This was a big year for Long Island’s economy. Just how big—remains to be seen.

The good news started last February, with the creation of Accelerate Long Island. This coalition of leading Long Island research and economic entities will link cutting edge science with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists--the key to success for high-flying regions from San Diego to Research Triangle. Here the effort has the potential to spawn a bio-tech cluster that could transform our region’s economy.

The very idea of collaboration on this scale fires the imagination. Long Islanders working together? That’s huge.

Evidently the New York State Regional Economic Development Council agrees. Last month they named Long Island among the State’s top grant winners—over $100 million in all. The founding of Accelerate was a key factor in Long Island’s success.

The grants go to projects with the potential for lasting impact. But the question remains: How big is big? To build a new, world-class economic sector will take more than one year and 100 million dollars. If we really want to change Long Island’s fortunes, we still have lots of work to do.

Accelerate will play a vital role. It has announced a national search for a director--a welcome sign that its leaders are thinking big.

At the same time we can’t lose sight of other critical factors. Economic growth requires talented people. And people need places to live. Without more affordable housing options, our renaissance will be over before it begins.    

Long Island’s downtowns sit ready and waiting for re-development into the kind of vibrant, mixed-use communities that attract the creative class. Several re-development projects were among the grant winners. But if the job is going to get done, Long Islanders at every level need to come together around it.

The successes of 2011 have spotlighted a promising future for Long Island. The goal now seems nearer and the path to it clearer than before. For 2012 let us resolve to stake our claim to this future, and commit ourselves to the smart, bold action we need to make it a reality.