On Tuesday, DuWayne Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, announced that a bill to create a Marine Industry Revitalization Advisory Council, has been passed.
It is hoped the council will help boost the industry, attract and retain jobs and boost related tourism. Suffolk County has over 980 miles of shoreline and more than 300 bodies of water, Mr. Gregory said.
“It is a $1.6 billion industry in Suffolk County alone, with over 700,000 jobs,” said Eric Kreuter, president of the Association of Marine Industries. “We’re very excited about this, where we can actually talk about issues affecting marine businesses all across Suffolk County, to improve boating and improve tourism, getting more recreational boats into Suffolk County, as well as our workforce development, which is a vital interest to us.”
The bill has not yet been signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
The 15-member council would comprise county legislators, marine industry officials, the commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, and representatives from Suffolk County Community College, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Association of Marine Industries.
Some potential council members gathered at Peconic River Park in Riverhead Tuesday afternoon to formally announce their intention.
Legislator Al Krupski (D-Peconic) said that, in addition to supporting the working waterfront, the council is committed to ensuring there is always public access to the water.
Among Mr. Gregory’s immediate concerns are dredging in county waters and making sure enough boat mechanics are being trained.
“There is definitely a concern about the prosperity of the industry and coming together to ensure that we are having those conversations and we’re making long-term plans to address those concerns so we don’t have shortages of mechanics and things of that nature,” Mr. Gregory said.
There is no established budget for the council, which will report to the community regularly on its findings and plans.
Mr. Gregory noted the importance of the marine industry on Long Island, saying it began with the earliest settlers arriving by boat and bringing over foreign goods.
Currently, tourism on Long Island is a $5.6 billion industry, supporting close to 100,000 jobs and generating $1.8 billion in labor income yearly. According to a 2016 tourism economics report, 6.1 percent of all employment on Long Island is driven by tourism.
Suffolk County tourism generates $700 million in state and local taxes, Mr. Gregory said.
“It is vital that we continue to attract and retain marine-related companies and jobs in the area, increase dredging of county waterways to ensure safety for the boating community and improve marine tourism,” he said. “Healthy oceans contribute to a healthy economy.”
Photo caption: DuWayne Gregory, Suffolk County Legislature’s presiding officer, announces the creation of a 15-member Marine Industry Revitilization Advisory Council Tuesday afternoon. (Nicole Smith photo)
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the council has been formed. While the legislature has passed a bill to form the council, it must first be signed by the county executive. The story has been updated to reflect that point.