Friday, May 14, 2010

LIPA to LIA In One Easy Leap

Long Island Association Takes Law Into It's Own Hands

Kevin Law, the CEO at LIPA since 2007, has been tapped to replace Matthew Crosson as president of the Long Island Association.

Jed Morey of the Long Island Press ponders whether Law will take "lackluster" LIA in a new direction. We ask, will Law take LIA in any direction?

Lackluster is almost too kind a word for an organization, designed to bolster business on Long Island, that has, for the better part of its existence, done little more than bobble up and down on issues ranging from affordable housing to property taxes. Indeed, LIA has chimed in on almost every aspect of life on Long Island, which would have been a good thing, had accomplishment followed the conversation.

The Long Island Assoviation refers to itself as "the voice of Long Island... bring(ing) together
business, labor, education, government, not-for-profits, chambers of commerce and civic organizations working to make Long Island an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and do business."

That voice has become a bit hoarse of late (perhaps due to too much shouting in the dark), with little demonstrable achievement in bringing together the often disparate community and business groups that call Long Island home, let alone in establishing and  implementing a strategic plan that would change the static dynamic that has become LI's status quo.

Matt Crosson is headed off into the sunset, literally, becoming the CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Adeiu! Perhaps he'll take the idea of a casino at the Coliseum with him to sin city.

Hopefully, Kevin Law will begin to shake things up and move the organization forward as LIA chief, turning inertia into action as if wind power into killowatts (without the attendant surcharges and fees we've come to know from LIPA).

Heck, maybe he'll even figure out a way to lower our utility bills. [If not, well, in making the move from LIPA to LIA, all he's lost is the P.]

We wish Mr. Law, and the rest of us here on Long Island, all the best!
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From the Long Island Press:

Off The Reservation: Law of the Land

By Jed Morey

Kevin Law, the outgoing president and chief executive of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), has been chosen to lead the Long Island Association (LIA) in the wake of Matt Crosson’s departure. The lackluster performance of the LIA in recent years presents a challenge to the talented Law, but he is uniquely qualified to run the Island’s largest representative organization. Talent alone, however, won’t revive this body.

The LIA lacks a sense of purpose. While its board is comprised of an impressive array of successful business leaders, it has failed to coalesce in a decisive manner and make inroads on any specific issue. The most noticeable handicap in this respect is an unwieldy board size—there are 57 members. The Island’s biggest organization is top-heavy. This has created a problem of perception in that no one really knows what the LIA stands for. It’s time to hunker down and get tight on a handful of specific items instead of attempting to plug every hole in the dam.

Kevin Law, outgoing president and CEO of LIPA, is the new head of the LIA. But will he take the organization in the direction it needs to go?

Evidence of the LIA’s inability to marshal its resources in support of, or opposition to, a particular issue is in its governance structure. There are 16 separate committees ranging from small business to world trade, insurance to homeland defense and everywhere in between. No one organization can adequately micromanage this many priorities. Because Long Island is, by design, a sprawling set of disparate communities—each with its own gravitational center and culture—it’s nearly impossible to manage any one-size-fits-all plan.

Therefore the most immediate and effective declaration Kevin Law can make when officially taking the helm is to plant his flag squarely on the subject of economic development. Workforce housing hard to find? Brain drain getting you down? Tired of high taxes? There’s only one answer to all the issues the LIA has been dancing around: Money. The only way to get more of it into the economy is to attract more high-paying job opportunities into the region and create an environment where companies aren’t punished when they grow.

The art of messaging is critical when running an organization with the breadth and scope of the LIA. If Law can stay on message and focus on spreading the gospel of economic development, he will conquer the first difficult task of establishing a singular perception of the LIA. It’s a lot easier to negotiate with those who control the purse strings when they know why you’re there and what you’re asking for. This raises the next obvious question: What are we asking for?

I’ll keep it simple.

The LIA has been so focused on raising funds by hosting rubber-chicken dinners with generals and ex-presidents to cover for its own financial issues, it can’t focus on ours. Have one gala and a golf tournament if you need to get it out of your system then spread the wealth by getting more companies to pay dues. If you need extra funds, get them from the Regional Planning Commission—they’re not doing anything anyway.

Once the LIA’s bills are paid, Law can develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the two things we cannot escape: taxes and utilities.

Regarding the former: The only way to reduce, or at the very least hold, taxes on the Island is to woo more companies to do business here. This means coordinating the efforts of every agency with the ability to offer economic incentives and developing a press kit for Long Island. The Canon deal provided the blueprint. With Long Island’s press kit in hand, Kevin Law should be on the road six months out of the year visiting every burgeoning technology company in America with an iota of potential. I’m confident he can out-sell the guy from Bergen County, NJ or Lancaster, PA and convince some cool companies to come here. (Kev, call me. I know a great relocation specialist.)

On utilities: It’s payback time. The government rammed Shoreham down our throats then figured out we didn’t want it. Worse yet, they stuck us with the tab. Our utility bills will never go down with a $6 billion debt load we can’t shake. Therefore, I propose that every elected official on the Island sit down with Chuck Schumer and demand that the federal government commit $600 million per year for the next 10 years to principal debt reduction. In turn, we will agree to hold LIPA rates flat for the same period. The resulting positive spread will be reserved for retrofitting commercial and residential properties with renewable technology through LIPA’s existing rebate program. By 2020 the debt will be eradicated, our utility costs will be dramatically lower and then we can fold LIPA and get rid of a couple of power plants.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now, on to that peace in the Middle East issue. It’s been on my to-do list for ages.
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1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately Mr. Law lacks vision to lead effectively. It was one of his major failings at LIPA. He has been painted as smart and savvy, yet he still fails to understand the most basic principles of the energy business and surrounds himself with hangers-on that habitually move from job to job on the shirttails of others. Mr. Law will bring to the LIA the same arrogance so many of the organization's past Presidents have for decades. It is part of the reason the organization has dwindled. Once a bastion of large corporate members, LI has reshaped into a small business environment, but the same stuffy, holier than thou, big business leaders must lead LIA attitude is still prevalent. Mr. Law is part of that club and he can not see past himself to do what is best for the organization. No matter how poor his communications skills, he remains unconvincing as a person that cares at all about Long Islanders. He cares about his own career growth, which is fine. The insult is that he packages his ambition and sells it to us as unfeeling care. Mr. Law is yet another talking head of self image shaping that will use the LIA as his own bully pulpit to propel him to an even higher paying job that accomplishes even less. Mr. Law's problem is he doesn't know how to listen, unless you are someone that can help him. That is not a leader.

    One has to wonder why a corporate attorney that pats himself on the back and self promotes his earning capacity would settle for the upper 300's when he seems to feel his potential is so much more. And don't say it’s his desire to serve the public, not at $295,000 a year at LIPA! There is something that is tweaked askew in anyone that protests he needs greater challenge than LIPA at this time in history when nothing has actually been accomplished after almost three years. He doesn't need a new challenge, he needs an idea. And he came up short at the helm of LIPA so off he goes to where the job is more secure and not dependent on the race for Governor, the bounty in his pocket bigger and the spotlight turned off. His demeanor telling us to "Chill out" buried him when he realized, damn, this job is hard when there's a problem! How did Kessel make it look so easy? And then the final dagger, he realized the media doesn't love him anymore. It was a long honeymoon, but when you treat the public with disrespect, you become persona non grata very quickly. Apparently it got too hot in the CEO's seat for Mr. Law when the job wasn't about numbers to whine about or a heady initiative that had been renamed to look like it was his own shiny new idea. In actuality, all of the green programs that LIPA and Law have taken credit for were started by Law’s predecessor. Maybe Mr. Law needed a new challenge when he realized that LIPA’s problems weren’t all Kessel's fault and that the price of oil and gas and property taxes were just as much a problem for his snappy mind to solve as they were for the previous administration that he tried to crucify. It's no surprise Mr. Law wanted out of Dodge before the Big H comes rolling up the coast after dealing with just one wind storm.

    Good luck LIA and Long Island - here he comes to shower you with his lack of creativity. Lucky for all of us, we won't have to watch him anymore since the LIA is a members only club and not public. $295K to $375K, a pretty nice increase for self promoting and accomplishing absolutely nothing to lower rates, make the system stronger or the organization better. Lots of green spin, but none of his own making. History is not interpretive - ELI was in motion long before Law arrived at LIPA, he just benefited from federal stimulus dollars and a new administration in DC.