by Mark DiMaio
On Monday November 28th, Delaware Technical Community College, Delmarva Power and Exelon hosted a “Partnerships for Pathways” event at DelTech’s Sustainable Energy Training Center (Stanton Campus). The event featured guest speakers Governor Jack Markell, Governor-elect John Carney and Exelon’s David Velazquez. Gary Stockbridge, President, Delmarva Power moderated a panel discussion highlighting the Pathways to Prosperity program’s newest education tract – the energy efficiency pathway. The new pathway provides Delaware high school students the opportunity to learn competencies and skills to succeed in the expanding energy efficiency industry. Students enrolled in the energy efficiency pathway will learn terminology and concepts in the classroom. A key component of the training is applying learned concepts and this spring, students will gain hands on experience at Delaware Technical Community College’s energy laboratories. Delmarva Power provided a $720,000 donation to partially fund the new energy efficiency pathway.
The new pathway will help fill the local demand for jobs in energy efficiency industry. During the panel discussion, David Small, Secretary of Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control, stated that 250 sector jobs could be created the next few years. The Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program now offers 12 career training programs, including culinary arts, manufacturing, finance and computer networking and programming, with over 5,000 students participating in the programs. The Pathways to Prosperity program kicked off just two years ago with major support from the Delaware Manufacturing Association and Delaware State Chamber of Commerce members.
by James DeChene
Last week news broke that the Diamond State Port Corporation has agreed to purchase the Edge Moor facility from Chemours in an effort to expand the Port of Wilmington, which is nearing its capacity. The State Chamber has supported expansion at the port to take advantage of Delaware’s attractive position in the mid-atlantic region—able to take advantage of the channel, close to the majority of the country’s population, proximity to rail and an interstate highway system that’s a direct pipeline to Chicago and points west. In fact, port expansion was featured prominently in the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda as a driver towards long term economic development and sustainability for the state.
This week in the Governor’s office, two businesses were recognized for their support of the military and veterans through their hiring practices and engagement in the community. Started as an effort by the Joint Military Affairs Committee, featuring a partnership by the State Chamber, New Castle County Chamber, and in conjunction with the Central Delaware Chamber’s Military Committee, the Warrior Friendly Business award is presented each year to a small and large business going above and beyond to ensure those in active duty, or returning from duty, have a job to come home to. Memorialized each year on a plaque prominently displayed in the lobby where visitors to our Governor can review their efforts, this year’s winners were Mission BBQ (small business winner), and JP Morgan Chase (large business winner). Many congratulations and thanks to both winning companies.
You may have seen last week a request from the Division of Revenue looking for feedback from those who use their website to make payments. They are in the process of starting to upgrade their site and online services provided, and are looking to the business community for assistance. There is a survey to take, as well as a small group to be formed to provide feedback as well. If you are interested in meeting with DOR representatives, please contact me. To take the survey, visit: https://revenue.delaware.gov/forms/EDI_Survey.shtml
by Mark DiMaio
The 9th Annual Vision Coalition Conference took place on Monday, November 14th at the University of Delaware’s John Clayton Center. The conference brings together school leaders, educators, elected officials, non-profits and business leaders to focus on improving Delaware’s education system. This year’s meeting theme centered on working to “close the achievement gap” for the state’s disadvantaged and special needs children.
Keynote Speaker, Paul Reville, a Harvard University professor, focused his remarks on addressing persistent achievement gaps especially for students who face hurdles to learning. Professor Reville theme of “all means all” asked stakeholders to focus on policies that ensure that every student can access a quality education.
During the conference, attendees participated in small-group discussions on how Delaware can to a better job of connecting schools to government agencies and nonprofits that provide services linking students and families to health care, language training, shelter and food. Many Delaware teachers are left to assist their student personal issues while still trying to teach. Other discussions concentrated on the state’s decades-old school funding system and the need for increased funding for schools serving students in poverty and English-language learners. There was also the realization that continued tight state budgets with a projected revenue shortfall could limit state funding to address additional student needs.
Dr. Dan Rich, University of Delaware Professor of Public Policy, was awarded the Order of the First State by Governor Jack Markell. Professor Rich received the award for his tireless work to improve education for all Delaware students and service to his fellow Delawareans.
by James DeChene
The impact of the 2016 Election Day results will continue to resonate for the remainder of the year. Above and beyond the obvious implications of Republican Executive and Legislative branches federally, here at home, Delaware has a Senate where a special election in early spring 2017 will dictate which party has control for the remainder of the 149th General Assembly.
The pressing issues, however, remain. A major budget gap expected to be somewhere north of $300 million. An education system in need of reform in order to adequately prepare students for a career. A number of abandoned industrial sites currently sitting vacant, with limited prospects of seeing repurpose into economic development. An aging infrastructure system lacking dedicated funding to maintain, let alone expand, including road, rail, and clean water.
The good news is that I believe that our elected officials in Dover have the ability to make the difficult decisions necessary to help set Delaware on a course of growth. If we take nothing else from this election season, I believe that citizens expect to be engaged by their elected officials to outline the important issues and challenges we face. By doing so, our elected officials will find they are given a large measure of leeway to act in the interests of their constituents by making what are admittedly tough choices. Examples can be seen in Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia and other states where sitting by no longer remained an option for their respective legislatures.
The problems Delaware face are no different than our surrounding states, or many across the country. It is our size and ability to work together to tackle big problems that set us apart. It is my sincere hope that the next General Assembly and Governor work together, and by doing so continue to be an example to other states.
By James DeChene
On November 8th, Delawareans will head to the polls to choose candidates who will face big issues in 2017, both in Congress and here at home. Focusing on Delaware, the next Governor and General Assembly will tackle how our state government raises and spends money, on what programs and services the government will offer, and how to continue to build upon the recovery from the Great Recession. There are no easy answers to these issues, as has been documented in this space over the last months, yet the important issues of long-term economic stability, making Delaware an attractive place for businesses, and properly preparing Delaware students for the workforce remain.
Election Day is your opportunity to help shape the path of Delaware’s future. As Chamber of Commerce members, you are invested in this state, both professionally and personally, as are your employees. The decisions you make next Tuesday in the voting booth will have a direct impact on your life here in Delaware. While you may be suffering, as I certainly am, from election fatigue, I urge you to take the time to learn about the candidates in your district and make an informed decision on November 8th.
by James DeChene
In the last week, I’ve heard two presentations from the Office of Management and Budget on how they’re starting to put together next year’s budget, the November public hearing schedule (they start on November 22nd, and can be found here), and how DEFAC’s forecasting will be critical at their December meeting.
To date, DEFAC has estimated a $167 million revenue shortfall for FY2017. What remains to be seen this fall are how “door openers” will impact that number. Door openers include the final student enrollment numbers public schools report to the state, the final Medicaid numbers and, this year, the prorated raise amount for state employees. The best guesstimate on these additional increases are in the $150 million range, meaning budget writers need to find between $300 and $400 million in order to meet budget.
Shifting to how the state spends its money – 73% of the FY2016 budget is allocated to employee salaries and health care, pensions, Medicaid and debt service. Without cuts to personnel or programs, these numbers will increase next year. The largest growth of public sector employees are in education, as student enrollment in public schools continues to rise as more kids are transitioned from private/parochial schools back to public (1,500 students are added on average per year). Over 228,000 are eligible for Medicaid (over 25% of Delaware’s population). Revenue growth in FY17 is expected to be 1.5%, and FY18 will see 0% growth as currently forecast.
These are all items the State Chamber has talked about for the last few years—specifically on the need for there to be structural changes to how the state collects and spends money. Many of these ideas were highlighted in the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda, and we support their immediate adoption. This next year will be another difficult money year, with no easy solutions, but the business community, including the State Chamber, has proposed ideas on how to invest in economic development, make Delaware more attractive to outside entities, and to help turn our economy around. We hope the 149th General Assembly will discuss and debate these issues recognizing that without action, our budget will continue to suffer.
by James DeChene
This week Governor Markell addressed the members of the State Chamber’s Economic Development Committee to outline the recent successes focused on economic development, and to discuss how Delaware’s economy is faring as the recovery from the Great Recession continues.
Highlighting the importance of workforce readiness and development, the Governor featured the Pathways to Prosperity program currently providing industry developed curriculum to approximately 6,000 Delaware students statewide. This accomplishment comes on the heels of the first cohort of students who graduated this past May with a focus on advanced manufacturing. Their curriculum and required internship hours were provided predominantly by members of the State Chamber and the Delaware Manufacturing Association.
The Governor also highlighted successes in retaining the majority of DuPont’s presence in Delaware, while also helping local startups like The Mill, CoIN Loft and 1313 Innovation to bring and foster new and specialized jobs to Delaware.
Lastly the Governor focused on job growth in Delaware. Pointing to Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showing Delaware leading the region in jobs and outperforming the national unemployment level. Governor Markell wanted to be sure that committee members saw these positive trends.
Committee Chairman Michael Vanderslice pointed to Administration proposed efforts that the State Chamber and business community had supported, but ultimately weren’t successful. These included having state employees contribute more to their health care plans, increasing the gas tax to fund much needed state infrastructure improvements, and addressing Delaware’s poor water quality. Governor Markell remained optimistic that these efforts would be addressed in future legislation as those issues not only aren’t going away, but must be resolved if Delaware is to be able to continue to meet its budget needs.
by Mark DiMaio
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership (DEMEP) program on Supply Chain Optimization Leadership. It’s a national program developed by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership network. The program focused on understanding the advantages of incorporating a strategic approach to supply chain management, and how it can provide a positive impact on local economies. Today’s manufacturers need to be more agile, flexible, and responsive to external pressures. Competition between companies has given way to competition between supply chains. The DEMEP Supply Chain Optimization program provided a road map for companies to focus on improved collaboration and supply chain integration. I learned that the enemies of supply chain effectiveness are: the destabilizing effects of dependency; forecast inaccuracy; variation; and lack of supply chain visibility.
The program provided a working session to better understand supply chain fundamentals and the strategic implications of a poorly functioning supply chain, as well as gained insight to supply chain system dynamics. The main take away was that a lack of understanding and communication within your supply chain will drive higher inventory levels and lower levels of service. Developing a sound supply chain risk management strategy that includes strong partner collaboration will drive supply chain optimization. Rustyn Stoops, Executive Director for DEMEP, put it best, “Eliminating the four walls of your business and looking at your business as the entire Supply Chain, while improving communication and collaboration along that same Supply Chain, has the opportunity to yield some incredible results.”
by James DeChene
This week, former Governor Mike Castle was the speaker at the Chamber’s Leadership series. He spoke on a variety issues, but focused on, how as a leader in public service it was important to surround himself with talented individuals and allowing them the leeway to do their job well.
Providing insight on his entrance into public service, from helping to organize the Young Republicans group, to his run for the State Senate, his time as Lt. Governor, Governor and ultimately Delaware’s Congressman for 18 years, he commented that many of his successful initiatives started from conversations he had with constituents, such as focusing on Delaware teacher pay and the importance of early childhood education. He also emphasized the role of government is not to create jobs, but to create an environment where businesses can grow and flourish, highlighting that as governor Delaware enjoyed one of the most prosperous times in the state’s history.
Governor Castle also spoke about the tone and tenor currently in Washington, D.C. Pointing to Delaware and its history of working together to solve important problems, like how the parties came together to create the Financial Center Development Act, Governor Castle was lamenting the relatively recent polarizing ideology from both parties that has crippled Congress’ ability to tackle and solve the important problems we face, a record national debt, the need for meaningful tax reform policy and for an education policy that prepares young Americans for life after school.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.