Earlier this morning the General Assembly finished their work for the first leg of this legislative session. Items of note included a budget that set aside close to $125 million in reserves for future years, the largest bond bill in Delaware history, and a grant-in-aid bill with more money allocated than in recent years.
Of specific note for the business community are the bills that did not find their way to passage, although many will return in January. They include a minimum wage increase, a tipped worker minimum wage increase, and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The Chamber continues work on a number of items into next year, including finding creative ways to lower health care premiums for small and medium sized businesses, investments in workforce development and training opportunities for unemployed and underemployed workers, and finding innovative ways to attract and retain high level talent for employers looking to expand and relocate here in Delaware.
The State Chamber thanks you for your engagement this legislative session and we look forward to working with you next year in making sure Delaware is the best place to live, work and do business.
In a surprise announcement at the 20th Annual Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business Awards Luncheon, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce awarded the esteemed Gilman Bowl to its namesake’s daughter Martha Gilman. The award, presented in conjunction with the Chamber’s Small Business Alliance, is kept secret until the event.
Martha has played a critical role in the activities of the Small Business Alliance, being a long-standing member of the Board of the Alliance and as a member of the State Chamber Board of Directors for over a decade. Since its inception in 1998, Martha has relentlessly committed to making the annual Superstars Luncheon a moral and financial success. Her tireless efforts in logistical planning and development/fundraising for the annual event continues year after year and is a testament to her parents’ admired example.
“One of the things I love most about this program and hold with me each year is the memory of seeing my mother’s pride when she would attend the luncheons. The Hotel du Pont was one of my father’s favorite Delaware landmarks, and so it is very special to our family to hold the awards luncheon in the Gold Ballroom. I’m honored to carry on their good work in this way, and even more so to bring my son, Brett, in as part of their legacy,” said Martha in a recent interview for the Chamber’s magazine, Delaware Business.
She and her father went into business together, founding Gilman Development Company, a land development and homebuilding firm. Additionally, she co-founded Cornell Management along with her father and brother, Peter. Cornell Management, in conjunction with Gilman Development, builds, owns and manages rental housing. Martha and Marvin were also instrumental in creating The Delaware Housing Partnership (DHP), which provides families with affordable and comfortable housing as homeowners or as renters. The Gilman family’s efforts have given approximately five hundred families in all three counties the ability to lead a better quality of life with homes in which to raise their families.
Leading the charge on Gilman Bowl nominations each year, it was a big but important task to make sure she would be surprised. A fake script was even crafted to keep her in the dark. It wasn't until a video she thought was about the 20th anniversary played that it became clear, with her son, Brett, and several colleagues making the announcement. Click here to watch the announcement; and click here to watch the Facebook Live video from the event. DSCC President Mike Quaranta was joined by Senator Chris Coons, along with Martha's family, to present the award.
The Gilman Bowl was established to recognize those who exhibit exceptional small business leadership. It is named in memory of Marvin S. Gilman, who served as an exemplary leader and a paragon of small business and philanthropy in Delaware. Martha has, and continues to, serve her community in various ways. Her involvement includes the 21st Century Childrens’ Fund, a nonprofit that gives grants to children in need so that they can participate in extracurricular and developmental activities that would otherwise have been beyond their financial reach; as well as the Delaware Community Fund, the Rotary Club of Wilmington and the Homebuilders Association of Delaware.
The program included keynote remarks from Scott Kammerer of SoDel Concepts.
"Building something from nothing isn't for everyone, but I wouldn't trade it for anything," said Kammerer in sharing the story behind SoDel's inception, challenges overcome, accomplishments made and the success yet to be had.
The event also honored eight outstanding companies as Superstars in Business and Award of Excellence winners. Winner videos and event information can be found at www.dscc.com/superstarsinbusiness.
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.
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.
by Mark DiMaio
The Chamber’s annual End-of-Session Legislative Brunch was held on June 7 at Dover Downs. The brunch marked the last official event for retiring Chamber President, Rich Heffron.
Attendees heard from Kurt Foreman, President & CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. Kurt discussed Delaware’s current economic situation as being “a glass half full.” Delaware has experienced moderate employment growth, with the construction sector leading the way and other employment sectors showing modest growth. Housing starts are the strongest they’ve been in several years and Delaware’s housing affordability is more positive than the US market overall. Mr. Foreman shared the Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s four main areas of focus:
James DeChene, the Chamber’s Sr. Vice President of Government Affairs, spoke about the “Tale of Two Budgets.” Last year Delaware faced a $400 million-dollar budget shortfall followed by a nearly $400 million-dollar budget surplus this year. The fundamental question here is how we can make the budget process easier, and more efficient and accurate. Boom and bust cycles may be natural, but helping to smooth the highs and lows will help put Delaware on more stable, certain financial footing. The Chamber strongly supports a bipartisan plan put forward by the Governor and State Treasurer to create a true “rainy day” fund to be used in lean budget times and added to in good economic times. This proposed plan requires a constitutional amendment, and requires passing changes to our tax structure and limits on spending. The constitutional amendment needs to be passed this year, as it takes two consecutive legislative sessions to become a part of Delaware Constitution.
Attendees also heard from Senate Pro Tempore David McBride and Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf. Senator McBride highlighted the state’s budget and the fact that it would be completed well before the end of June. However, he wasn’t sure that the Senate would pass the minimum wage bill this year. He gave credit to the State Chamber for its role in the passage of the Coastal Zone Modernization Act last session. Representative Schwartzkopf spoke on the passage of legislation to bring $580 million dollars of private investment to the Port of Wilmington. He also pointed to the state budget’s restoration of the senior drug program, funding for special education and salary increases for teachers.
This year’s Small Business Guardian awards were presented to Senator Brian Pettyjohn and Representative Harvey Kenton.
"It's typically a specific bill or issue that brings small business owners to Legislative Hall and it's intimidating. It's great to have the Chamber on your side for this," said Kim Gomes of The Byrd Group.
As a small business owner, we recognize that you may not have the ability to go to Dover for every piece of legislation. But the State Chamber does and we're here for you. Capitalize on the membership benefit of having a full time lobbyist for your business interests through DSCC.
Our annual Small Business Day in Dover on May 10, kicked off with a panel discussion featuring Kim, Rick Deadwyler of DuPont, Lincoln Willis of The Willis Group and Kim Willson of Ruggerio Willson & Associates. Our lobbyists shared with attendees advice and best practices for navigating Legislative Hall and working alongside their legislators. Some key takeaways:
Following the panel, we participated in the House Small Business Caucus meeting, chaired by Representatives Quinn Johnson, Daniel Short and Michael Ramone. Guests heard from Dr. Kara Odom Walker from the Department of Health and Social Services who provided an update on the state of health care in Delaware.
Our 80 attendees were then able to tour Legislative Hall and meet with their legislators in person.
Thanks to sponsors MilliCare by EBC, Environmental Alliance, Inc., Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law, Santora CPA Group, Vandemark & Lynch, Inc., and the Delaware Division of Small Business.
by James DeChene
This week the General Assembly passed the Angel Investor tax credit bill, and it is on its way to Governor Carney for his signature. You may recall that the bill provides a tax incentive for investors to fund Delaware startups. The Chamber is supportive of the legislation and is looking forward to hearing success stories in the future.
SB170, which would raise the minimum wage in Delaware in increments topping out at $10.25, was heard in committee this week and is currently awaiting further action. The Chamber, other business groups, and business owners testified against the legislation. It is unclear on the timing of when it will reach the Senate floor for a full vote. The Committee also released SS1 for SB76, which mandates employers working on certain public works projects have Department of Labor certified apprenticeship training programs in place. The bill, opposed by the Chamber, would disproportionally hurt small businesses and companies that are open shop.
The General Assembly is in next week, and will then break for three weeks, returning June 5. The Chamber’s Small Business Day in Dover is next Thursday, May 10. Click here to register.
By Mark DiMaio
In 2017, we invited Chamber members to participate in a survey in part to gauge their view of obstacles to their business growth. Listed below are the top five, along with ways the Chamber is addressing them.
1. Cost of Employee Health Care
The Chamber recognizes the growing problem surrounding health care costs.
2. Lack of Qualified Applicants
We are actively engaged, along with many of our members, with the Pathways to Prosperity program. Delaware Pathways programs are a set of curriculum focused on a specific industry-based “pathway,” paired with opportunities to gain workplace experience while still in high school, graduate with a head start on a college degree, or gain qualifications needed to go to work immediately. The program is a unique collaboration of school districts, businesses, higher education, and national advisory partners that represent a new way to do school. The Delaware Manufacturing Association (a Chamber affiliate) members have actively participated in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Production & Logistics pathways.
Delaware Pathways will host its 4th Annual Conference on March 21.
3. Concerns with Crime & Safety
The Chamber supports the efforts of elected officials and their staffs to reduce crime in Wilmington and across the state.
4. Concerns About Local Schools
Improving education outcomes is a key factor in developing a skilled workforce and attracting new business to Delaware.
5. Cost of Permitting and Regulation Compliance
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Federal Reserve on a Small Business Credit Survey for both pre-start and existing businesses, and we’d like you to participate. Your answers will help business service providers and lenders understand real-time business conditions. This short survey takes less than 9 minutes to complete. Individual responses are confidential and summary results will be shared with you.
Take the survey today!
Questions? Contact SmallBusinessResearch@atl.frb.org.
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James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.