projects, a team of high-profile state officials is visiting Nassau and Suffolk on Wednesday, checking in on some of the highest-profile projects funded by the annual REDC awards.

Kevin Law, who’s leading the tour with his council co-chair, Stuart Rabinowitz of Hofstra University, said the bus trip is the perfect way to generate momentum for the forthcoming fifth round of REDC awards while giving Long Island a chance to showcase the economic progress it’s made since Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the annual regional competition in 2011.

“I think everybody who’s participated on the council and in our workgroups should be proud,” said Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association. “We’ve done as well or better than every other region in the state, in terms of dollars secured and progress made.”

While Long Island hasn’t collected the most total money over the first four rounds of the REDC competition, it has earned a top-three roost with $326.2 million in state awards, trailing only the Central New York ($344.6 million) and North Country ($338.1 million) regions. In 2014, Long Island snagged roughly $83 million of the $709.2 million doled out by the state, and for the second straight year – and third time in four years – was named a competition Top Performer.

All told, the REDC competition has awarded roughly $3 billion to statewide projects since it kicked off in 2011.

Wednesday’s tour will visit some of the most ambitious Long Island projects to be funded, in part, by REDC awards. The first is Hofstra’s robotics lab, which focuses on artificial intelligence and 3D and 4D printing and was funded as part of the $80 million awarded to the LIREDC in 2013.

Next stop: the massive Nassau Hub development in Uniondale, which received $500,000 in REDC funds in 2012, followed by Wyandanch Rising, Babylon Town’s $500 million public-private redevelopment behemoth.

Wyandanch Rising received $1 million in 2013 for “continued infrastructure improvements” through the REDC competition’s Opportunity Agenda, which lends financial support for job-training and education initiatives in one community in each of the 10 state regions. In 2014, Wyandanch Rising earned another $4.7 million for the construction of a three-story, 95,000-square-foot commercial building adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road’s Wyandanch station.

Wednesday’s tour continues with a stop at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, a not-for-profit effort to provide incubator space and wet labs for spinoffs from top-tier Long Island research facilities including Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University. In 2012, the burgeoning park received a $500,000 boost to support a 30,000-square-foot expansion.

While the SIAT tour hits some of the Island’s biggest economic-development efforts, Law noted that some of Long Island’s less-flashy projects are among his favorites to be funded through the REDC awards – for instance, the $227,583 and $120,000 earmarks in 2012 to improve two commercial fish-processing, packing and distribution facilities in Montauk.

“All of the ones we’re highlighting [Wednesday] are good ones,” the LIREDC co-chair told Innovate LI. “But I really like some of the smaller projects on the East End as well, the ones that promote our fishing and tourism heritage.

“I also like some of the neat projects at some of our research institutions, like Winthrop Hospital, Cold Spring Harbor and BNL,” Law added. “We have a lot of projects to be proud of.”

In 2012, Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola received $1 million to put toward the construction of a 94,000-square-foot research institute focused on diabetes and obesity. Both CSHL and BNL were among the first awardees when the LIREDC received over $101.6 million in the competition’s inaugural 2011 round.

The region will soon have other projects to add to its impressive REDC-funded list. Long Island Regional Economic Development Council members met this week to review project applications submitted for Round Five funding, and while no official selections have yet been made, “there will be no shortage of good projects to recommend to Albany this year,” according to Law.

When the LIREDC makes its recommendations in September, the co-chair added, it will be gunning for close to $105 million, with about $30 million earmarked for capital programs and the rest in “programmatic aid and tax-credit deals.”

“We’re going to have a nice mix of innovation, natural assets, infrastructure improvements and workforce training,” Law said. “We’re confident and optimistic that we’ll continue to be successful.”