Boom and Bust
And that’s why it’s so remarkable to see the sparkling structure rising from the ground near the intersection of the Long Island Expressway and Old Whitman Road in Melville. On what was once a pumpkin patch will soon become home to the new North and South American headquarters of Canon USA, the fruits of a $500-million project that began more than half a decade ago and should be ready to open by next summer. The final steel beam for the 700,000-square-foot structure was welded into place in May after a ceremonial signing by Canon President and CEO Joe Adachi and Executive Vice President Seymour Liebman.
“This facility is not only for us, but for future generations,” Adachi reportedly said that day at the site. “We’d like to be a good corporate citizen for Huntington, Long Island and New York State.”
Once the new headquarters is complete, the company will move its 1,200 employees there from Lake Success.
No doubt about it, Canon’s relocation from Nassau to Suffolk is an LI success story. More often the news these days seems to be about companies leaving the Island behind, creating the impression that our region’s in free fall. But that would be mistaken. The economic picture is decidedly less clear.
Olympus moved to Pennsylvania in 2006 because its new chairman didn’t want to commute here. Arrow Electronics recently got a new CEO who decided to make Denver, where he already lived, his new corporate headquarters, which sent shock waves through local government circles at the prospect of losing one of LI’s biggest employers.
Fortunately, the global electronics distributor has promised to retain 500 LI-based workers at least through 2013, when its current lease expires. But LI’s loss is definitely Colorado’s gain, because Arrow, with its 1,000 employees already working in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and another 1,250 jobs to be filled there, may become the biggest company based in the Centennial State.
Bed Bath & Beyond is moving its corporate headquarters from Farmingdale to Union, N.J., costing the jobs of those in support companies.
But it’s not closing any stores here. Lowe’s Companies, Inc., a national chain of home improvement and appliance stores, announced it was scaling back, closing 20 locations in 15 states. The decision made by this North Carolina-based retail giant stopped construction in its tracks of a new big box facility slated to replace the former Huntington Townhouse on Jericho Turnpike near Rt. 110, and threw the future of the now defunct Commack Multiplex, which it also owns, in doubt although it’s unlikely blockbusters will ever screen there again.
What happens to the Huntington property, which is now being graded and made secure at the behest of the town, is uncertain, given this economy, but a town spokesman said that the site is a very marketable location since it’s “shovel ready.” Despite these closures, Lowe’s retains seven locations on LI, and did say that its Riverhead store is set to open next year.
Even when one firm pulls up its roots, the ripple effects can be felt far and wide. Suddenly, a deli, say, loses 15 percent of its regular customers, a graphic artist no longer has a lucrative freelance assignment, or a night-time security guard is laid off and a custodian is cut because there are fewer offices to clean and no one left to watch. When a company comes in, planners say it can have a multiplier effect on jobs. Unfortunately the reverse is just as true, and probably twice as painful for the community at large.
In recent weeks news broke about IRX Technologies, a biotech company specializing in developing treatments for cancer and infectious diseases. It said it was moving from Melville to St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Florida High Tech Corridor Council will reportedly give it $2.5 million so it can do research at the University of South Florida.
Last month Hailo USA, which makes wind turbine ladders and guardrails, said it plans to move from Holbrook to Elberton, Ga., after being enticed by Gov. Nathan Deal, who said the Peach State will train new hires in customized welding and assembly techniques for free. Hailo, a German-owned manufacturing company, had come to Suffolk in 2000.
Davis Vision announced in July that it’s moving its headquarters from Plainview to San Antonio, Texas, although it will keep its retail operations on the Island. Early in November, Netsmart Technologies, a health-care information firm, said it will be relocating from East Islip to Kansas City, where its CEO has been living since he began running the company last May.
And lest they be forever forgotten, LI’s landscape will never be the same after Borders bookstores, Blockbuster videos, Syms clothing stores and Filene’s Bargain Basement declared bankruptcy.