Thought Leadership Series: The Perspective on Long Island’s Current and Future Economy

November 8th, 2023

Robert D. Rosenthal, Chairman and CEO, First Long Island Investors LLC (Left) and Matt Cohen, President and CEO of the Long Island Association (Right)

On November 8, 2023 clients and friends of First Long Island Investors, LLC gathered at the Garden City Hotel to learn more about Long Island’s current and future economy.  Joining First Long Island’s Chairman and CEO, Robert D. Rosenthal, for the discussion was Matt Cohen, the President and CEO of the Long Island Association.

Mr. Cohen has a distinguished background, previously serving as Executive Director of Government Relations for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), where he oversaw government and community affairs for the second largest public electric utility in the country at the time.  In addition to his tenure at LIPA, Matt served as Long Island Director for United States Senator Charles Schumer (now the Majority Leader), where he was the primary political and policy advisor to the Senator for all Long Island-related issues.  Matt has also worked as an aide in the Suffolk County Executive’s office.  

The conversation began with Mr. Cohen giving an overview of the Long Island economy, which he described as “resilient and “doing pretty well.”  Mr. Cohen cited various data points to support his claim, such as Long Island’s unemployment rate being below that of New York State and the United States overall.  However, it is not all perfect on Long Island and there is uncertainty stemming from inflation worries.  The problem with inflation is that Long Island is already a high-cost area and now houses and lifestyles are becoming even more expensive, which is why Mr. Cohen believes that affordability is “the existential threat to Long Island.”  This existential threat is why Long Island is facing a youth flight problem with an aging population.  Despite these inflation worries, Mr. Cohen pointed out that residents are still spending money and believes that the economy is on the “upswing.”

Mr. Cohen then provided a run down on the developments with Las Vegas Sands’ Nassau Hub Project.  New York State has recently made available contracts for three downstate casinos and there has been a lot of interest in these contracts.  The LIA held a vote and decided to support the Nassau Hub Project, believing it would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity as well as hundreds of jobs to Nassau.  Mr. Cohen addressed numerous concerns surrounding the project including safety, students, and traffic. Regarding safety, there would be “more law enforcement in the area than ever before.”  Mr. Cohen does not believe a casino would cause problems for nearby Hofstra University as casinos are extremely strict with forms of identification and students can already gamble online.  He also cited how many other colleges that have casinos next to their campus, such as Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, have not had problems.  Mr. Cohen does not believe Las Vegas Sands would spend significant money and time if they did not have a plan for traffic.  This part of the conversation concluded with Mr. Cohen mentioning that he is unsure of the timeline but believes it will take several years and that he is “cautiously optimistic.”  However, even if Las Vegas Sands does not get the casino license, the area will likely still be renovated.

In light of the disgraceful uptick in antisemitism following the October 7th attacks on Israel, Mr. Cohen addressed the problem of antisemitism on Long Island by stating that any form of discrimination is unacceptable, bad for business, and bad for the image of Long Island. The LIA will continue to speak out against all forms of discrimination.

The conversation ended with a discussion about specific sectors on Long Island, predominantly health care.  Mr. Cohen cited our health care system as a robust component of the economy as it supports nearly one in every five jobs on Long Island.  The health care system also has had a profound impact on the community.  One example that Mr. Cohen provided was Northwell Health investing a significant amount of money in a facility to support children’s mental health, which has deteriorated due to Covid-19 lockdowns.  Mr. Cohen believes Long Island’s future will have stronger ties to innovation led by health care institutions.  In addition to the strong health care system on Long Island, Mr. Cohen noted that the aerospace and defense sector also remains strong.

More about the speaker:

Matt Cohen became the President & CEO of the Long Island Association (LIA), the region’s leading business organization, in May 2021. Matt is working with the LIA’s Board of Directors and all LIA members to implement our vision for Long Island’s future, including making Long Island an attractive and more affordable home for young professionals and all residents, supporting small businesses, fostering a more inclusive economy and creating good-paying jobs. As President & CEO, he has created a new Small Business Support Program, updated the organization’s brand identity and website, introduced enhanced digital communications for members, launched a podcast, diversified the LIA’s Board of Directors, successfully advocated for federal and state resources for the region, and hosted national and regional policy makers and business leaders.

Matt previously served as the Vice President of Government Affairs & Communications at the LIA for 10 years. In that role, he was the chief lobbyist for the LIA’s legislative agenda, which included the enactment of a permanent state property tax cap and the receipt of billions of dollars in economic development investments on Long Island which included aid for transportation, infrastructure, housing, and downtown development. Additionally, Matt helped to coordinate the LIA’s response to COVID-19 and its economic impacts, providing critical assistance and real-time information to local businesses and advocating for federal and state resources for Long Island.

Prior to joining the LIA in 2011, Matt was Executive Director of Government Relations for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), where he oversaw government and community affairs for the second largest public electric utility in the country at the time with 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and portions of Queens. Before LIPA, Matt served as Long Island Director for United States Senator Charles Schumer where he was the primary political and policy advisor to the Senator for all Long Island-related issues. Matt has also worked as an aide in the Suffolk County Executive’s office.

Matt is a member of the Board of Directors for several Long Island organizations, including the Long Island Association, Child Care Council of Suffolk (as its Chairman), Discover Long Island (on its Executive Committee), the Long Island Housing Partnership, Accelerate Long Island, the Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center at Stony Brook University and the New York League of Conservation Voters – Long Island chapter. He was also appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul to serve on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. Matt is a graduate of The Energeia Partnership at Molloy College and was a member of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s transition team. Matt has been recognized by City & State, Long Island Business News, Schneps Media and others for his work on behalf of the region, and honored by the Child Care Council of Nassau for his commitment to more affordable and accessible child care.

Matt earned a Bachelor of Arts in History (with a concentration in American History) from the University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctor from Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law. He was admitted to the bar in New York State in July 2012.

More about The Long Island Association:

The Long Island Association (LIA) is the region’s leading non-profit and non-partisan business organization and amplifies the voice of the business community.

As Long Island’s chamber of commerce, we work to ensure our economic vitality and provide regional leadership to guarantee a bright future for Long Island. 

Our organization accomplishes this through:

Advocacy – We engage policy makers on a broad range of issues that impact Long Island.

Networking – We foster connections for our members to help contribute to the growth of their businesses.

The mission of the Long Island Association is to lead and unify the region in order to enhance, strengthen and protect Long Island as a premier place to live, work and play. The LIA shall advocate for policies, programs and projects that create jobs, spur private investment, reduce the federal, state, and local tax burden, improve access to and from New York City and improve the overall business climate in our region. We will support economic development, workforce housing, greater state support for education, public safety, clean reliable energy, workforce training and retention, environmental protection, technology and infrastructure investments, and our not-for-profit organizations as well as opportunities for growth, equality, and diversity in our region.

More about First Long Island Investors, LLC: For over 40 years, wealthy individuals, families, and select institutions have come to rely on First Long Island Investors’ sound and focused approach to wealth—leading to peace of mind and confidence that their investments are being managed by a team they can trust.

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