Maybe it’s a continuation of my turkey coma, but I saw a lot of positive things happening this week in and around Delaware you may have missed. Chamber member, and Taste of Delaware participant, Waggies by Maggie & Friends, a Wilmington nonprofit dog treat company that employs people with intellectual disabilities, has won the $10,000 grand prize in M&T Bank’s first Understanding What’s Important Business Challenge. Maggie’s has been a great friend of the Chamber, and everyone here is so pleased at their award. Congrats!
The announcement of a sports arena to be built by the Riverfront, with a connecting bridge to area attractions like Iron Hill and Frawley Stadium, is huge for Wilmington. Above and beyond what it can bring for economic development, it’s a major quality of life project for an area of the City that desperately needs one. Kudos to Governor Carney, Mayor Purzycki, and BPG for working together to bring this project to Delaware.
Speaking of Governor Carney, you may have read about the release, a bit early, of his Wilmington schools plan. While the plan will undergo a number of changes, what struck me was the Governor taking the time to visit residents of Wilmington in person, urging them to participate in the process and to educate them about what his plan will mean for Wilmington kids and families. Door knocking can be hard, and at times even unpleasant, but it’s also one of the best ways to sell your message. Color me impressed.
Lest you think I’ve lost my Grinch-esque ways, let me end by saying we’re following chatter that there’s an effort afoot to build support in order to increase Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50%, with an 8% carve out for solar generation. Currently, Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are established by the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA), which provides that utilities procure an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, leading up to 25% of energy derived from renewable sources by 2025. Obviously we’ll be watching this closely.
November 1 began open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace. Whether you’re uninsured and looking to find coverage, or would like to explore the available options, you can use the Marketplace to find coverage that works for you. The open enrollment period is shorter this year than in the past and the final deadline for enrollment is December 15th. Don’t miss your chance to get covered!
During the open enrollment period, you can visit www.HealthCare.gov to create an account and find coverage that works with your budget and meets your needs. You can also see what financial help you may qualify for. If you have Marketplace coverage currently, you have the opportunity to review your application to ensure it’s up to date and report any life changes.
Quality coverage is more affordable than you may think. Last year, 8 in 10 people qualified for financial help – for most people, that meant they could find premiums from $50 to $100 a month. The Marketplace and expansion of the Medicaid program helped cut the U.S. uninsured rate down to a historic 8.8 percent. We can continue this progress by getting even more Americans covered, which also helps lower health coverage costs.
There is no need to worry about paying for sudden medical emergencies. Find a policy that brings you and your family peace of mind, and will provide no-cost preventative care. Before the Marketplace, high medical bills were the leading cause of personal bankruptcies. Now, you can be prepared for routine, preventative, and unexpected medical costs.
If you have any questions about signing up, or want to talk to a trained Marketplace navigator, free help is just a call or click away. To apply and enroll quickly online, visit www.HealthCare.gov, or call the Marketplace call center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-318-2596. A representative will be able to assist you in the enrollment process as well as to answer any questions you may have. There are also trained representatives you can speak with in person if you have questions.
Visit www.Localhelp.HealthCare.gov to find a representative near you.
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester
The State of Delaware Division of Revenue is looking to engage taxpayers and tax accountants in an effort to help review the state’s electronic filing options, presentation of these options, and overall ease of access to the systems. The state will be conducting a survey incorporating opinion questions geared at addressing these issues. In addition, the state would like to conduct a focus group with a select number of constituents to further explore the user experience when it comes to the state’s electronic options.
Ideally, the state would like to engage self-preparers and self-filers as they would be the most likely group to utilize all of the state’s first party filing options. The background of these self-preparers/filers does not necessarily need to be limited to any specific subgroup; we are more or less looking for a wide variety of people from diverse business backgrounds.
The focus of this exercise will be to review the state’s License Renewal, Online ACH Debit Payment System for Corporate Tentative Tax/Withholding Tax, and Online Gross Receipts Tax System.
The Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) held its first board meeting on October 20, 2017, at the new CSC® global headquarters in Wilmington. A 501c3 partnership created by legislation and signed into law by Governor Carney this past summer, the DPP combines the resources of the private sector and government to further economic growth in The First State. The board is co-chaired by Governor Carney and Rod Ward, CEO of CSC. John Riley was elected by the board as Interim CEO of the DPP, and a temporary office has been set up at One Commerce Center in Wilmington. John will focus on launching the initiative and recruiting a permanent CEO through a national search process. As the state’s primary resource for recruiting new business to Delaware, John will also work with the Delaware Office of Small Business, Development and Tourism under Cerron Cade’s direction to ensure a smooth transition of current projects and new opportunities.
As plans were being made to launch the DPP, the Amazon HQ2 project was announced. While the state government took the lead in responding to the proposal, it presented the opportunity to bring in people and resources from the private sector to support the project, and to closely examine Delaware’s location and workforce advantages, not just for Amazon, but for other prospects going forward. One of the exciting digital marketing tools that came out of the project was the “Options in Delaware” video. As you can see, while it was developed as part of the Amazon response, it is a great representation of Delaware, and suitable for use in other ways, including recruiting talent to the state.
In addition to setting up an office, the DPP has launched an initial website, deprosperitypartnership.com, that includes basic information about the partnership and Delaware. In the coming weeks the site will be populated with additional information and ultimately become a resource for current Delaware businesses, as well as for those outside the state looking for a great place to expand or relocate.
With the upcoming holiday season, Sunday Breakfast Mission is hosting their annual food drive, which runs until the end of the year. They provide food to homeless men, women and children, as well impoverished individuals and families who do not have a secure source of food. Sunday Breakfast Mission has been providing for the homeless, hungry, and hurting in New Castle County for 125 years. The foundation seeks to treat those who are in the most need with dignity.
The goal of the annual food drive is to collect enough food items to provide the community with 120,000 meals. A portion of those meals will be distributed to 1,500 families the week of Thanksgiving and 1,000 individuals will receive Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day. The remainder of the food is utilized in providing nightly community meals, and in assembling food boxes to those in need during the year.
Anyone who would like to participate in the food drive is welcome to donate items such as boxed stuffing mix, pasta, and canned vegetables or soups. See below for a full list of possible donations. Just one standard grocery bag of food provides the foundation with enough to give 10 to 15 meals to a family facing food insecurity. Food can be taken to any WSFS branch location in Delaware, as well the Sunday Breakfast Mission located at 110 N Poplar Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. Additional information about the food drive can be found here, and financial donations are welcome here.
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.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.