By Andrew Wroblewski
A new weapon against Suffolk County’s “brain drain” met for the first time Monday afternoon and it’s called the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers.
Members of the group, a consortium of chambers and business organizations across Suffolk, aim to bring their collective power together to help businesses overcome hurdles and, in turn, retain Suffolk’s young professionals.
“If we can provide jobs and housing for our youth, they’ll stay,” said Robert Fonti, SCAC co-chair. “Build it and they will stay -- not ‘they will come.’”
To do that, Fonti, who is also Suffolk chairman of the bi-county Long Island Business Council, added SCAC hopes to focus on steadying Suffolk’s business climate, in part by lobbying for business-friendly legislation.
One example Fonti cited is a state bill that would allow businesses to make contributions into a small business tax-deferred savings account for use during economic hardship, or when the governor deems a natural disaster, for the purpose of job retention or creation. The bill passed in the state Senate in June and is now under review by the Assembly.
SCAS will also work with officials on the county level.
“Growth will be driven in this region by our small businesses,” said County Executive Steve Bellone, who attended Monday’s meeting. “This group, I think, potentially is one of the best developments that we have seen in our county in a long time.”
Bellone added that SCAS could collectively address issues affecting all of Suffolk. “The foundational issues of housing, transportation, job opportunities and infrastructure investments that will power the economy to bring young people back to our region,” he said.
This is something that individual chambers and organizations may struggle with, “But we have strength in numbers,” said SCAS co-Chair Gina Coletti.
“If there are legislative issues that need to be risen above, individually, sometimes, it’s hard to overcome them. You can’t always get something done when you’re on a smaller scale,” said Coletti, who is an associate broker with Hauppauge-based Smith & DeGroat Real Estate.
Representatives from the 60 chambers and organizations enrolled in SCAC – including 11 from the Town of Huntington – plan to meet quarterly each year. While it’s been attempted in the past, Coletti said, this is the first time a collective of chambers and organization in Suffolk has made major strides. “We’re determined to get this done,” she said.
Fonti said SCAS also plans to work with its western counterpart, the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, to boost their influence across Long Island.