Building on biotech could be key to LI’s 21st centuryJuly 2018
Long Island has long lamented the decline of the aerospace industry, which fueled the regional economy for much of the 20th century, but we have before us an industry – biotech – that has even more economic potential. We need to seize this extraordinary opportunity and maximize it.
At its peak, the aviation industry employed more than 100,000 people on Long Island. The biomedical industry is currently much smaller – employing 12,300 people, according to the Final Report of the Long Island Index. But biotech on Long Island has strengths to rival those of such former, dominant, aerospace leaders as Grumman and Republic. It also has momentum.
The partners in the Long Island Bioscience Hub underscore the strengths of the biotech industry. They are the Center for Biotechnology, Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. In addition, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has affiliated with Northwell Health to accelerate cancer research. The Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine became fully accredited three years ago. And, according to the Long Island Index, employment in the biomedical industry grew locally by 12 percent between 2010 and 2016.
On top of that comes added momentum. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced $72 million in state funding for medical facilities at three Long Island institutions: $30 million to establish the Neuroscience Research Complex at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; $30 million for the Center for Bioelectronic Medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and $12 million to help build the College of Veterinary Medicine at LIU Post. The veterinary school will be the first in the Greater New York City area.
The challenge now is for Long Islanders to build a broad public consensus behind enhancing the biotech industry and the exciting economic potential that it holds for the region. It is key to the job growth that we have been seeking and offers the prospect of Long Island again being a global leader in a field of dynamic innovation.
The only industries that offered more job growth between 2010 and 2016 were construction and building materials (up 26 percent) and regional recreation (up 23 percent). But, as the Final Report of the Long Island Index noted, “Construction is a cyclical industry” and “regional recreation jobs are among some of the lowest paid.”
As Long Island Association President Kevin Law writes, in that Final Report, “Long Island is capable of becoming the East Coast capital of innovation.” He adds: “Long Island is cultivating a world-class research corridor that spans from Eastern Suffolk County into Manhattan.” Gov. Cuomo draws parallels between that research corridor and North Carolina’s Research Triangle and California’s Silicon Valley.
Those states have benefited enormously from those research centers, and Long Island can, too. But to do so, we must find new ways of working together to maximize the opportunity.
The Right Track for Long Island Coalition showed how much could be accomplished by building a public consensus behind the LIRR’s Third Track, and we should explore similar consensus-building opportunities in this connection. The success of the Third Track required the strong leadership of Gov. Cuomo, but he’s providing that same leadership to biotech on Long Island.
It’s time for Long Islanders to come together in our collective self-interest. We need to support the institutions that are key to the research corridor; recognize the crucial role that public transit plays in connecting them and spreading access to them across the region; build affordable downtown housing to retain and attract young people; and, embrace related possibilities that arise.
Long Island has been given the chance that we’ve wanted: to replace our past leadership in aerospace with prominence in another 21st-century field of innovation with global potential. The opportunity is here: together we can seize it.