This week the State of Delaware signed an agreement with Gulftainer to run the Port of Wilmington. Under terms of the 50-year deal, Gulftainer has pledged to invest $600 million in upgrades and build a new container-handling terminal on the Delaware at Edgemoor. The deal also has the potential to double the number of jobs (currently around 5,700) in the coming years, providing a blue-collar job resurgence in an area in desperate need of those types of jobs.
Last night the State Chamber hosted its annual networking table top event at the Chase Center, in partnership with the Better Business Bureau of Delaware. Billed as the largest business to business networking event in the state, with over 100 exhibitors and over 600 attendees, the event was a successful matchup among Chamber members, highlighting the variety of businesses Delaware has to offer.
And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t wish Rich Heffron a very happy birthday. Lucky for him it falls on a Friday this year, just in time for our Weekly Report to go out.
The Chamber would also like to wish James DeChene a happy birthday, as he and Rich were both born on September 21! Happy Birthday to them both!
by James DeChene
On the heels of the Carney Administration signing a package of bills this week designed to help combat Delaware’s opioid crisis, the State Chamber will be holding a seminar for employers to learn more about strategies for handling opioids, drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
We will be presenting three employer case examples of opioid and alcohol abuse for panelists to discuss, and offer guidance and advice on how employers can/should handle the situations portrayed. The case studies involve a small “mom and pop” business with no HR capacity, a mid-sized employer (roughly 150 employees) with employee manuals, but no sophisticated HR capacity, and a large employer with in-house HR and legal staffs. The panelists will react to the studies presented, but also add useful insights or advice to Chamber members attending.
Opioids, Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington, DE 19806
Sponsorship opporunities available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
by James DeChene
Congratulations to last night’s primary election winners as they now will go on to face their general election opponents (unless they were one of the few who have no general election candidate, and have therefore will be in office in January 2019).
by James DeChene
A number of bills were signed into law this week, as Gov. Carney spent the better part of two days signing bills on a range of topics. From establishing a clean energy financing program for the installation of energy efficiency technologies and clean energy systems, to marijuana charge expungements, to bills about service animals, over two dozen bills became law. Of particular note was HB360, which mandates sexual harassment training for employees, and specific training for supervisors. The most recent edition of the Chamber’s magazine has an article on the impact of the bill written by Lori Brewington from Richards, Layton & Finger. If you’ve not read it yet, I encourage you to do so.
Next week the Chamber will be spending time downstate. On 9/5, the Chamber will be holding a networking mixer at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth at 5:30, and the next day is the Chamber Chase golf tournament at King’s Creek. Also that day is Delaware’s Primary Election Day. Remember to vote. After you vote, be sure to watch the Eagles beat the Falcons.
by James DeChene
A number of good news items this week helps offset the crummy weather, including Ashland announcing they will be moving their headquarters from Kentucky to Delaware. Also in the news was a group, Capital Ideas, ranking Delaware first in innovation among the 50 states due to the high numbers of innovation patents awarded to Delaware businesses, at a rate of 20 utility patents per 1,000 people. It should come as no surprise that DuPont’s presence in Delaware is a leading reason for our ranking.
Good news this week if you live in Sussex County and you have a computer. Gov. John Carney on Tuesday announced a state initiative to partner with the private sector to bring broadband wireless Internet to underserved areas of rural Kent and Sussex counties.
News of developing the AstraZeneca site on Rt. 202 was welcomed this week. Featuring a mixed use of apartments, shops, restaurants, office space and a hotel, the project has the potential to breathe life back into the corridor, and coupled with the proposed development at 202 and Silverside Road, a lot of new opportunities for businesses to expand or relocate are on the horizon.
Lastly, it was announced that Damian DeStefano will be the new head of the Division of Small Business. You may remember Damian as Governor Markell’s economic development policy advisor. It will be good to work with him again in his new role.
On August 2, ESGR will be having their annual banquet recognizing businesses in the region that go above and beyond in their service to the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve. In addition, the Joint Military Affairs Committee of the Delaware State and New Castle County Chambers, along with the Military Affairs Committee of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, will present the Delaware “Warrior Friendly Business Award” to one large and one small business.
This is a great chance to recognize these companies and to learn more about how to better serve our men and women in uniform. This event is a celebration of the win-win situation businesses are finding when they employ service members and veterans. If you are interested in attending, please call Paulette Mason at 302-561-8415 by Friday, July 27.
For the past three years, we’ve been following the appeal of the Delaware and Maryland PSCs to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to grant a rehearing of how a regional power authority (PJM) calculated the cost allocation to cover the building of a transmission power line across from NJ to the Delmarva Peninsula.
On July 19, FERC announced it would grant the rehearing. In the announcement they note:
"…we grant rehearing. Specifically, we find that it is unjust and unreasonable to apply PJM’s solution-based DFAX cost allocation method to Regional Facilities, Necessary Lower Voltage Facilities, and Lower Voltage Facilities that address stability-related reliability issues, including the Artificial Island Project. To determine the just and reasonable rate to be applied, we are establishing paper hearing procedures."
This is good news for Delaware and Maryland rate payers. To recap, previously PJM allocated over 90% of the project cost to be paid for by Delmarva zone ratepayers, driving the cost of power for those receiving less than 10% of the benefit of the line’s use. The estimated project costs are $279 million according to the latest PJM projection, meaning Delmarva Zone customers will be expected to bear responsibility for $250 million. The economic impact to large industrial users would be immense, and for both large and smaller users, concerns over closures and job losses remain.
The Chamber will continue to monitor this issue, and weigh in as appropriate.
by James DeChene
The Delaware House of Representatives held a late night, with a 3:30 a.m. vote to increase Delaware’s minimum wage by $.50 twice next year, in January and October 2019. House Republicans were able to negotiate the passage of a bill that would create two lower-wage groups—a training wage, and a teen wage, to be paid at most $.50 under the minimum wage once the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
The Delaware State Chamber, along with other business groups, were on hand throughout the last night of session to provide input and feedback on how this legislation was being crafted and handled.
Each year legislation has been introduced to raise the minimum wage, which was last raised in 2015. Each year the legislation is sent to the Senate Labor Committee (as it generally originates in the Senate), where it passes, and goes to the full Senate for a vote. This year, the first minimum wage bill, SB110, followed that process.
At a hearing lasting two hours and full of testimony from nonprofits, the agriculture community, and members of chambers from around the state, all offered testimony on the negative impact increasing the minimum wage would have on their businesses and their employees. Ultimately SB110 would fail in the Senate when it came up for a floor vote.
Fast forward to later in the year when SB170 was introduced, another bill by the same sponsor, Sen. Marshall, that would raise the minimum wage. The bill was heard, and released, from the Senate Labor Committee. On July 30, SB170 passed the Senate as part of a negotiated deal to provide relief for Delaware casinos, and headed over to the House and was assigned to the House Economic Development Committee.
In years past (at least since 2014), when a minimum wage bill passed the Senate, and headed to the House, the bill was heard, and failed in committee. The same process of having impacted businesses, nonprofits and farms share their stories followed, and ultimately, members of that committee would vote to defeat the bill.
Last night, in a dramatic departure from the usual process, members of the House voted to bring SB170 to the floor for action under a suspension of the rules, a process normally reserved for non-controversial bills. As evidenced this year, with other legislation in the Senate, departure from that process seems to be increasing in its frequency, a trend we hope does not become the norm.
What is most disturbing about what happened on July 1, is that members of the general public, both opponents and supporters of a minimum wage increase, were unable to have their voices heard. Thankfully, a second bill was negotiated to provide alternative wages for training and for teens, but that shouldn’t have been undertaken in the wee hours of the morning.
The Delaware State Chamber, along with the New Castle County Chamber, the Central Delaware Chamber, the Delaware Restaurant Association, the Delaware Food Industry Council, the Delaware Chain Drug Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, and other business groups have all worked together over the years, including this year, to let legislators know the negative impacts of raising the minimum wage, and the numerous studies showing how it negatively impacts the employees they are trying to help.
The Chamber remains disappointed in the passage of SB170 and will continue with others in the business community to maintain the message that these types of bills hurt business and they hurt workers. Legislators will continue to be told that businesses will have to decide how to cut additional costs to pay for this added payroll expense. It is imperative that people working full time for minimum wage are encouraged to add to their education and outfit themselves with skills that meet workforce needs in order to improve their personal or family situation.
For more information regarding Chamber advocacy efforts, please contact me at email@example.com.
by James DeChene
The General Assembly ended work at 8:30 a.m. on July 1. Included was Grant in Aid and capital spending. A bill passed at 4 a.m. to raise minimum wage by $.50 the next two years. The bill did not get a house hearing and was a controversial action decried by House Rs. DSCC supported passage of a bill to sustain the funding for the state’s brownfield’s program. Also passed was a bill mandating sexual harassment training. DSCC worked to amend that bill making it better for business. Look for a more in depth recap in the next issue of Delaware Business magazine.
by James DeChene
This week in Dover featured the crush of bills needed to be heard before the end of session early morning July 1. Included were: modifications to the WARN Act (Chamber supported), the failure of the legalization of recreational marijuana (Chamber opposed passage), a bill allowing insurance companies to offer ERISA type plans to smaller employers (Chamber supported), and the supplemental spending bill that contains raises for state employees.
Still out there awaiting June 30 action are the bills related to minimum wage, the Workplace Fraud Act, sexual harassment training, and the bond bill, as well as whatever last minute surprises crop up.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.