LI construction projects will receive 70% of a $350M state fund

Originally published in Newsday on June 30, 2022.

More than 70% of the $350 million in state business grants to be awarded on Long Island over the next few years are reserved for building projects that will boost the economy, according to guidelines approved on Thursday.

Applications for the grant money will be available in the next couple of days from the Hauppauge office of Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency, an ESD official said.

The grants are part of the Long Island Investment Fund, or LIIF, which was a last-minute addition to the 2022-23 state budget.

LIIF consists of three pots of money. The largest, $250 million, is reserved for “transformative projects” such as large-scale real estate developments. Up to four projects will receive $25 million each and up to 30 projects will receive $5 million each, the guidelines state.

Construction must start within three years of the project receiving a grant or must be completed within seven years. The money can be used for business expansions, research and development laboratories and new buildings on college campuses — but not for facilities that will only be used for housing, medical services or retail sales, according to the guidelines.

“These projects must have the potential to develop or redevelop communities and sites into transformative job-creation engines,” the guidelines state.

A grant cannot represent more than 50% of the project’s total cost.

Kevin Law, the new ESD chairman and a partner in the Tritec Real Estate Co. in East Setauket, said, "These guidelines [will] make sure that criteria is met. So, by the time [the projects] arrive at the board we know [they] have been properly vetted," he said before the ESD board unanimously approved the guidelines during a virtual meeting.

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council will review the LIIF applications. The council has helped to determine how state business grants and tax breaks are distributed in Nassau and Suffolk counties since 2011.

Council director Cara Longworth told the ESD board on Thursday that the LIIF grant application will be "posted on our website hopefully by tomorrow or certainly within the next few days." The form may be found at esd.ny.gov/long-island-investment-fund.

Projects seeking state support will be prioritized based on whether they have been endorsed by the development council and have letters of support from the state senator and Assembly member who represent the project site, according to state officials.

Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), chair of the Senate's commerce and economic development committee, said, “At a time when there is so much uncertainty in our economy … the [LIIF] provides 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,” she told Newsday.

Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) agreed, saying, "As we emerge from the pandemic, the investment fund will put shovels into the ground for many of the projects that have long been on hold."

Besides the $250 million for construction projects, the guidelines earmark $50 million each for technology startups and skills training for workers.

A business plan competition will be held annually for five years for startups in biotechnology, health technology and medical devices. There also will be one or more “regional workforce training centers” established to equip job seekers with the skills that employers need.

ESD will solicit proposals from groups to run the competition and the training centers, an agency official said on Thursday.

The LIIF is similar to a $550 million Transformative Investment Program, which was established in the 2015-16 state budget.

That money was spent on 18 projects. The largest amounts went to Nassau Hub improvements in Uniondale, $131 million; a center for innovation in medicine and engineering at Stony Brook University, $75 million; research facilities at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, $55 million, and parking garages at the Ronkonkoma Hub, $50 million.

WHERE THE MONEY WILL GO

The Long Island Investment Fund consists of $350 million in state grants. Here’s how they will be distributed:

Large-scale building projects: $250 million

Technology startups: $50 million

Workforce development centers: $50 million

SOURCE: Empire State Development