The State University of New York at Farmingdale is seeking permission from the state to expand plans for a biotechnology research and development park on its campus, saying that the move would allow it to both foster economic growth on Long Island and better serve students.
Construction of a 50,000 square-foot facility, which would host emerging biotechnology companies as tenants, at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, has been under way since this April, and its completion is expected by spring. Last year, the state gave the college special permission to undertake that project, since its scope went beyond the college's traditional academic role by promoting economic development. The state also provided $15 million to fund it. Now, the college wants authorization to lease a portion of the 20 acres of land set aside for the park for the development of a privately operated high technology facility. Legislation by State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District) granting this has passed the senate, and the senator on Monday expressed hopes that the Assembly and governor would follow suit shortly.
"The assembly today amended their bill to be the same as my bill. I'm hoping that the assembly will pass it this week and the governor signs it into law," said Fuschillo. "We've been negotiating and working with the assembly day and night for the past 10 days with this piece of legislation over terms they had wanted. And we have reached an agreement."
After the legislation is formally approved by the assembly during budget negotiations, Fuschillo added, the governor is expected to sign it.
Supporters of the legislation say that it is critical, because it would help foster growth of the biotechnology industry on Long Island, thereby helping the Island's economy to thrive and providing high-paying jobs for its students.
"I think it's important that we bring jobs to Long Island, but more importantly, that we bring technology that universities on Long Island are training their students to be in - that we can keep them here on Long Island," said Fuschillo.
According to Dr. Michael Vinciguerra, SUNY Farmingdale provost and vice-chairman of the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, the college is negotiating with OSI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to use the land that the school wants to lease. He noted that the company, which is headquartered in Uniondale and has subsidiaries in Massachusetts, North Carolina and the United Kingdom, would build a 70,000-square-foot pharmaceutical center, and would serve as an anchor tenant for the bioscience park. That possible anchor, which other states are also seeking to recruit due to its potential profitability, would attract other biotechnology companies to the park, Vinciguerra noted. And, he said, the development of that cluster of companies could lead to similar clusters in the local area. "If Long Island and New York State do not aggressively try to develop these clusters, there are certainly other states behind us," the provost said.
John P. Cleary, chairman of the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, which is a collaborative initiative of SUNY Farmingdale and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, said the increased local presence of biotech companies would also help Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories keep its scientists on Long Island.
Noting that the average annual salary in the biotechnology industry is $55,000, Cleary said it would also help combat "brain-drain," the loss of the college educated work force to other states, which the Island has faced in recent years. "This would be a significant shot in the arm," Cleary said.
Vinciguerra noted that the OSI deal would benefit SUNY Farmingdale's students as well, through anticipated academic partnerships in the areas of curriculum and internships. In addition, he expects that SUNY Farmingdale graduates will fill many of the jobs created by the presence of OSI and other biotechnology companies present on campus.
The provost believes the benefits will have a ripple effect. "The growth in the industry in this region of Long Island will help it grow in other parts of Long Island," he said.