January 28, 2021
Virtual Event Presented by Middle Market Alliance of Long Island
The breakfast was kicked off by a keynote address from Jon Ledecky the managing partner of the group which owns the New York Islanders. Ledecky entertained the audience with his personal story of how he got to where he is today. The basis of which was do whatever you can to help people. In explaining how he was able to get the new home of the Islanders started and currently being built in Belmont he described going to and attending over 100 community events and meetings so that he would be able to help the members of the community get what they truly wanted. He feels that paid back dividends in the form of moving forward with the building of the new Arena in a timely and efficient manner.
Members of the panel emphasized the need to give people the experiences that they want out of work and life. And do this by emphasizing resources which Long Island is uniquely known for.
Gary Fuhrman stated that we are going to have to take bold moves to change the trajectory of the 25 year exodus off of Long Island by our young. All on the panel agreed that it’s going to take time and patience and that we need to focus on making Long Island attractive to young people. One of the ways is to focus on entertainment and venues for the young as well as for young families.
What makes Long Island attractive is our people, we have an educated workforce and a great educational system. And the fact that it’s not in New York City. It’s a place with small business matters.
The panel unanimously agreed that the most important change would be to streamline and speed up the approval process so that we can enjoy the same growth that places like Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta have been able to accomplish. Several members of the panel noted that all of those geographies roll out the red carpet whenever a business is looking to grow and expand and that we need to find a way to do the same to get projects done on Long Island.
The MMA Li held its 3rd annual September kick-off breakfast event with a fireside chat with retired Senator Alfonse D’Amato.
After a robust morning of networking the event kicked off with an opening question from a very skilled moderator Jed Mori. The question was so profound in fact that the senator needed almost no other questions to cover a vest array of topics which started with the conversation around impeachment and also covered the cost of housing and education, the environment, school taxes, the famous phone call between President Trump and the president of the Ukraine as well as circumstances surrounding his good friend Joe Biden.
He opened with his belief that President Trump too often criticizes his opponents as well as his our friends around the world in the media, whether it be through tweets or other forms. None of which is good for either him or our country or for our position as the leading democracy in the world. Particularly at this time when we are facing so many important International issues with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue nations throughout the world. He stressed the importance of a good and strong working relationship with the other leading democracies of the world like Great Britain, France and Germany.
He also went out on a limb criticizing both Republicans and Democrats for acting like fools, especially when they should be working together on common sense laws. He stated the obvious that there is no longer any camaraderie and, in fact, the controlling interests in both parties try to dissuade this and are singularly concerned about re-election. Instead of working together they promote avoiding working together like the plague so that they can assure themselves of re-election.
He stated his belief that this was all started by the right-wing of the Republican Party many, many years ago and that if he were in the Senate today he probably would be labeled a liberal by his fellow Republicans.
Similarly today the Democratic Party is faced with their own radical left-wing elements and he praised Speaker of the House Pelosi for her patients up until now in dealing with them but predicts that she will be more and more challenged by the left-wing of her own party as we get closer and closer to the national elections. He stressed his belief that people in public office need to start thinking more about the people that they serve versus the left and right factions of their own political parties.
Senator D’Amato added to his comments about President Trump that he is his own worst enemy, in particular citing his constant attacks publicly on both anybody and everybody who disagrees with him. Heretofore these discussions would most likely have been held in private with our allies and bringing them to the public does no good for our relationship with our allies and the level of support which we will need from them in dealing with worldwide issues.
He did however praise the president for his restraint in dealing with Iran over recent attacks by that nation on oil tankers. Once again emphasizing the need now more than ever for democracies around the world to stick together in dealing with actions of Iran. He feels we as a nation suffered a great loss when Secretary of Defense Mathis resigned as he was very well respected by our allies and enemies alike.
Before moving on to domestic issues he weighed in on the Ukraine and impeachment topic by stating his belief that the impeachment process will be an embarrassment for the USA and ultimately will not be successful. However the USA will be hurt and Joe Biden will be hurt on the world stage. He expressed deep concern for his friend Joe Biden, whom he said had admitted publicly that his son had indeed benefitted from deals in the Ukraine and China. He believes this will cost him the nomination and that Senator Elizabeth Warren will be the Democratic nominee for President in all likelihood.
He praised the President for creating over 1 million new jobs which pay over $100,000 a year in the energy industry. Citing that natural gas is 85% more efficient then the alternatives and will cost 7 times less than wind energy, he can’t understand why our political leaders, especially in New York, are blocking natural gas pipelines for the delivery of energy to Long Island and instead are pushing for offshore windmills. He believes the windmills would be better served being built in Upstate New York where they would probably produce more energy and would be significantly less expensive to build.
Senator D’Amato warned the audience that religion seems to be the impetus for gaining power in our country at this time. Thus pointing to an even greater need for more sober leadership in our country. He encouraged the audience to be engaged an outspoken and push the politicians to do the right thing for their constituencies rather than what’s going to get them re-elected.
He touched upon climate change inasmuch as if we took out all of the pollutants that we could ion our country it would equal a 4% Improvement in the climate. Pointing to the need to put more pressure on other polluters worldwide such as Russia, China and India. Again there is no easy answer, but this would certainly be helped if we could maintain good relationships and strong influence with our allies.
Turning his attention to Long Island he cited the high cost of housing and the high cost of education on middle income families and a lack of job opportunities to keep our youth here on Long Island. The amount of student debt is choking students and families. He called for college endowments to be used to reduce the cost of tuition rather than to pay for high salaried part-time professors and administrators and extravagant building projects on college campuses.
He also took aim at school taxes which he described as being out of control and in some instances equal 70% of local taxes. Superintendents being paid $500,000 to $600,000, the high cost of salaries, benefits and pensions and the fact that politicians are fearful statewide of taking on the teachers union as the cause for these high taxes.
He warned the audience about the reach of big government and in particular school districts. Pointing to recent attempts by school districts to limit residential developments and building projects within school districts Island wide.
In closing he again urged the audience to be more involved and vocal in local politics. He quoted from a recent article in the Long Island Herald in which Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
Getting involved in public education,
Improving our housing stock by breaking down NIMBISM and thereby adding affordable housing for our talented youth, and
Working together for the greater good.
These were the solutions put forth by Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, President of SUNY Old Westbury, during a very impassioned keynote speech at the MMA LI event this past Thursday. Pointing out that he was here today to discuss the same issue that has faced our region for the last 20 years, since he’s been President of SUNY Old Westbury. So why has it taken so long to address and even attempt to solve this vitally important issue?
Dr. Butts pointed to 3 core reasons:
We have lacked the will to face the challenge,
Our own crazy self-interests always seem to trip us up, and finally,
Our inability to confront our biases and find ways to understand each other and ultimately work together for the greater good.
Referencing how we have survived as a nation by being able to always take what we have and turn it into what we need and thereby succeed as a nation, he called on his audience to do the very same thing to solve this lingering issue. In large part the success our nation has achieved has been by focusing on the greater good and abandoning our self-interests, at least four time.
Dr. Butts continued by saying that we have no hope to build a better nation unless we all work together to keep the “golden door of opportunity” open.
Stating that young people have been drawn beyond Long Island, especially today, because we are now a global society; and historically because of the very high cost of housing. Basically we lose talent because of the cost of housing and we’ve not been able to find a way to build affordable housing to keep and attract the talent we will need to thrive; both socially and economically.
Dr. Butts also cautioned the audience that if we continue worrying about the people who are leaving, we will be forgetting about the people who are already here and those who are indeed coming here. They too have talents to offer and need to be engaged to do so.
He passionately encouraged the business leaders in the audience to get involved in public education at the high school level in their local school districts. Questioning if the school districts have the interest of Long Island in mind or just the interest of the local school districts in mind. He highlighted that unless business leaders begin to educate the educators’ as to what their talent needs are, we face the prospect of the continual loss of talent to more desirable regions. Again highlighting the reality that we oft times think too selfishly which ultimately leads us down the path of NYMBISM.
Dr. Butts’ remarks were followed by a panel discussion which was moderated by Steve Israel, Former Representative to New York in the United States Congress.
Congressman Israel opened up by saying that what brought us here today is the history of Long Island and what we need today is to identify the next big thing and who is going to do it. In order to achieve this we need to change the dynamic order to change our community.
Jobs growth is dependent on a well-educated workforce and once you do that you must get them to live here. You must create an environment that will attract and keep those talented workers. Right now there is an imbalance between demand and supply and we must seize on this opportunity to continue down the path which was forged by Long Islands’ role as the “Cradle of Aviation”. Israel pointed out that NASA did not put a man on the moon but rather it was the men and women who worked at Grumman who did that.
The panel, which consisted of Assemblyman Steve Stern, Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri, Teresa Ferraro the President of East West Industries and Robert Coughlin co-founder of TRITEC Real Estate, emphasized that the region also needs infrastructure improvements; especially north-south connectors and sewer and septic systems improvements. Robert Coughlin informed the audience that one of the main reasons why TRITEC agreed to partner with Patchogue and help develop over 700 residential units close to and in the downtown area was the fact that Patchogue had excess sewer capacity. He pointed out that currently over 70% of Suffolk county is on a septic system versus a sewer system and this is a great deterrent to further development.
The panel also greatly supported Dr. Butts’ call to get involved with public education, concluding that our schools are not preparing students who do not want to go to college for the jobs that are available to them in our region. But while there are jobs here to be filled it’s difficult for the workers to live here due to the lack of affordable housing which other regions readily offer.
Teresa Ferrara was especially direct on these issues. She stated we need to get educators, administrators and curriculum writers out to the industries to see what they need in order to teach the skills required for the students to get jobs. Further, in addition to improving the housing stock and improving transportation, she called for the “silent majority to start “out-shouting” the loud minority”.
The panel concluded their comments on this vital topic with some insights into which Industries are positioned to carry forward for the economic success of Long Island. Those industries are primarily technology, especially cyber security, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. Additionally aerospace, based on the number of Cradle of Aviation manufacturers which are still headquartered on Long Island, and green energy/sustainable energy which of course would need to be financially viable.
The MMA LI will be holding its next event on Tuesday, April 30th, which has a working title of “Surviving Your and Your Business’ Mid-life Crisis”.