The Change We Need!

There are many challenges which face us as a county. For an elected official, these challenges come down to improving the quality of life of the people we serve.

It is certainly no secret that Long Island, like many communities in the northeast is losing jobs to the sun belt states, in particular in the manufacturing sector, and with it the many blue collar jobs that they employed. We need to face the cold hard fact that, with very few exceptions, those types of manufacturing jobs aren't coming back. If we are going to improve the quality of life for our residents, then we are going to have to tackle head-on the challenge of a business resurgence that will lead to better paying jobs and a vibrant economy.

Experience and bold leadership is required to institute a true fresh start approach to economic development. As a successful businessman, proven problem solver, member of the Town of Brookhaven's Industrial Development Agency Board and member of the Brookhaven Local Development Corporation, I have the experience to know the root causes of the problems and how to solve them.

Clearly, we need to change our thinking. We need to re-tool our economy. We need to replace those lost manufacturing jobs with professional, technical, white collar and service-oriented companies.

We need to get competitive in attracting these kinds of companies to come to Suffolk County. New York State is known nationally as one of the most hostile states in the union to businesses. In Suffolk County, at least, we need to change that negative perception. Of the 50 states in the union, New York consistently ranks 49th in polls that measure business friendliness. There are roughly 3,400 counties in the United States and somewhere around 40,000 cities, towns and villages. We are competing with every one of these in attempting to get businesses to locate here. We need to realize this and start getting a lot more competitive in getting companies to set up shop here.

And while we are on the subject, we need to do much more in helping the companies who are here to grow. Ronald Reagan liked to tell the old joke that goes, "I'm from the government, I'm here to help you." I think that joke probably strikes a chord with many of our local business owners.

When I ask local business owners what government can do for them, their answer is always the same, "Please don't do another thing. Don't add another tax or another layer of red tape. Get out of our way and let us make money and create jobs." I believe that we do need to get out of businesses way, stop unwittingly creating obstacles to their success and how about this for an idea? Listening to and learning from what they have to tell us and taking advantage of the valuable experience and knowledge that they are willing to share.

Right now the average time on Long Island to get a building project underway, from a change of zone to shovel in the ground, is 6 years. 6 years! It took us less than 4 years to end World War II. It took only 13 months to build the Empire State Building. We need to streamline the planning and zoning process so that good shovel ready projects that create jobs can get started in a reasonable time frame.

According to the New York State, the LIA and the New York Times' statistics, 9 out of 10 companies on long Island employ fewer than 20 people. To put it another way, we are Main Street and not Wall Street. Main Street companies are looking at what goes on in Washington and are saying, "We didn't get a bail out. We played by the rules. Where's our help?" We need to help these Main Street businesses and certainly not hurt them.

Any successful salesperson will tell you that your number one target audience for new sales is your existing customer base. We need to get more of these small companies to re-locate to Suffolk County, help new small businesses with their start-ups here and just as important - help those who are here to grow.

I have stated that the challenges for an elected official come down to improving the quality of life for the residents that we represent. I can think of no better way to accomplish this that through true economic development.

For example, in talking to the residents of the 6th Legislative District, I've heard a lot about taxes and believe me, not much of it good. Clearly, the residents of this county are looking for people who will make the hard decisions on cutting wasteful government spending. The government is spending too much!  I haven't met a voter yet who doesn't agree with this. But let's be honest, it's going to take more than mere fiscal restraint. The nature of things is that they don't get more inexpensive. We need to institute this fresh start approach to economic development that I have been talking about. We need to bring professional technical companies to the county with the good paying jobs they come with.

Every time we say "no" to business and fail to expand the corporate tax base, we say "yes" to a residential property tax increase. It's time we started to say yes to business so we can say no to property taxes. We can find new revenue sources so we can reduce the residential tax burden. This will truly hold the line on people's taxes while providing them with greater spending power which will thereby stimulate the economy. And that will be an actual improvement in their quality of life.

It is critical that we make the right decisions, tough as they may be. As your County Legislator, I would extend my hand in partnership with the businesses of this county which are the backbone of our economy. I certainly realize that I cannot do it alone. We need to do it together. If we make the right decisions, the road we go down can lead to a bright future for Suffolk County.