Polimeni: Grumman wake-up call

By: Michael Polimeni on March 8, 2013
Originally published by: LIBN

Michael PolimeniWhat does Northrop Grumman’s decision to move 850 jobs off Long Island actually mean?

Our region hasn’t actually built an aircraft since Grumman closed the doors at the Navy’s sprawling Calverton facility, following its acquisition by Northrop in 1994. Yet the enormous reservoir of intellectual talent on Long Island kept much of the company’s engineering work right here as the defense giant competed and won sizeable Pentagon contracts.

Now, in an era of collapsing defense budgets, Northrop Grumman is being told to produce its Hawkeye radar plane for less and the firm says that can’t be done if they keep the aircraft workforce on Long Island.

Simple math dictates the decision of a company that Wall Street still admires.

The larger strategic threat for Long Island is our region’s continuing inability to compete on the cost of doing business while other, less expensive areas, are becoming more adept at attracting the type of smart, driven workforce that has been our historic ace in the hole.

Our playbook simply doesn’t work any longer.

The solutions will not be found at the doorsteps of our two county executives. They have limited authority to alter the economic environment. Rather, we need to embrace a multipronged strategy that addresses our region’s crushing energy costs and launches a grassroots rebellion against school property taxes that support an extensive network of district superintendents and assistant superintendents with high six-figure salaries.

If we fail to alter our economic footprint, we will need to acknowledge that our days as a separate, dynamic and robust region are over, and that we are returning to the days of a bedroom community largely dependent on the health of neighboring New York City.

We can take a measure of comfort in the fact that Northrop Grumman is keeping a core group of engineers at Bethpage to work on the next generation of Navy jamming equipment, but let there be no mistake that the relocation of 850 well-paid jobs is as much a reflection on us as it is on Pentagon pressures.

Almost every family on Long Island has a proud and nostalgic connection to the historic Grumman. Today’s company has done a service by sending us all a wake-up call.

Polimeni is chairman of the aviation and defense advocacy committee of the Association for a Better Long Island, a developer group.