Wall Street Journal

August 4, 2013

Will James

For years, Long Island’s leaders have dreamed of transforming the suburbs east of New York City into a Silicon Valley-esque hub of technological innovation.

That vision received a jolt of energy recently, when Canon Inc. executives said the camera and copier giant would consider conducting research and developing products on Long Island.

“It’s safe to say that we would consider it, especially for R&D, considering there are several top universities,” said Seymour Liebman, vice president of Canon U.S.A., the corporation’s Americas division.

In February, Canon U.S.A. opened its new headquarters on Long Island, in Melville. About 1,400 employees and 300 consultants work in the $500 million building, which is visible just south of the Long Island Expressway. But the division is essentially a sales and marketing operation, with most research and development going on overseas.

Mr. Liebman said Canon U.S.A. would consider locating a research and development facility on Long Island, because the division’s headquarters are already there and the company could draw on a growing base of science and engineering talent.

To be sure, other factors, including tax incentives, likely will dictate the move.

“It’s too early to tell—it probably would be on our list,” Mr. Liebman said. “The good thing is it’s close, so it’s easier to manage.”

However tentative the plan, it has been seized on by some Long Island politicians and business leaders as a step toward their goal of helping an innovation-based economy take root.

“I think it would be huge on a number of levels,” said Mark Lesko, the executive director of Accelerate Long Island, an organization that is leading the economic-development push. “Obviously, it would be huge in the sense that it would add additional high-paying jobs to the regional economy. But I think the more intangible benefit is that it would help lay the groundwork for creating an innovation-based economy.”

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