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In the 1990s, Long Island was going through a major recession. The defense industry, which many Long Islanders relied on for employment for years, had shrunk dramatically. There were a lot of empty office buildings and unemployment was high. A lot of people were worried about the future of the region. 

It was during that time that LISTnet (Long Island Software and Technology Network) was created by Peter Goldsmith with a group of founding members who shared the belief that creating a strong technology ecosystem on the Island was part of the solution. They were right, and LI emerged from the recession with a thriving software and technology sector.

During the pandemic, we have seen how the power of technology allows businesses to continue to operate. But businesses will need to keep leveraging technology to continue adapting and stay competitive. One thing we can do as a community is help connect businesses with the people who can help them with the technology they need to succeed. 

Businesses are also dependent on being able to hire people to help them build their solutions. As such, we should foster connections between the universities, colleges, trade schools, and the local business community. The more that businesses and educators can interact, the more that what the schools teach can align with skills that businesses are looking for. The schools can become a pipeline for talent as those businesses grow.   

Nassau and Suffolk counties also need new businesses. As such we should encourage, support, and mentor entrepreneurs and help connect them to sources of funding when they need it. Entrepreneurs are true innovators. They look at the world and see a way to make it better. In order to succeed, though, they need to successfully manage their businesses as well. 

Finally, we need to create more spaces for entrepreneurs, innovators and other dreamers. Five years ago, LISTnet created the Digital Ballpark in Plainview as a coworking space for technology, creative, and innovation-based companies. Though the lineup has changed over the years, it has become a home base for 25 companies. Many team up to win business they could not get individually. Most importantly, though, it has become a place where the ideas mentioned above happen on a small scale and then spread to the community at large. 

Today, we face new challenges, but there is also new opportunity to innovate as a region and expand on what was started nearly 24 years ago. 

Paul Trapani is president of LISTNet Long Island.

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