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LIA President Kevin Law

October 22, 2010 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Kevin Law, the dynamic new leader of the Long Island Association (LIA), New York State’s largest business group opened by expressing surprise that LIMBA’s Ernie Fazio was not on stage at Hofstra’s gubernatorial debate as the MAGLEV party candidate, given our feckless leader’s tireless
advocacy for this new rail technology.

Six weeks into his new tenure as head of the LIA, his previous appearance in front of LIMBA was as the Chief Executive of the Long Island Power Authority ( LIPA ). 

Energy and Infrastructure will still be focused on at the LIA as just two of the challenges facing Long Island.  Mr. Law brings a fresh perspective to the LIA, seeking to partner with other business groups to unify Long Island’s message to Albany and Washington DC.   To that end he has been meeting with many groups, the Partnership for NYC, Hauppauge Industrial Association (HIA),the Association for a Better Long Island (ABLI), and of course, LIMBA today.

One of his primary goals for the LIA will be to unify the efforts of the organizations that make up Long Island’s mosaic of groups in society, business and government.  Not many entities tie together and represent Long Island as a region as the LIA does.  His previous leadership role was at one of those that did, LIPA.  He mentioned the Long Island Rail Road as another and pointed to the recent efforts to coordinate the region by the revival of the Long Island Regional Planning Council.  His service for two governors, two county executives, and at a major Long Island law firm give him a good perspective on what businesses struggle with on Long Island.  As an aside, he commented on how much more interesting the recent gubernatorial debate might have been if his old boss Steve Levy had still been in the race.

Segueing into Suffolk County’s efforts to grow the county, he spoke about the recent successes in keeping Canon’s US headquarters in Melville, and attracting Leviton to move its headquarters to Suffolk from parts west.  These two successes keep 3000 jobson Long Island.  He emphasized the need
to capitalize on this good news and other stories like it to change the currently negative psychology and perception of Long Island.  Acknowledging some of the challenges facing Long Island his talk moved into the areas of taxes, the multiplicity of governing bodies, and the infrastructure of Long Island, both physical and intellectual.  Sewers and the power grid were foremost on his mind for investment in the physical, and the fine educational system on the island is deserving of continued investment to cultivate the high value businesses and jobs that LIA wants to develop and attract to Long Island.

Still early in his tenure, Kevin is continuing to take inventory of the wide array of groups on the island, meeting with as many as possible, the ones mentioned above and more, such as Action Long Island, and the Association for Commerce, Industry, and Technology ( ACIT).  This survey is taking place in order to inform the short and long term agenda of the LIA.  He wants that agenda to envelop the concerns of all these groups unifying their voices and efforts.

Addressing another challenge, taxes, he came out in opposition of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, because of their impact on a high cost area such as Long Island. $250,000 doesn’t go as far here as it does in Oklahoma, or even upstate New York.  LIA also seeks to address the imbalance in Long Island as a net exporter of taxes to both DC and Albany and will not be timid about taking positions on issues.  One of these issues and a priority for the LIA is to move Long Island to be a leader in the “Green Economy”, continuing the trend to develop renewable energy while he was at LIPA.  It will be tough for Long Island to do on its own without Federal help, addressing that tax imbalance with research money and internationally by fighting currency manipulation to keep the playing field level.  This will help Long Island meet the issues it faces with energy, infrastructure and education.

As usual, the Q & A session was lively, and at times feisty!

Michelle Zere lit a fire by asking how Kevin was going to change the culture of the LIA to make it more in line with the needs of smaller business owners, and eliminate the perception that it is only addressing the needs of the larger businesses on Long Island.  Mohinder Singh also echoed Michelle’s
comment with a request that the LIA expand its diversity efforts.

Kevin responded by assuring us that he was addressing the issue and will be driving the LIA to be more inclusive, and acknowledged the importance of small business on Long Island, citing the statistic of 90% of Long Island businesses having fewer than twenty employees.

Marc Herbst of the Long Island Contractors Association ( LICA ) called on the LIA to not be a paper tiger, and be a leader of all the business groups, pledging the support of LICA towards that goal.  Following up, he asked Kevin how the LIA was going to help advance the $500MM worth of sewer projects that are currently on the drawing boards.

His answer was to agree that this sewer work is critical to progress development on Long Island and a key to future growth.  Reviewing the history of the last round of sewer projects on Long Island, he emphasized the need for federal funding to pickup a large portion of the cost of this infrastructure.

Larry Weiss asked Kevin for his thoughts on how to address NIMBYism, which Long Island is seemingly the capitol of.

Recalling his tenure at the Town of Huntington during the early efforts to get the Matinecock Court housing development in East Northport off the ground, he stated the best way to head off NIMBYism is education and outreach.  NIMBYism generally comes about because of a lack of education and uninformed opposition.  The proponents of a project must get out in front of this in order not to lose the spin war before it starts.

A highlight of the session was a group of questions surrounding access to the gubernatorial debate broadcast and control of the news media  on Long Island.  That certainly got the audience’s attention  and dander up.  Once again it was another provocative, entertaining and informative LIMBA meeting with an excellent speaker and a room full of Long Island’s movers and shakers.  Please join us for these Friday morning sessions that finish the work week off on a high note and never fail to be of value.