by Rustyn Stoops
Delaware Technical Community College, The Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership (DEMEP) and the Delaware Manufacturing Association (DMA) joined together in response to Governor Jack Markell’s proclamation of Delaware Manufacturing Week (Sept. 28-Oct 2), which coincides with National Manufacturing Day, October 2. The weeklong celebration of manufacturing in Delaware was created to recognize that manufacturing has a powerful and positive impact on Delaware’s economy.
Delaware Tech’s President, Dr. Mark Brainard, is an advocate for the manufacturing community and is proud of the College’s efforts to work with the DMA and other partners to educate the next generation of modern manufacturing workers in Delaware – from high school students to adult learners.
DEMEP and DMA worked together to organize tours during manufacturing week for high school and college students at several manufacturers throughout the state. Those tours will show the variety of career paths available to Delaware graduates and the value of a technical education. Participating companies include Eagle Group, ILC, PPG, Edgewell Personal Products, DENTSPLY/Caulk, Beracah Homes, Fujifilm and Bloom Energy. Along with showcasing their products these companies are proud to show their modern, high-tech workspaces and value they bring to the Delaware economy and local communities.
To learn more or to get involved in a tour next year, contact me at email@example.com.
Interviewed by James DeChene
Representative Joseph E. Miro has represented the 22nd Rep District in the Pike Creek Valley since 1998. A former teacher, Mr. Miro serves on the House Appropriations Committee, Education Committee, Health & Human Development Committee and Joint Finance Committee.
After nearly five decades of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba following the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Obama and Raul Castro met at the Summit of the Americas in Panama last spring with plans to rebuild diplomatic relations.
Fast-forward a few months later to August 14, a date that marks the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the travel ban has been officially lifted. Now Americans wishing to travel to Cuba will no longer require prior congressional approval. However, the trade embargo as a whole is still in effect, with the exception of a few items.
James DeChene and Delaware Business magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Rep. Joseph Miro to ask him about his thoughts on recent events as a Cuban immigrant.
James DeChene (JD): Being a Peter Pan child has had a defining influence on your life. Can you share some background on your experience coming to the US from Cuba?
Joe Miro (JM): As a result of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy established by executive order a program called Pedro Pan or Peter Pan. It allowed families, who had children under the age of 16, to send their children to the US under the care of organizations like Catholic Charities. These organizations took in 14,342 Cuban children from late 1961 to about 1963.
In my case, I came here by myself, I am an only child. I was 13 ½, my dad had passed away and my mother and grandmother decided to send me to this country. I arrived in Florida at a camp called Camp Matecumbe. Only boys were housed there. I was there from March 29 through July of 1962. One day I was called to the camp office and told “Your time of relocation has come and you have a choice.” The choice was Albuquerque, NM or Wilmington, DE. I saw on the map behind the camp officer the word “Philadelphia,” I very quickly said, “I go here.” Well, it wasn’t Philadelphia, it was Wilmington. I knew Philadelphia from reading about the history of the US and of course, the Phillies. The Phillies had a AAA team in Cuba; I followed baseball as a kid. I came to Philadelphia then I was out to Wilmington in about three hours. I went to school at Salesianum for the first year and lived in a house on Broom Street with 21 other boys. I was there for a year and three months until my mother and grandmother came to this country.
JD: How difficult was it for your mother and grandmother to emigrate from Cuba?
JM: They were scheduled to leave early on October 23, 1962. The night before Kennedy declared the blockade of Cuba due to the missile issue. Their visa was cancelled and they did not have the opportunity to leave until May of 1963. The prisoners of the Bay of Pigs were being exchanged for boats full of medicine and supplies. My mother and grandmother came on the last boat, landing in Miami. They were sponsored by the Christ Our King Church. It was the best thing that could have happened to my family.
“There is a book called Waiting for Snow in Havana. It is the story of Pedro Pan. It could be translated into my story.” – Representative Joseph E. Miro
JD: What are your thoughts on opening trade relations with Cuba? What about the concerns with human rights violations?
JM: The embargo really served no purpose but to damage relations with the US. The people were the ones that were suffering, not the government. Every other country in Europe and throughout the world has some type of relationship with Cuba. I have visited Cuba twice and quite frankly, what you see there are the investments from the Italians, Germans, Canadians, and Spanish. The hotel chains and businesses that are operating are specifically in areas with tourism. The US companies have not been at the table, creating a disadvantage for Americans and American companies to really invest, prosper and do business with Cuba. I’m glad to see that the embargo is coming to an end.
Should there have been some type of prerequisite for human rights? I think that is something that should have been done because it’s a country where if you oppose the government, you’re going to end up in jail. There is no free election, there are no elections, period. Certainly I think that there should be some ties. By the way, we have significant trade with China, which has many human rights issues.
JD: Should there be a political change in Cuba before having trade relations take place?
I went to Cuba in 2007 under Governor Minner’s Administration to investigate possible trade opportunities. Even when the embargo was enforced, there were certain products that you could trade with Cuba; primarily agricultural products. As a result, we did sell some things to Cuba, however, it was very difficult to transact business.
On a personal level, I felt safe and moved freely. At least we thought we moved freely, maybe we were followed. We did not detect that. I returned three years ago with my entire family. I saw somewhat of a change from 2007. People had better clothing, a little more food and a few more businesses were opened by Cubans themselves in an attempt to bring tourism to those hotels and restaurants. Many of the old buildings had been retrofitted. However is was clear that we were not in a democracy by any means, we were a long way away from it. The government had a little more of a loose grip on the people.
JD: Recently Castro has said he felt the US owes Cuba reparations for the lost revenue due to the embargo. Do you see any sort of merit in this charge?
JM: Well there’s an easy answer. I think the government of Cuba needs to pay reparations for the American companies that they confiscated in 1959 – 1960. If we are going to talk about paying money, I think it is the Cuban government that has to pay the American companies for all the properties they took over.
JD: From your viewpoint, do you think the embargo has created a market for Delaware companies?
JM: I have been working with Secretary of State Jeff Bullock and with Rebecca Faber at the World Trade Center, to do a trade mission to Cuba. It will happen, if not this year then early the following year.
JD: Going forward without an embargo, do you see Delaware companies engaging in trade opportunities with Cuba?
Absolutely, there are many companies that see it as an opportunity. There is significant need for paint, glass, wood, construction material, as well as medicine. Agriculture is more secondary. They have been bringing pregnant cows in from Argentina and other South American countries to revitalize that industry. There is a great need for cars, auto parts, you name it. Quite frankly, the country is in bad shape; there is a lot of poverty. The question is: Does the Cuban government have money to pay for this? Their big export market is cigars and rum. Tourism is their real jewel. Companies that do business with Cuba will need assurance that they are going to get paid.
The Port of Wilmington should play a big role just based on our East Coast location alone. The real beneficiaries, of course, are the ports in Florida, New Orleans and Texas. That said, the Port of Wilmington has an opportunity here to expand trade opportunities with Cuba.
JD: Delaware is not Miami. As a Cuban American, why does your viewpoint differ on the embargo?
JM: I think you have a generational issue here, as well as a geographical issue. I’m a first generation immigrant. I came here very young and grew up in a different part of the country. I was educated in a different environment from the Cubans in Miami. It is a good thing for our American companies. I think in terms of the economy, opening doors and trying to get more business into an economy that needs it. It will help small business people, who in my opinion, are the backbone of the economy in Delaware. We need to help the small business people grow. If we open trade with Cuba, they will benefit the most.
by James DeChene
Recently Bloomberg magazine ran an article ranking the top 100 metro areas by their number of STEM jobs, and Wilmington was #18. Capturing these “advanced industries” as a way to replace high paying manufacturing jobs that have either been relocated or eliminated, the article points out investments various metro areas have made to entice companies to stay and expand—ideas like “tactical urbanism” including craft beer and food trucks, turning former industrial spaces into lofts—all are things the City of Wilmington has been focused on, and rightly so.
Another positive is Delaware’s low cost of living. On the ranking, Wilmington comes in at 29.
The State Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Manufacturing Association have been a part of the STEM movement in Delaware. The successful launch of the Advanced Manufacturing curriculum between DelTech and local high schools has led to a downstate expansion of the program, with Kent County to follow in the next year. Other schools coming on line like the Delaware STEM Academy will give Delaware students the opportunity to learn skills in high demand for the future, and the hope is that there will be local companies waiting for, and grabbing up, these students to grow the state’s STEM workforce by leaps and bounds.
by James DeChene
An extension has been granted for those seeking to provide comment on the complaint filed by the Public Service Commissions of Delaware and Maryland against PJM Interconnection and the PJM Transmission Owners regarding the manner in which costs will be allocated for a new transmission project, Artificial Island. PJM proposes to allocate over 90% of the costs for the new project to ratepayers in Delaware and Maryland, raising the transmission portion of our electricity bills by 20 to 25 percent to solve a problem the ratepayers of Delaware and Maryland did not cause.
At issue here is the way in which PJM calculates who bears the cost of projects like these. Factors such as project size and scope, as well as the reason for the project, such as line stability or easing congestions are also taken into consideration. The filed complaint seeks PJM to reconsider how the allocation is to be applied in an effort to reduce Delaware’s responsibility and to help mitigate the hit to residential and industrial rate payers.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Manufacturing Association will be weighing in, and urge any interested companies to join them in doing so. There is no cost, and the effort consists of writing a letter supporting the Delaware and Maryland PSC position. For more information on how to file, contact James DeChene at 302-5786-6560, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Scott Malfitano and Michael Houghton
The Pete du Pont Freedom Award is named after one of Delaware’s most distinguished leaders. As Governor of Delaware, Presidential candidate, founder of GOPAC, scholar at the Hudson Institute and the Council for National Policy and as a spokesman and writer, Pete du Pont has been a national leader in the cause of preserving and enhancing individual freedoms.
As Governor, Pete du Pont led the effort to dramatically reduce tax rates because he trusted individuals, rather than the government, to do a better job of spending their own money. He led the effort to de-regulate the financial services industry in Delaware, because he trusted free markets – more than governmental controls – to bring more opportunity, more jobs and a higher standard of living to all citizens. With the lower tax rates and government de-regulation during Pete du Pont’s tenure as Governor, Delaware shot to the forefront among states in economic growth.
Also as Governor, Pete du Pont was an effective bi-partisan leader in the State house in Dover. After significant disagreements and budget battles with his democratic colleagues in the first year of his first term, he and they learned how to work collaboratively for the benefit of all Delawareans. It was this bi-partisan effectiveness, in addition to the aforementioned reduced taxes and de-regulation that prepared the State for the arrival of the Financial Services Development Act of 1981.
As a Presidential candidate, Pete du Pont was a leader before his time preaching the gospel of individual freedom. He boldly – and at considerable political cost – espoused the causes of education vouchers giving parents rather than government the ultimate control over the education of their children; private alternatives to the Social Security system; and free market alternatives to our national healthcare system.
Following his political career, Pete du Pont continued to work, speak and write on many causes for individual freedom; lower taxes, de-regulation, education reform and individual healthcare and retirement accounts – just to name a few. In his own words:
“Democratic capitalism is strengthened by encouraging individual as opposed to collective choice. America has not prospered over 225 years through collective action; it has prospered because people have been allowed to seize their own opportunities.”
The Pete du Pont Freedom Award Reception takes place on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 6 p.m. at the Hotel du Pont. This year’s award recipient and keynote speaker is Ellen Kullman.
Register online today.
by Rich Heffron
The last Legislative session ended two months ago the sun was rising on the morning of July 1st. What was not addressed in any appreciable way was the possibility that the state could face a looming revenue decrease in the range of $100-$200 million for the next budget year. Politics played a role in affecting decisions that found ways to cover the current fiscal year’s budget gap. Among those decisions was using $31 million of the $61 million financial institutions paid as restitution relating to the 2008 foreclosure crisis. The use of one time money, such as this to help cover this year’s budget deficit, is a practice frowned upon by earlier General Assemblies and the business community. Legislators also decided not to act on implementing some of the Governor’s cost cutting proposals like reducing the senior citizen property tax credit and a plan to save $21 million by having state employees pick up a larger portion of health care costs. Neither proposal is popular with certain constituencies, but neither will be any of the cost cutting or revenue raising proposals that currently appear to be required for balancing next year’s budget. With the next legislative session being held during an election year politics will certainly play a role in next year’s spending decisions. This is not being critical of politics, it is built into representative form of government as it is the grease that keeps the wheels turning. A question should be asked, was it politically wise for legislators to back themselves into decision making corner? The more important question for the future should be how do we address the greater good?
For the last couple years members of the business community, along with others, have clearly stated-Delaware’s current revenue structure is not sustainable in the long run. This issue will need to be addressed sometime in the near future. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce is prepared to partner with the states leadership to address this looming problem.
Then again maybe the economy will pick up speed and the deficit problem will be solved. Wouldn’t count on it, but one can always hope.
by James DeChene
According to the Des Moines Register a recent 10-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax hike is boosting Iowa road construction funds and hasn’t dampened motorists’ enthusiasm for driving, state records show.
Reports filed between April and July show that motor fuel tax collections totaled about $225 million, an increase of about $76 million over the same period last year, according to the Iowa Department of Revenue. Although the higher tax took effect March 1, reporting of the data lags by one month.
On Saturday, the statewide average cost of gasoline in Iowa was $2.46 per gallon for mid-grade fuel, which was 83 cents a gallon less than the $3.29 per gallon for the same date a year ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, and the increased fuel tax revenue has enabled the Iowa DOT to add about $500 million worth of road projects to its five-year highway construction plan.
Delaware faces a $780 million funding shortfall over the next 6 years for planned DELDOT projects, and with gas prices currently low, and expected to stay low for the foreseeable future, the discussion should be started on what a gas tax increase would look like for Delaware. The Chamber position has been supportive of a gas tax as long as the proceeds are solely used for transportation infrastructure and if there are spending offsets to cover any additional revenues required.
FOSTERING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BUSINESS LEADERS, EDUCATORS AND SCHOOLS: DELAWARE PRINCIPAL FOR A DAY PROGRAM
By Mark DiMaio
The Delaware Principal for a Day Program recognizes a need to foster working relationships between business leaders, educators and schools. The State Chamber, through its affiliate The Partnership, Inc. created this program to provide CEOs and business leaders an opportunity to spend the day in a Delaware school carrying out the daily responsibilities of a principal. Business leaders and elected officials participate in the Program for many and varied reasons, but ultimately the goal is to build a closer connection and relationship between school, college and career. This connection provides business leaders the opportunity to meet the next generation of prospective employees and provides a firsthand look at your future workforce. Every year we receive tremendous positive feedback from our participating business leaders and we want to provide an opportunity for anyone who’s interested to participate in 2015. Last year, we had over 130 schools participate and your opportunity to sign up is now.
So far this year, more than 100 schools will open their doors to host a guest principal. Follow the Program on Facebook where participants can share their photos and stories.
Register online or email Kelly Wetzel for more information.
By Rich Heffron
The recent study commissioned by the Delaware Business Roundtable (DBRT), of which the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (DSCC) is a long-time member, is consistent with the DSCC’s message over the past year that Delaware’s current revenue structure is not sustainable.
If the state’s economy is to be turned around, it is time for the General Assembly and the Administration to make the difficult budget decisions that have been postponed for years. The problems we are facing continue to grow exponentially. For example, last year the State Chamber supported the Governor’s proposal to have state employees contribute more towards their health care costs consistent with what has been necessary in the private sector. Furthermore, there are other reports including the report issued by the DEFAC Advisory Council on Revenues issued earlier this year that make it clear the state must realign Delaware’s revenue collection process if there is to be any hope of matching revenue with spending. This is problematic considering anticipated future state spending driven by a variety of demands including Medicaid costs and state pension obligations, among others.
The DBRT and its members are not offering “free advice” but have carefully commissioned and paid for a needed review of our fiscal situation. The Roundtable, the State Chamber, their members and their employees provide hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees to the state as well as thousands of volunteer hours. This is the engine that drives Delaware’s economy. The Roundtable and the State Chamber were part of the coalition to keep GM and Chrysler in Delaware. Our members have suffered the consequences of those plants closing.
DSCC President Rich Heffron says, “As the State Chamber has repeated, we are not interested in planting stakes in the ground or pointing fingers. We are only interested in solving problems. Any comprehensive solution must be bipartisan in nature. We look forward to participating in any solution to find sustainable revenue sources and position the Delaware economy to move forward.”
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.