by Mark DiMaio
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce announced that the inaugural John H. Taylor, Jr. Education Leadership award goes to Dr. Jack P. Varsalona, president of Wilmington University. The award will be presented at DSCC’s annual Superstars in Education Reception & Awards Ceremony at Wilmington University’s Doberstein Admissions Center Auditorium, May 9, 2016 at 4:45 p.m.
The John H. Taylor, Jr. Education Leadership Award recognizes someone within the community who has provided sustained leadership in advancing Delaware education and who, by doing so, has also made our community a better place in which to live and work. “I’m honored to receive this award from the State Chamber for many reasons, but most especially because it has John Taylor’s name attached to it,” said Varsalona. “John’s integrity and his concern for students in Delaware were second to none. He was passionate about education reform and was well respected for all he wrote and did toward that end in this state.”
With 40 years of experience as a leader and advocate in Delaware education, Varsalona is recognized for his leadership, vision and personal contributions. He is one of the founders of the Delaware Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and a member of the Ursuline Academy Board of Trustees. He is also member of the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation Advisory Board in addition to being the 2013 recipient of the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation’s Muriel E. Gilman Championship Award for his outstanding contributions to the success of the Foundation. Varsalona’s passion for excellence in education is also apparent in his work as a team chair with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the accrediting body that helps other colleges and universities to maintain high scholastic and student life standards.
Varsalona is heavily involved with community organizations, including the United Way of Delaware, the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation and First State Innovation. He also sits on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware. In 2014, Varsalona was the inaugural recipient of the Father Roberto Balducelli Appreciation Award for his extensive work in the Italian-American community and support of Italian artistry. Varsalona was named Advocate of the Year by Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County in May, 2015, for his substantial scholarship support and other contributions to Goodwill’s mission of helping individuals to overcome barriers to improving their lives.
Please register for the event by visiting our website.
by James DeChene
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, along with others in the business community, have urged modernizing the Coastal Zone Act (CZA) in order to spur the next generation of economic growth in Delaware. The focus of modernization has been solely on existing industrial sites sitting abandoned or underutilized where redevelopment of the property is hindered by Delaware specific restrictions created by the Coastal Zone Act. Recognizing that any effort towards modernization will involve community education that process has begun at the State Chamber and will continue in the coming months.
It may come as a surprise that Delaware has lost over 1000 jobs from companies located in the Coastal Zone in the last few years. Between the closure of the Evraz steel plant site and reductions at the Edgemoor TiO2 facility Delaware has lost quality jobs proving difficult to replace. Much of that difficulty stems from Coastal Zone Act regulations that serve as a barrier for companies interested in purchasing and redeveloping property in this state. One has to look no further than across the state line into Marcus Hook to see how Sunoco’s $2.5 billion expansion is providing quality jobs, yet the 44 acres sited in Delaware have seen no redevelopment, in large part due to the CZA.
With the focus on job growth, what sometimes gets lost in the discussion is what happens if businesses with operations in the Coastal Zone continue to either leave the state or continue to choose not to locate here? Who is responsible for maintaining containment of mobile contaminations? What will be the cost to DNREC, DEDO, and Delaware taxpayers for continued involvement in these properties over the long-term?
There exists a case study for these questions in the former Syntech site in Newark. Between 1981 and 1987, Helix Associates operated a specialty chemicals manufacturing and processing facility which reportedly recovered iodine from waste sulfuric acid solutions. In 1986, an explosion in a 750-gallon reactor vessel destroyed a portion of the manufacturing building and eventually led to closure of the Helix facility. In July 1989, Synthesis Technologies, Inc. (Syntech) began operations by manufacturing specialty batch diazo compounds, including dyes for cloth, color photography, 4 and biological tissue staining until its closing in February 1991. In 1990, a reactor leaked vapors containing heptanes and nitric acid into the outside atmosphere. As a result of releases of hazardous substances, groundwater has been contaminated. The site is awaiting redevelopment, but as of now no plans have been filed to do so.
The State of Delaware now owns that site, and others like it, in and around the Coastal Zone, forcing continued investment in environmental monitoring and potential remediation. The plan is that modernizing the CZA for redevelopment will result in jobs for Delawareans with the additional benefit of reducing the financial impact of monitoring these sites, but we aren’t there yet.
As the State Chamber has said before, we believe the role of the CZA was not to have industrial sites in the zone wither and die or to handcuff existing facilities by creating barriers that result in limiting expansion or improvement. It is only through modernizing the Coastal Zone Act in industrial areas to make Delaware more competitive and attractive for redevelopment that jobs and investment will flow. The alternative, to make no changes to the Act, will insure that there will be an increase in abandoned or underutilized sites resulting in fewer jobs for Delawareans and will cripple the state’s long-term economic growth.
by James DeChene
The week started off with the Delaware State Chamber and Delaware Manufacturing Association hosting the annual Legislative Brunch and Manufacturing Conference. Attended by over 200, along with two dozen state officials, the event highlighted recent manufacturing growth in Delaware. Remarks by Governor Markell touting this growth, along with the success the Pathways to Prosperity advanced manufacturing curriculum has had this year, capped off the brunch.
At Legislative Hall this week, a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage was put into limbo in the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance/Commerce committee. The bill will not likely see any further action this year, barring any last minute horse trading on June 30. Should the bill not see any further action, it would have to be reintroduced next year in the 149th General Assembly. The Delaware State Chamber will continue to monitor and provide updates as needed.
A bill relating to parking lots, handicapped spaces and restriping was not released from the House Public Safety Committee. The bill, introduced and released from that Committee last June, was substitute language for the original bill. With input from the Counties and several Chambers, the bill was modified, but still not acceptable to the broader business community. It is unclear as of now whether the bill will be modified further, be “walked around” to release it from committee, or if it will remain in Committee seeing no further action this session, much like the Minimum Wage bill.
The General Assembly is out for two weeks for Easter break, and returns on April 12. More updates from Dover upon their return.
This week, the House passed SB 200, the Delaware Commitment to Innovation Act. The bill now heads to Governor Markell for signature. As outlined last week, the bill increases the cap on the R&D tax credit and makes it refundable. The intent is to make Delaware more attractive for businesses to expand or relocate their R&D operations here, as well as to incentivize new startups that may stem from DuPont’s reorganization.
Additionally, the House Labor Committee heard and released a bill mandating Project Labor Agreements (P.L.A.s) on all state-funded construction work this week, regardless of project size. P.L.A.s are labor agreements negotiated by the client, in this case the state, and labor organizations, in exchange for promises not to strike. These agreements also force non-union contractor employees to pay union dues, and into the union pension plan, for the duration of the project. Unfortunately, these workers will not see any payback from these plans, as they will not work enough union hours to qualify for payment. In effect, the employee is paying into a plan they will never benefit from. Since many non-union contractors choose not to bid on jobs with a P.L.A., the resulting lack of competitive bidding results in an average 25-30% increase in construction project costs—meaning taxpayers receive 25-30% less project for their dollar. The bill now goes to the House for further action.
It’s not every day that you get to “make someone’s day”. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to make six outstanding school program’s “day” by notifying them at they were 2016 Superstars in Education winners. Superstars in Education (SSE) is charged with recognizing outstanding educational programs and individual achievements. The SSE Program highlights excellence in science teaching, integrated classroom technology practices, and school-to-career partnerships. This year, the Superstars in Education Selection Committee reviewed 42 exceptional nominations and the following six programs were chosen as Delaware’s best.
Project SEARCH – New Castle County
Red Clay Consolidated School District
Project SEARCH is a nine-month school-to-work collaborative transition program for students 18-21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program operates entirely within a host business. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and on-the-job training and support.
Biomedical/Christiana Care Partnership
Conrad Schools of Science
This program is only four years old and has already been making an educational impact on Conrad Schools of Science. Students can now immerse themselves in specific careers including but not limited to Respiratory Therapy, Neurology, Genetic Counseling, Nutrition, Optometry, Audiology and Oncology.
F. Niel Postlethwait Middle School
This program was established in 2010 as a multi-purpose, cross-curricular, learning space. It is a part of modern school initiatives that focus on improving health, academic success, behavioral development, and prepare children for challenges and opportunities they might face later on in life. The classroom also strives to promote stewardship of nature and social responsibility.
Teacher Professional Learning Program
Sussex Central High School
With the integration of the digital platform of Schoology in Delaware schools, Sussex Central’s goals were to enhance the effectiveness of its teacher professional learning experience. With a blended learning format in classrooms, videos, texts, research, discussion boards, photo albums and collaborative activities have taken from simply a face-to-face to a more well-rounded experience.
21st Century Stars S.T.E.A.M. Program
William Henry Middle School
An inclusive program that provides academic and social enrichment opportunities to 5th and 6th grade students in a nurturing and supportive environment, topics covered include music, service learning, sports, entrepreneurship, art, dance, culture and S.T.E.A.M. technology (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
Accelerating Preliterate English Language Learners (A.P.E.L.L.) Program
Indian River School District
Located in the Carver Center, this program serves some of the district’s most needy learners. It is designed for newly arrived English Language Learners (EL) who have had major interruptions in their schooling, for generally, two or more years.
Please join Delaware Governor Jack Markell and the Delaware business community as we celebrate the 2016 Superstars in Education winners with a reception and awards ceremony on Monday, May 9, 2016 at 4:45 p.m. at Wilmington University’s Doberstein Admissions Center Auditorium.
by Mark Turner & Chip Rossi
The announcement that DuPont will be establishing the headquarters for its agriculture company in Wilmington is great news for DuPont, its workers, and all Delaware families whose livelihoods depend on a strong and thriving private sector.
But the work for Delaware’s future is far from done. The competition we face from other states and overseas is fierce, and state leaders must build on the vision, flexibility and spirit of cooperation that ensured the DuPont unit wouldn’t leave for competing states.
The News Journal succinctly laid out the daunting challenge Delaware faced in retaining a DuPont presence in its ancestral home:
“After two centuries of shared history between DuPont and Delaware, local officials had just 10 weeks to pull together a deal that would secure the company’s future in the state it helped to build.
That meant putting together an incentive deal with enough tax breaks, subsidies and capital improvement assistance to keep thousands of jobs in New Castle County.
It also required working together to present an unrelenting sales pitch that would beat out much larger states Iowa and Indiana, a feat many analysts and other outsiders considered unlikely, if not downright impossible.”
As Gov. Jack Markell noted, “It certainly wasn’t out of the question that we could lose all of it.” In the end, however, Delaware overcame the odds to keep a portion of DuPont at home through hard work, bipartisanship and a nimbleness that isn’t often seen in today’s fractured political and economic climate. Gov. Markell, the leaders of the General Assembly and the entire congressional delegation are to be commended for working together to keep DuPont in Delaware.
How did they do it?
Both political parties worked together. State and federal leaders engaged in a productive dialogue with DuPont and other business leaders about what was needed. Members of the General Assembly acted quickly and decisively by passing the Delaware Competes Act, signaling their interest in making Delaware more business friendly. Taken together, it created a winning package that reinforced Delaware’s long-standing reputation as a business friendly state – particularly since a number of states were competing to have these businesses located within their borders.
We believe some of the factors contributing to this decision were the state’s attractive business climate, the skilled and highly educated workforce and the close and constructive working relationship between government, business, and higher education in our state. In terms of future job growth, DuPont’s recent announcement that the company is creating a process to evaluate requests by former employees to gain access to DuPont patent property is another sign of how maintaining DuPont – and other major employers – in Delaware will foster the establishment of new entrepreneurial businesses and help create additional economic growth.
Looking forward to opportunities that lie ahead, we believe that the same collaborative approach that yielded success with DuPont can become a useful model on such important issues as improving sustainability of state revenues, carefully controlling state spending and creating an even more robust economic development effort to help Delaware businesses grow and create additional jobs attracting new businesses to our state.
The business community in Delaware is committed to working with state leaders to build on the solid foundation of existing and prior work that supports economic development in Delaware, including the work of the Delaware Economic Development Office.
We will provide resources and give voice to issues that need discussion while working collaboratively with state officials. The Roundtable took this approach with its recent study of state finances, and both the Roundtable and Chamber participated in the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee. Importantly, the Roundtable and Chamber also are working together to develop a growth agenda for Delaware so that Delawareans can benefit from increased availability of jobs and economic prosperity.
Once again, Delaware has shown that it is willing to do what it takes to create a more business-friendly environment – much to the credit of the Governor, the General Assembly and the congressional delegation. This is a message that is not lost on industry leaders both inside and outside the state when they are deciding where to invest, build and grow their businesses.
Now is the time for the public and private sectors to continue to build on this success to transition Delaware to an economy focused on growth, innovation, collaboration and flexibility to the benefit of our workers and taxpayers for generations to come.
Mark Turner is the chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable. Chip Rossi is the chair of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
by Mark DiMaio
This year’s Superstars in Education Program with feature the inaugural John H. Taylor, Jr. Education Leadership Award. John was a passionate advocate of improving education and fairness for Delaware’s children.
Throughout his professional career, John was an educator. He began his career as a teacher, then served as the assistant to superintendent for the Wilmington Board of Education. John’s education background, coupled with his ability to share information and make connections served him well as he rose to become The News Journal Editor before becoming President of the Delaware Public Policy Institute.
As founding member of the Vision Coalition, John’s leadership and directness were instrumental in building an impactful public-private partnership advocating to improve education in Delaware.
John’s leadership style was always straightforward, clear-headed and often unwavering and at the same time he was truly humble and humorous.
John H. Taylor Jr. Education Leadership Award seeks to recognize someone who’s not only provided sustained leadership in advancing Delaware education but has made our community a better place to live and work.
by James DeChene
This week the News Journal ran a front page article highlighting a lawsuit brought by the state of Pennsylvania against the state of Delaware citing Delaware improperly collected unclaimed property (also known as escheat) due to be returned to Pennsylvania citizens. As its longstanding policy, Delaware claims it is entitled to collect unclaimed property because the company in question is incorporated in Delaware.
This marks the third in a line of lawsuits brought against Delaware in the last year regarding Delaware’s collection of unclaimed property—currently a $450 million plus revenue item for the state and representing almost 15% of the overall budget. Last year, with input from the State Chamber and its members, a taskforce co-chaired by Sen. Bryan Townsend and Rep. Bryon Short made recommendations to modify how the state handles escheat by clarifying the process and limiting the look-back period.
During the meetings of the DEFAC Taskforce on Revenues, the topic of escheat was highlighted as a volatile source of revenue, meaning not only is it not a reliable long-term source of income, but can suffer adverse effects (in this case due to pending lawsuits) in the near future as well. Currently there is no budget plan in place to account for what would happen should it be ruled the state of Delaware is no longer entitled to collect escheat as a revenue source.
In the FY16 budget debate there was much controversy and acrimony over revenue and spending that amounted for 1% of the budget, or about $40 million. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce message on this issue is clear: the state should be prepared for a world in which close to 15% of its budget revenue is substantially lowered, or in the worst case, eliminated.
Organizations wanting to launch or expand an urban agriculture or community garden project to benefit their neighborhood can apply for new micro-grants from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee announced today.
“The last few years have seen tremendous growth and interest in local community agriculture projects across our state, and we want to support that even more,” Kee said. “These micro-grants will provide seed money to get gardens off the ground or expand current ventures. They will strengthen their communities, provide nutritious locally grown foods, and help our young people develop connections to the land.”
The micro-grant program offers up to $1,000 per project for supplies, materials, seeds, or minor equipment. Under this year’s pilot program, $10,000 in reimbursement funding is available statewide.
Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, religious organizations, municipalities, schools, or organized neighborhood associations. For-profit businesses and individuals are not eligible.
Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. April 1.
For more information and an application, visit de.gov/urbanag, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Department of Agriculture Marketing Section at 302-698-4500.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.