This article was originally published in Newsday. Read it here.

By Victor Ocasio

The Long Island Regional Planning Council has approved $50,000 in funding for additional research to advance the development of a workforce training center to strengthen the Island’s employment pipeline.

At a council meeting hosted at Hofstra University on Thursday, representatives from Manhattan-based advisory firm James Lima Planning + Development presented the next steps to create  the center, which is meant to give workers the skills needed to support regional business expansion.

Long Island is “seeing an incredible tightening of the labor market, which in some ways is a good problem to have,” said James F. Lima, president of the advisory firm. “But it’s a serious threat to the potential growth in all the places that are facing this.”

The approved funding will permit Lima’s firm to perform two key analyses in the coming months; a comprehensive look at the demand and supply side of the Island’s labor market, and the identification of potential partnerships among government agencies, business organizations and academic institutions.

In the firm’s presentation to the planning council, Lima identified Buffalo’s Northland Workforce Training Center as a potential model. The industry-led, public-private venture focuses on closing the skill gap of Buffalo’s local labor pool by creating training, internship, apprenticeship and permanent employment opportunities at surrounding manufacturers and energy industry businesses.

The planning of a Long Island-based workforce development center comes on the heels of a report published earlier this year about the economic impact of the Island’s largest industrial park.

In April, a report commissioned by the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency and written by Lima Planning and the Regional Plan Association, looked at the future of the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge, formerly the Hauppauge Industrial Park. The report’s findings called for the park to position itself as a regional economic hub, target tenants from key industries and create an environment that helps attract and retain workers.

“Every business owner we talk to — getting a qualified workforce here on Long Island is their biggest challenge,” said Joseph Campolo, board chair of the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island. “By getting a workforce development center right there in the park … they’ll be able to cultivate their own workforce, and that’s really critical to the sustained growth of Long Island.”