Amid Historic Generosity, A $350M Opportunity For LI

Originally published in Innovate LI on July 12, 2022.

From the See You in November File comes Albany’s $350 million “investment fund framework” for Long Island – more than a campaign promise, beyond ambitious, downright “transformative,” according to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Combining new and previously announced initiatives, the Long Island Investment Fund – a hefty, nine-digit Empire State Development war chest exclusively focused on Nassau and Suffolk counties – is chock full of funding for “transformative projects to strengthen Long Island’s economy,” according to the half-term governor, who absolutely approves this message.

The LIIF arrives among a tsunami of generous initiatives washing across New York State. Hochul, who faces U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (D-NY 1) in this fall’s gubernatorial election, has announced (or reminded voters about) nearly a billion dollars’ worth of state investments benefiting affordable housing initiativesclean-water infrastructurechildcare servicesreproductive healthmental healthfishing industriesNew York City restoration and other high-profile projects and issues – just in the last two weeks.

Four-term Congressman and U.S. Army Reservist Zeldin – a constant 2020 Election denierconcealed firearms enthusiast and big-time pro-lifer who told Spectrum News in June that he’s “not aware of any member of Congress connected to Jan. 6 or otherwise being involved in some type of crime connected to the 2020 election” – has not issued a statement regarding the LIIF, though he has recently skewered Hochul’s “best Jane Fonda impression” (regarding new state gun-control measures) and slammed the governor as “the new ringleader of the pro-criminal, high-tax, corrupt Working Families Party.”

Wherever it falls among Hochul’s re-election priorities, the LIIF – included in Albany’s previously announced FY 2023 budget – is brimming with grants and easy loans for large-scale projects promising lasting impacts.

The investment fund is essentially divided into four categories: $150 million for programs with top job-creation potential, $100 million for substantial real estate developments, $50 million for workforce development and $50 million reserved for a regional business-plan competition.

That’s some significant economic firepower focused on Long Island, according to Empire State Development Board Chairman Kevin Law, the former president and CEO of the Long Island Association and co-chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

“The Long Island Investment fund will create opportunities to help local development priorities, attract new businesses that will create jobs and help the region thrive,” noted Law, who was anointed as ESD board chair-in-waiting in late 2021 and formally confirmed in June. “Under Gov. Hochul’s leadership, we are making investments to support projects and initiatives that will reenergize Long Island’s economy.”

To help ESD select the most promising projects and encourage robust public engagement in the funding process, the LIREDC – now co-chaired by Bethpage Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President Linda Armyn and Farmingdale State College President John Nader – will review applications and perform initial vetting of applications for LIIF funding.

The regional council will then make recommendations to ESD based on various criteria, including the availability of add-on private investments, downtown-revitalization potential and investments in biotechnology and other regional priorities.

Career-focused educational opportunities and workforce-development efforts will also earn gold stars from the LIREDC reviewers, and possibly the LIIF.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said the forward-looking investment fund would be “a strategic and collaborative process” and predicted the fund “will catalyze economic growth, create jobs and prepare the region’s workforce of tomorrow.”

“By investing in Long Island communities, New York is expanding opportunities that will create a brighter future for present and future generations of Long Islanders,” Knight added.

State Senator Anna Kaplan (D-Carle Place), who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business, called the LIIF “a golden opportunity to invest in big projects that will make our region more attractive for private investment, make our communities more vibrant and support significant job creation.”

“The fund will also support small businesses that are innovating in our growing healthcare and life-science sectors by spurring competition and leveraging some of our region’s great research institutions,” Kaplan added. “If we’re going to keep our region competitive and grow our economy, it’s going to take investments in innovation that keep the best and brightest minds right here on Long Island.”