by Mark DiMaio
Virginia “Jinni” Forcucci, a high school English teacher from the Sussex Technical School District, is Delaware’s 2018 State Teacher of the Year. Governor John Carney made the announcement at the annual banquet honoring the 20 district and charter teachers of the year at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center.
Virginia “Jinni” Forcucci became an educator because of her love of literature, but her students are the inspiration for her 20-year career. As a teacher, Forcucci works to encourage her students to understand all sides of an argument before formulating a perspective, and to seek common ground as they search for a resolution. Ms. Forcucci said she found what best motivates learning is demanding content, freedom to explore and academic discourse. With this discovery, she redesigned her curricula, enhancing rigor and relying more on student-driven discussions. Even her most resistant learners responded.
Ms. Forcucci inherits from outgoing Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner the responsibility of representing all Delaware teachers. She will also represent Delaware in the National Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers. By action of the Delaware General Assembly, she will receive a $5,000 grant to use for the educational benefit of her students, as well two personal grants totaling an additional $5,000.
Superstar in Education winner William Penn High School hosted elected officials, faculty and staff, students and parents, and other community guests, at Historic Penn Farm on Tuesday, October 3. Serving food made with ingredients from their farm, the school held a reception in the barn at Penn Farm, where the school’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program, Farm to School, is housed. Following the reception, a pollinator field, made possible with financial support from DuPont, was celebrated with a wildflower seed toss.
The pollinator field, along with a transparent bee hive shed with a transparent viewing wall, was presented to the school by way of a $5,000 grant from DuPont. DuPont surprised the school and event attendees with the check at the Chamber’s annual Superstars in Education Awards ceremony on May 8, 2017, where William Penn High School was being recognized for their Farm to School program.
It is DuPont’s hope that the hive will provide a save learning environment for apiary studies, while expanding on current honey harvesting operations. The pollinator field will allow students an interactive learning experience in horticulture, as well as serve as local point of interest for the community. The field, dedicated as ‘Mrs. Pickard’s Field of Dreams’, was named for the school’s agriculture teacher, Kathleen Pickard.
DuPont was impressed with the winning application’s demonstration of collaboration with multiple organizations – William Penn High School and the Colonial School District, Delaware Greenways and the Historic Penn Farm, University of Delaware, and New Castle County Commons – and even collaboration within the school, as the program engages students from agricultural, business, environmental and culinary disciplines.
Additionally, PJ Simon, Manager, Academic Outreach (North America), says, “This program checks many boxes. The students are learning skills in an oftentimes overlooked trade; instruction is hands-on and engaging, resulting in increased attendance and test scores; students gain a clear understanding of potential career paths; and the program has even reinvigorated the careers of the teachers.”
by Mark DiMaio
On Wednesday, October 4, the PPG Dover plant marked National Manufacturing Day (October 6, 2017) by welcoming Dover High School students that participate in the Delaware Technical Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Program to the facility. The students, along with instructors and representatives from the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership (DEMEP), toured PPG Dover and heard presentations about the plant’s processes and products.
“National Manufacturing Day is exciting for PPG because it presents an opportunity to show students and community members what a manufacturing plant is really like,” said Neal Nicastro, PPG plant manager, Dover. “We will educate the students about the advances in science and technology that have transformed manufacturing into a great industry with many career options.”
This is the PPG Dover plant’s fourth year hosting an event with local students for National Manufacturing Day - an initiative organized by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to address the skilled labor shortage, connect with future generations of manufacturers and ensure the success of the manufacturing industry. The PPG Dover facility, which employs approximately 80 people, makes interior and exterior paint for residential and commercial applications under the OLYMPIC®, PPG PITTSBURGH PAINTS® and PPG PORTER PAINTS® brands.
by James DeChene
In Matthew Albright’s recent op-ed for the News Journal, which was well written and with which I largely agree, he made the argument that it’s time for Delaware to answer the question of how much government it is willing to have its citizens pay for. Albright’s article echoes a sentiment I’ve made with elected officials—there needs to be an audit of what government should be, what services it wants to provide, and then, how to pay for them.
Delaware has done an excellent job of outsourcing its tax and revenue liability onto entities outside the state. From the $1.1 billion it collects from the Corporate Franchise Tax, $400 million in escheat, and about $100 million combined from the Corporate Income Tax and Bank Franchise Tax, that represents an easy-to-calculate roughly 40% of the state’s annual budget. That number doesn’t take into account tourism, other items visitors cross the border for – tax free shopping and low(ish)-taxed cigarettes – or tolls on I-95 and RT1, which pushes our percentage even higher.
As Albright outlines in his article, Delaware is one of the top five per capita spenders on government, based on studies from the Brookings Institution and the Kaiser Family Fund. This fact, in spite of Delaware having one of the lowest tax liabilities in the country, has allowed state spending to rise without its citizens feeling the pain. Or so the story goes. The business community, however, has seen its share of costs mount each year, from double digit increases in health care costs, increases in the costs of doing business from additional regulatory burdens imposed by the state, as well as increases in other operating costs such as utilities.
The answer to the question of whether an increase in taxes is necessary to cover increases in state government is, in our view, going after the solution the wrong way. Focusing first on what Delaware’s government should look like, and on making government more efficient, should be the answer. Simply saying more money is needed, without combined efforts to eliminate duplicate or wasteful spending is a recipe for the continued trend of businesses relocating, and residents moving across state lines.
by James DeChene
This week DEFAC met, and forecast an additional $64 million in revenue for FY19, if the budget were to remain the same. While positive news, the forecast did not consider the contract negotiations with Department of Corrections on salary increases, nor did it factor in student enrollment numbers and new Medicaid rates, which won’t be released until later this fall. You may recall from last year that the student enrollment and Medicaid increases resulted in an additional $150 million the state budget writers needed to factor in, and represented about 40% of last year’s budget gap. Those numbers will be available for consideration at the upcoming December 18th meeting, which will also be the forecast Governor Carney will use when crafting his recommended budget.
Also this week, the board of the Prosperity Partnership, the P3 created to replace DEDO, met for the first time. The organization is officially up and running, and now comes the work of getting itself operational. The coming months will flesh out how the entity will operate. We will continue to update our members as more information is available.
by James DeChene
Since 2002 Delaware had been ranked #1 in The Institute for Legal Reform’s Harris Poll Lawsuit Climate Survey. This year’s survey finds Delaware dropping to #11.
According to the report, “Participants in the survey were comprised of a national sample of 1,321 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenue who indicated they: (1) are knowledgeable about litigation matters; and (2) have firsthand, recent litigation experience in each state they evaluate.”
While Delaware still scores high in key element categories of scientific and technical evidence, trial judges' competence, quality of appellate review, and enforcing meaningful venue requirements, it fell significantly in Treatment of Class Action Suits and Mass Consolidation Suits (from #1 to #26) and Trial Judges’ Impartiality (down to #15).
When I asked about specifics that were factors in Delaware’s drop, I was given a handful of recent court decisions and specific pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly. From my perspective, no one decision or bill by itself precipitated the drop, instead the reasons for the decline seem to be a shift away from supporting what made Delaware a top corporate legal environment for so long. In fact, even though Delaware scored #1 in 2015, I was given warnings then about a potential slide in rankings if Delaware continued to focus on legislation and issued court decisions that were increasingly plaintiff friendly.
I’ve written about these issues before, and seemingly often, which include Delaware’s approach to abandoned property, the fee shifting debate that took place a few years ago resulting in the passage of SB75 that reversed the “loser pays” model of litigation, and the ATP Tours, Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund decision that precipitated SB75.
In fact, over the last few years, Delaware’s cache has dropped when reviewed by other organizations as well. For example:
The fact remains that the constant drip of decisions and legislation designed to support plaintiffs over business has led directly to where Delaware is today: a world where South Dakota is ranked as having the top business legal climate, and where Delaware is on the decline according to recent national ratings.
One thing remains constant, however. If Delaware continues its current trend, our image will continue to suffer. Delaware relies on the billion dollars in revenue it receives each year from companies choosing to incorporate here. We should be doing what it takes to retain our corporate image if there is to be any realistic expectation of that being the case in the future.
This past spring, Governor John Carney and the Delaware legislature put in place two key foundations for economic development: Modernizing the Coastal Zone Act and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the new public/private nonprofit responsible for recruiting new employers to the state. In addition, the City of Wilmington is undergoing the creation of a master plan to help revitalize Delaware’s corporate hub. An example of such a transformation lies just 20 miles to its north.
On Monday, September 11, The Delaware State Chamber hosted a trip to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Urban Land Institute has hailed the venture as one of the “most successful” redevelopment projects in U.S. history. The Navy Yard is a 1,200-acre urban development, offering the Philadelphia region a mixed use and centrally-located waterfront business campus. The Navy Yard is home to more than 13,000 employees and 152 companies representing industrial, manufacturing, office and research, and development sectors. To date, the Navy Yard has developed 7.5 million square feet of real estate in a mix of historic buildings and new high-performance and LEED® certified construction. Since 2000, more than $1 billion has been invested to transform the site into a world class location for corporations like GlaxoSmithKline, Urban Outfitters and Tasty Baking Company.
The PIDC (formally known as the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation) is Philadelphia’s public-private non-profit economic development corporation founded jointly by the City of Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in 1958. The PIDC serves as master developer, and oversees all aspects of the Navy Yard’s management and development, including master planning, leasing, property management, infrastructure development, utility operation, and the structuring of development transactions. Reed Lyons, Vice President Navy Yard Development, led our tour and pointed out that the Navy Yard had no public infrastructure when the U.S. Navy handed the site to Philadelphia. The Navy Yard transformation started with little but a vision, and 20 years later that vision has become a success story.
Mike Vanderslice, Environmental Alliance, Inc. and Chairman of the DSCC Economic Development Committee, says, “From an economic development perspective, I appreciated what our friends at the Navy Yard had to offer for what's 'working' and lessons they've learned as they continue to develop the historic waterfront area. Being in the environmental consulting field, it was impressive to see how far they have taken this former heavy industrial, blighted area, and turned it around into a vibrant campus for businesses.”
Link to Urban Land Institute’s article on the Navy Yard:
Link to the Navy Yard:
by James DeChene
This week the State Chamber’s Transportation & Infrastructure Committee heard from representatives from DELDOT and Whitman, Requardt & Associates, updating the committee on the status of the 301 Project (on time and on budget so far), as well as a major renovation project for I-95 starting in 2020.
Save periodic repavings, the highway between the I-95 and 495 split to above the Brandywine Bridge has remained virtually untouched for the last 60 years. The 2020 renovation project for I-95 will include a major structural and paving upgrade that will also include rehabilitation work for over 19 bridges and exit ramps, and will include other traffic flow improvements in the surrounding areas.
Scheduled to take place over two years, this project will have a large impact on travelers both local and passing through Delaware. The purpose of the briefing was to alert the business community for potential planning purposes, including offsite or off-normal working hours for employees, as well as other logistics planning. More information will be forthcoming to the State Chamber membership, so stay tuned.
by James DeChene
BREAKING: Obama DOL's Overtime Rule Struck Down
A Texas federal judge on Thursday invalidated the Obama administration’s controversial rule expanding overtime protections to millions of white collar workers, saying the U.S. Department of Labor improperly used a salary-level test to determine which workers are exempt from overtime compensation.
In other news, the Adult Use Cannabis Taskforce meets for the first time next week in an effort to learn more about the possibilities and ramifications, positive and negative, of legalizing recreational marijuana. The State Chamber has a representative on this taskforce, and if you have questions, concerns, feedback on the issue, send it to me, and I will pass it along. The Chamber has expressed concerns related to labor law, including increased workplace-safety problems, higher worker-compensation costs, reduced productivity/attendance issues, and practical issues such as how to test for “under the influence” (or “impairment”).
An Executive Order by Governor Carney to create an offshore wind taskforce was signed this week. There will be a business representative (unnamed as of yet) on the taskforce, and the State Chamber will be monitoring its progress.
Next week is ChamberChase, the Chamber’s golf outing. Wednesday night before there will be a networking event at Lucky’s Alley & Eats. If you’re in Lewes, or nearby, come join us. We’re fun.
And from Forbes this week, “If you live in Delaware and you compare your current paycheck with one from a year ago, you might notice that you've made a couple of extra bucks. Over the past year, Delaware was the U.S. state that recorded the greatest growth in hourly earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people employed in private industry in Delaware saw their average hourly earnings increase 11.7 percent from $23.85 to $26.64 between July 2016 and July 2017.”
by Michael Smith
University of Delaware Director Strategic Initiatives/Partnerships, College of Health Sciences
Tuesday morning, August 22, we topped off the new Tower on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. Many in the business community are used to the groundbreaking and the ribbon cutting, but the top off is something that is extra meaningful for UD.
Historically, this started with the Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced due to construction. Today, the top off symbolizes community, partnership, research, education and innovation. UD’s impact goes beyond the classroom and today this top off showcases our commitment to Delaware’s future and the impact the University of Delaware will have on economic development for the state of Delaware. This is a milestone moment for the community, University of Delaware and the state, as we continue to transform the former Chrysler Manufacturing plant into a new hub that mixes research, education and industry into the innovations of tomorrow.
The College of Health Sciences will occupy floors 2-7. Floors 8-10 will be spec space for outside companies. There will also be ground floor space available for amenity businesses. The college space will include a 300-person auditorium for events and classes, demonstration kitchen, child nutrition lab, and sleep lab. It will also house augmented reality and simulation space, innovation and maker space, research space, conference rooms and office space. The Tower will create a unique environment for the collision and collaboration of industry and partnering organizations that will drive economic development for the state of Delaware.
The Tower will open August of 2018. Come see it for yourself. As we inspire, impact and innovate, we need you to partner, dream and collaborate with us to drive STAR Campus, UD and the state of Delaware forward. The sky is the limit!
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.