by James DeChene
I’m still amazed at how Amazon decided to pack its virtual bags and abandon plans to build a headquarters in NYC. Not only does it showcase the hoops that businesses go through to relocate and bring jobs and development to a city or region, it’s staggering when you compare cost of living to other areas across the country.
Case in point comes from a WSJ opinion article (PDF version here) from a restauranteur who moved his business from California to Nashville. Comparing cost of living in Arlington (the site of the headquarters building Amazon will build) to NYC to Nashville shows that compared to living in Manhattan, a $150,000 salary there translates into a 51.8% increase in purchasing power in Arlington ($229K) and a whopping 171% increase in purchasing power in Tennessee, to the tune of almost $410,000.
All of this circles back to places like Delaware. We have a ton going for us—low cost of living, urban, suburban, rural and beach lifestyle choices, regionally located to all the places you want to visit but may not want to live, and access to a talented workforce that’s getting better by the day.
The story also reinforces messages that the State Chamber and other groups have been offering for years related to permits and places like Middletown that get that timing matters. As we’ve heard from site selectors, 6 months for permitting is the sweet spot to get noticed by companies looking to relocate. Efforts continue to track permit status, made easier by DELDOT and DNREC websites created to do just that, but more can and will be done to perfect the process.
Companies, and their C-suites, should be looking at what happened in NYC with Amazon, and should be making decisions based on how they’ll be received by local communities. The fact remains that Delaware is a bargain, and by continuing to make strides in making us more attractive, we’re in a better position to compete.
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.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.