Following the town board's last week to take a look firsthand at an example of economic development in action, Supervisor Sean Walter touted the benefits of reaching up to higher levels of government to help the process of developing Enterprise Park at Calverton. The 2,400 acres sold to the town for $1 have seen several proposed projects come and go its way since it was handed over to the town 15 years ago.
Fort Devens, meanwhile, has enticed 75 businesses to its locale 35 miles west of Boston, one being Northrup Grumman, which formerly called EPCAL home. Devens was also shuttered in the mid-1990s and has been operated since by MassDevelopment, a state agency responsible for the 4,400 acres.
The lesson brought back to Long Island was that creating a state agency would cut down the layers of government developers have to deal with and minimize the red tape.
With last week's lesson in mind, Walter recently took things into his own hands in an attempt to cut another layer of tape. Monday morning, he took a drive to Stony Brook University to catch the end of a press conference with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer was joined by leaders from SBU, Brookhaven National Lab, and Cold Spring Harbor Labs, announcing the creation of a regional innovation cluster on Long Island.
According to the website for the Office of Urban Affairs, regional innovation clusters are, "geographic concentrations of firms and industries that do business with each other and have common needs for talent, technology, and infrastructure."
Walter pitched EPCAL as a location ripe for the cluster's picking.
"If we can create a situation where we can have one-stop permitting and you can come into EPCAL, like Devens, and in 75 days get a permit, that helps what Senator Schumer wants to do," Walter said in an interview on Tuesday. "And I can't think of any better partners to have in the redevelopment of EPCAL than the federal government, Brookhaven National Lab, Stony Brook, and Cold Springs Harbor."
According to Walter, Schumer, who is working with the White House Regional Innovation Cluster Working Group to conduct a site visit to Long Island, said on Monday morning that he wants to meet with the supervisor at his Manhattan office to further discuss how EPCAL can fit into the plan. Schumer's office confirmed that the Senator would be happy to meet representatives from the town face-to-face or, "schedule permitting," over the phone.
On Monday, Schumer said, "this newly created regional innovation cluster we are announcing today is exactly what we need to jump start local economies and put people back to work."
Walter said he is going to write up a "point paper" highlighting the facts and send it to Schumer's Long Island representative, Gerry Petrella. He said he's hoping for a face-to-face within 30 days.
"I'm really hopeful this is going to turn into something," he said. "It's been a difficult road for the town to have received this property. A wonderful gift, but when you're asking a town of 35,000 people to accomplish what the federal government would have a tough time accomplishing, you're asking for a lot.
"So we really need to be working with the federal government, and State Sen. LaValle, and Assemblyman Losquadro, and Governor Cuomo. The only way EPCAL gets subdivided the way I think the residents want is through a combined effort."