Hank Boerner
Hank Boerner


Boerner's Corner - The Spirit of America Update - (03-24-05) CAN THE SPIRIT OF OLD ANDY CARNEGIE GUIDE US TODAY?

August 31, 2006 post


By Hank Boerner

The region we fondly call Long Island ("LI," that is) has become a virtual alphabetsoupland of organizations and regional initiatives. And over the past half-century, Long Island Business News (LIBN, that is) and its predecessors have been at the dawn of creation of many of these important initialized and acronym-ized entities. Some organizations have ultimately enjoyed long life and can honestly take credit for significant accomplishments.

The creation of modern LI-Alphabetland, I fondly recall, was usually the work of the newspaper that started it all - Long Island Daily Commercial Review, the forerunner of today's Long Island Business News. In the days of the daily, we, the underpaid staff would be busily creating organizations and generating enthusiasm (and backing) for worthwhile projects in the two counties through numerous alphabetized organizations.

Today, some remain in business as "originals" or descendants and are among the best known of Alphabetland's key entities are various activist and networking organizations; two examples that come to mind are LIMBA in central Suffolk or ELIE out in eastern Long Island.

Founded in the 1960s, LIMBA was a mid-Suffolk group that started out as a local luncheon group encouraged by two people managing MacArthur Airport, Alfred Werner (now Director of Aviation for the Town of Islip) and the late Joe Giacalone (whose company ran ground operations as Fixed Base Operator or FBO...more initials.) I was among the original members.

Naturally, it was originally called "Long Island-MacArthur Airport Businessmen's Association" and the early meetings were held in the new upscale restaurant inside the new terminal (Nick's Place) and focused on making LI-MacArthur a great airport. The focus was the little regional airport - getting in scheduled airline flights, bringing business to the boundary areas, and creating networks for local business owners.

Today LIMBA represents much more than a kind of circle of friends of Islip's great airport, although that facility is still an important part of LIMBA's focus.

ELIE was perhaps the last in the series of truly regional "breakfast" groups put together over a 20-year span by my boss, the former publisher Paul Townsend. (Keeping with tradition, we at the newspaper of course referred to our boss internally as "PBT" - shorthand for Paul B.Townsend.) ELIE is the present Eastern Long Island Executives Roundtable and was at the start headed by up and coming banker John Adam Kanas of a-then-more-modest North Fork Bancorp (circa early 1980s; ticker symbol: NYSE:NFB)).

It's safe to say that a fair number of today's business and corporate leaders came to early prominence through Alphabetland's key volunteer entities.

For the record, the first "breakfasts" were organized by PBT and the staff of the Long Island Daily Commercial Review (our name in the mid-1960s, no initials then) in cooperation with Hofstra University and the Long Island Association (LIA, that is). Outstanding speakers came together ach Wednesday to have a wonderful "hunt breakfast" (wow -- scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, French toast, bacon, juice, etc.). Perhaps 50 to 100 local business and corporate leaders were present most meetings. (The breakfasts quickly morphed into more meager "continental fare" when the meetings moved to other venues. Thanks, Hofstra for your generosity -- while it lasted!)

After a bit, Paul Townsend moved the management of this group inside the newspaper organization - it was renamed the "Hub Breakfast," as I recall, in recognition of the role played by Hempstead Village as the transportation and retailing hub of Nassau in its glory days. And many more regional (and mostly alphabetized) groups were to follow, most organized and managed by the Commercial Review newspaper organization. There was actually a series of Alphabetland group meetings that a speaker could appear before - sort of like the circuit riding preachers of the Old West - and peddle their ideas, products, services, wares, personalities, etc. to eagerly awaiting audiences.

The ride would begin in Hempstead, move on to central Nassau, into western Suffolk (Route 110 had a group centered around Republic Airport - Route 110 Republic Airport Action -- now morphed into Action LI), on into central Suffolk (say, to LIMBA) and eventually, after twenty years of progress, to the folks of the North and South Forks (ELIE in Riverhead). Oh, there were many groups over the years, too numerous to mention and too difficult at times to even recall!

It seemed that one could actually make a living - if you were employed by a bank or utility and ordered to get to know "the LI community" - eating and traveling along the glacial terminal moraine spine of LI; your travel would begin at breakfast, move on to a luncheon and finally to a dinner program in Alphabetland, all the while networking and making points for your employer.

It is important to note that the LIA's small Hofstra University-based breakfast contained the seeds of more recent and spectacular breakfasts that draw up to 1,000 and feature governors and kings of industry. A long and very good life, indeed!

We can probably credit the smaller and more local Alphabetland breakfast series (which now are also luncheon and dinner meetings) with creating the veritable industry of networking opportunities that are offered across the breadth of Alphabetland - golf outings, dinners honoring business leaders, charity auctions among just a few of the offerings.

But then, maybe it was inevitable that modern Long Island transformed itself into Alphabetland. The tradition began a long, long time ago. The Long Island Rail Road, founded in 1835, has long been known simply as LIRR. The former Long Island Lighting Company - a relative newcomer founded in the early 20th Century -- was the friendly and omnipresent LILCO. (Now we have the even more friendly LIPA - LILCo's successor in electricity supply to LI.) The Long Island Board of Realtors has long been simply "LIBOR" (and its multiple-listing service, MLS). Long Island Farm Bureau is LIFB to members. (Did you know that LIA was created in Penn Station by LIRR and LIBOR in the 1920s? The LIA was headquartered in Penn Station; moved to Queens; Moved to Mineola; Moved to Jericho. Moved to Commack. And is now on Route 110 in Melville.) And so on.

Over time we have come to know and love: HIA, OTB, LIDC, NYIT, IDA (numerous), LIU, CWP, ACIT, LIFT, NAWBO, PRPLI, BOMA, and many, many more!

One of my favorites from my time at the newspaper in the 1960s was the "Bev 200" or "2000" or some such campaign. No, this wasn't about a certain "Beverly." A large atom-smashing machine was being shopped by the federal government among the nine national labs and local management wanted this scientific apparatus at Brookhaven National Laboratories (BNL, that is). A campaign was ginned up and Bev 200 speakers (hi-sci circuit riders) appeared at all the Alphabetland breakfasts. The scientific pitch was kind of hard to follow, but we all knew this was an important thing to have on LI. Alas, the device eventually went elsewhere, but the pump was primed for PBT and what is now LIBN to combine the forces of Alphabetland's key organizations to generate support for many other important initiatives for LI.

Anyway, we should offer up our thanks, to Paul (PBT, that is), and the many dedicated staffers of the Commercial Review and today's powerful Long Island Business News over the years for the effort to make Long Island a better place to live, work and play. Can't wait for the Alphabetized entries that will emerge over the next 50 years!

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Hank Boerner is a crisis and issue management consultant and began his career as reporter, columnist and associate editor of the Long Island Daily Commercial Review. He remembers his days at the newspaper with great fondness. He attended too many Alphabetland breakfasts, luncheons, dinners and organizing meetings to count!

Copyright 2005 H.L. Boerner. All rights reserved.

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