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MARCH 2007

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Canon Deal May Provide
Coda to a Long Island Career

   In the New York City metro, Canon USA – which until now has operated from a headquarters at Lake Success, just beyond Queens into Nassau County on Long Island – is looking to grow at a location just into the next county along the island: Suffolk. The location in Melville is just north of SUNY- Farmingdale and Bethpage State Park, in an area that has gone a long way toward economic diversification since the departure of 49,000 defense jobs from Long Island between 1986 and 1997. The move has been abetted by the county's highest bond ratings in history, as the county has received six upgrades from the independent bond rating agencies during the three- year tenure of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
   In late January, the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency approved $35 million in incentives for the $357- million, 864,000- sq.- ft. (80,266- sq.- m.) project, to be built on a 52- acre (21- hectare) parcel for which the company is paying an additional $102 million. According to published reports, the company has stated it is also considering locations in New Jersey that it would lean toward if sufficient incentives cannot be garnered on Long Island, but the Melville location is its preferred site.
   But many of the crucial negotiations already appear to have happened. The land's original owner, Tilles Investment Co., was set to sell the land to developer Holiday for a mere $72 million, contingent on the parcel being rezoned for senior housing. But reports surfaced in July 2006 that Holiday was talking to Canon about flipping the land to them for $100 million. The Tilles organization filed suit in November 2006 to void its sale of the land to Holiday. Officials in Huntington, meanwhile, were not inclined to rezone.
   All parties ended up in Levy's office on December 13, 2006, where what the office described as a "marathon negotiating session" ensued under the gaze of mediator and retired judge Milton Mollen.
   "But for the intervention of County Executive Levy, this deal would not have happened," said Gerald Monter, Holiday founder and CEO. "We owe the County Executive a great deal of gratitude for bringing the parties together and for his participation in the mediation," said Roger Tilles.
   Tilles, a longtime supporter of the island's economic and cultural development, is familiar with working with image- maker companies: His work converting the former Olympus Corp. building for use by Cardholder Management Services helped him win "Developer of the Year" honors in 2004 from the Association for a Better Long Island (ABLI)/Commercial Industrial Brokers Society of Long Island, an honor he also earned in 2000. Tilles and Holiday's Monter collaborated with community officials three years ago to negotiate an 80- acre (32- hectare) deal in Jericho, with over half destined for preservation and 31 acres (13 hectares) to be developed by Holiday for housing, with 40 percent of those homes targeted to seniors in order to lessen the school district impact.
   Tilles had been trying to develop that Jericho property since 1972, but the firm goes back much further. According to a 2005 profile in The New York Times, the Tilles organization was launched by Tilles' father Gilbert, who in 1949 chose to develop a shopping center on a parcel of farmland willed to him by his father instead of selling to developer William J. Levitt, the mind behind the famous Levittown.
   At one time, the company headed by him and his brother Peter had holdings of approximately 3 million sq. ft. (278,700 sq. m.) on Long Island, but began to sell them off two years ago as both men moved toward retirement. The pumpkin farm was one of the final large parcels left to be dealt, with Canon providing the exclamation point to a career. A comment in the Times profile by Desmond M. Ryan, then executive director for the Association for a Better Long Island, proved prescient: "Roger Tilles is astute enough to know the ability to effectively compromise is what solves problems," he told the paper in 2005.

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