by James DeChene
The week started off with the Delaware State Chamber and Delaware Manufacturing Association hosting the annual Legislative Brunch and Manufacturing Conference. Attended by over 200, along with two dozen state officials, the event highlighted recent manufacturing growth in Delaware. Remarks by Governor Markell touting this growth, along with the success the Pathways to Prosperity advanced manufacturing curriculum has had this year, capped off the brunch.
At Legislative Hall this week, a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage was put into limbo in the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance/Commerce committee. The bill will not likely see any further action this year, barring any last minute horse trading on June 30. Should the bill not see any further action, it would have to be reintroduced next year in the 149th General Assembly. The Delaware State Chamber will continue to monitor and provide updates as needed.
A bill relating to parking lots, handicapped spaces and restriping was not released from the House Public Safety Committee. The bill, introduced and released from that Committee last June, was substitute language for the original bill. With input from the Counties and several Chambers, the bill was modified, but still not acceptable to the broader business community. It is unclear as of now whether the bill will be modified further, be “walked around” to release it from committee, or if it will remain in Committee seeing no further action this session, much like the Minimum Wage bill.
The General Assembly is out for two weeks for Easter break, and returns on April 12. More updates from Dover upon their return.
This week, the House passed SB 200, the Delaware Commitment to Innovation Act. The bill now heads to Governor Markell for signature. As outlined last week, the bill increases the cap on the R&D tax credit and makes it refundable. The intent is to make Delaware more attractive for businesses to expand or relocate their R&D operations here, as well as to incentivize new startups that may stem from DuPont’s reorganization.
Additionally, the House Labor Committee heard and released a bill mandating Project Labor Agreements (P.L.A.s) on all state-funded construction work this week, regardless of project size. P.L.A.s are labor agreements negotiated by the client, in this case the state, and labor organizations, in exchange for promises not to strike. These agreements also force non-union contractor employees to pay union dues, and into the union pension plan, for the duration of the project. Unfortunately, these workers will not see any payback from these plans, as they will not work enough union hours to qualify for payment. In effect, the employee is paying into a plan they will never benefit from. Since many non-union contractors choose not to bid on jobs with a P.L.A., the resulting lack of competitive bidding results in an average 25-30% increase in construction project costs—meaning taxpayers receive 25-30% less project for their dollar. The bill now goes to the House for further action.
It’s not every day that you get to “make someone’s day”. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to make six outstanding school program’s “day” by notifying them at they were 2016 Superstars in Education winners. Superstars in Education (SSE) is charged with recognizing outstanding educational programs and individual achievements. The SSE Program highlights excellence in science teaching, integrated classroom technology practices, and school-to-career partnerships. This year, the Superstars in Education Selection Committee reviewed 42 exceptional nominations and the following six programs were chosen as Delaware’s best.
Project SEARCH – New Castle County
Red Clay Consolidated School District
Project SEARCH is a nine-month school-to-work collaborative transition program for students 18-21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program operates entirely within a host business. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and on-the-job training and support.
Biomedical/Christiana Care Partnership
Conrad Schools of Science
This program is only four years old and has already been making an educational impact on Conrad Schools of Science. Students can now immerse themselves in specific careers including but not limited to Respiratory Therapy, Neurology, Genetic Counseling, Nutrition, Optometry, Audiology and Oncology.
F. Niel Postlethwait Middle School
This program was established in 2010 as a multi-purpose, cross-curricular, learning space. It is a part of modern school initiatives that focus on improving health, academic success, behavioral development, and prepare children for challenges and opportunities they might face later on in life. The classroom also strives to promote stewardship of nature and social responsibility.
Teacher Professional Learning Program
Sussex Central High School
With the integration of the digital platform of Schoology in Delaware schools, Sussex Central’s goals were to enhance the effectiveness of its teacher professional learning experience. With a blended learning format in classrooms, videos, texts, research, discussion boards, photo albums and collaborative activities have taken from simply a face-to-face to a more well-rounded experience.
21st Century Stars S.T.E.A.M. Program
William Henry Middle School
An inclusive program that provides academic and social enrichment opportunities to 5th and 6th grade students in a nurturing and supportive environment, topics covered include music, service learning, sports, entrepreneurship, art, dance, culture and S.T.E.A.M. technology (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
Accelerating Preliterate English Language Learners (A.P.E.L.L.) Program
Indian River School District
Located in the Carver Center, this program serves some of the district’s most needy learners. It is designed for newly arrived English Language Learners (EL) who have had major interruptions in their schooling, for generally, two or more years.
Please join Delaware Governor Jack Markell and the Delaware business community as we celebrate the 2016 Superstars in Education winners with a reception and awards ceremony on Monday, May 9, 2016 at 4:45 p.m. at Wilmington University’s Doberstein Admissions Center Auditorium.
by Mark Turner & Chip Rossi
The announcement that DuPont will be establishing the headquarters for its agriculture company in Wilmington is great news for DuPont, its workers, and all Delaware families whose livelihoods depend on a strong and thriving private sector.
But the work for Delaware’s future is far from done. The competition we face from other states and overseas is fierce, and state leaders must build on the vision, flexibility and spirit of cooperation that ensured the DuPont unit wouldn’t leave for competing states.
The News Journal succinctly laid out the daunting challenge Delaware faced in retaining a DuPont presence in its ancestral home:
“After two centuries of shared history between DuPont and Delaware, local officials had just 10 weeks to pull together a deal that would secure the company’s future in the state it helped to build.
That meant putting together an incentive deal with enough tax breaks, subsidies and capital improvement assistance to keep thousands of jobs in New Castle County.
It also required working together to present an unrelenting sales pitch that would beat out much larger states Iowa and Indiana, a feat many analysts and other outsiders considered unlikely, if not downright impossible.”
As Gov. Jack Markell noted, “It certainly wasn’t out of the question that we could lose all of it.” In the end, however, Delaware overcame the odds to keep a portion of DuPont at home through hard work, bipartisanship and a nimbleness that isn’t often seen in today’s fractured political and economic climate. Gov. Markell, the leaders of the General Assembly and the entire congressional delegation are to be commended for working together to keep DuPont in Delaware.
How did they do it?
Both political parties worked together. State and federal leaders engaged in a productive dialogue with DuPont and other business leaders about what was needed. Members of the General Assembly acted quickly and decisively by passing the Delaware Competes Act, signaling their interest in making Delaware more business friendly. Taken together, it created a winning package that reinforced Delaware’s long-standing reputation as a business friendly state – particularly since a number of states were competing to have these businesses located within their borders.
We believe some of the factors contributing to this decision were the state’s attractive business climate, the skilled and highly educated workforce and the close and constructive working relationship between government, business, and higher education in our state. In terms of future job growth, DuPont’s recent announcement that the company is creating a process to evaluate requests by former employees to gain access to DuPont patent property is another sign of how maintaining DuPont – and other major employers – in Delaware will foster the establishment of new entrepreneurial businesses and help create additional economic growth.
Looking forward to opportunities that lie ahead, we believe that the same collaborative approach that yielded success with DuPont can become a useful model on such important issues as improving sustainability of state revenues, carefully controlling state spending and creating an even more robust economic development effort to help Delaware businesses grow and create additional jobs attracting new businesses to our state.
The business community in Delaware is committed to working with state leaders to build on the solid foundation of existing and prior work that supports economic development in Delaware, including the work of the Delaware Economic Development Office.
We will provide resources and give voice to issues that need discussion while working collaboratively with state officials. The Roundtable took this approach with its recent study of state finances, and both the Roundtable and Chamber participated in the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee. Importantly, the Roundtable and Chamber also are working together to develop a growth agenda for Delaware so that Delawareans can benefit from increased availability of jobs and economic prosperity.
Once again, Delaware has shown that it is willing to do what it takes to create a more business-friendly environment – much to the credit of the Governor, the General Assembly and the congressional delegation. This is a message that is not lost on industry leaders both inside and outside the state when they are deciding where to invest, build and grow their businesses.
Now is the time for the public and private sectors to continue to build on this success to transition Delaware to an economy focused on growth, innovation, collaboration and flexibility to the benefit of our workers and taxpayers for generations to come.
Mark Turner is the chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable. Chip Rossi is the chair of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
by Mark DiMaio
This year’s Superstars in Education Program with feature the inaugural John H. Taylor, Jr. Education Leadership Award. John was a passionate advocate of improving education and fairness for Delaware’s children.
Throughout his professional career, John was an educator. He began his career as a teacher, then served as the assistant to superintendent for the Wilmington Board of Education. John’s education background, coupled with his ability to share information and make connections served him well as he rose to become The News Journal Editor before becoming President of the Delaware Public Policy Institute.
As founding member of the Vision Coalition, John’s leadership and directness were instrumental in building an impactful public-private partnership advocating to improve education in Delaware.
John’s leadership style was always straightforward, clear-headed and often unwavering and at the same time he was truly humble and humorous.
John H. Taylor Jr. Education Leadership Award seeks to recognize someone who’s not only provided sustained leadership in advancing Delaware education but has made our community a better place to live and work.
by James DeChene
This week the News Journal ran a front page article highlighting a lawsuit brought by the state of Pennsylvania against the state of Delaware citing Delaware improperly collected unclaimed property (also known as escheat) due to be returned to Pennsylvania citizens. As its longstanding policy, Delaware claims it is entitled to collect unclaimed property because the company in question is incorporated in Delaware.
This marks the third in a line of lawsuits brought against Delaware in the last year regarding Delaware’s collection of unclaimed property—currently a $450 million plus revenue item for the state and representing almost 15% of the overall budget. Last year, with input from the State Chamber and its members, a taskforce co-chaired by Sen. Bryan Townsend and Rep. Bryon Short made recommendations to modify how the state handles escheat by clarifying the process and limiting the look-back period.
During the meetings of the DEFAC Taskforce on Revenues, the topic of escheat was highlighted as a volatile source of revenue, meaning not only is it not a reliable long-term source of income, but can suffer adverse effects (in this case due to pending lawsuits) in the near future as well. Currently there is no budget plan in place to account for what would happen should it be ruled the state of Delaware is no longer entitled to collect escheat as a revenue source.
In the FY16 budget debate there was much controversy and acrimony over revenue and spending that amounted for 1% of the budget, or about $40 million. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce message on this issue is clear: the state should be prepared for a world in which close to 15% of its budget revenue is substantially lowered, or in the worst case, eliminated.
Organizations wanting to launch or expand an urban agriculture or community garden project to benefit their neighborhood can apply for new micro-grants from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee announced today.
“The last few years have seen tremendous growth and interest in local community agriculture projects across our state, and we want to support that even more,” Kee said. “These micro-grants will provide seed money to get gardens off the ground or expand current ventures. They will strengthen their communities, provide nutritious locally grown foods, and help our young people develop connections to the land.”
The micro-grant program offers up to $1,000 per project for supplies, materials, seeds, or minor equipment. Under this year’s pilot program, $10,000 in reimbursement funding is available statewide.
Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, religious organizations, municipalities, schools, or organized neighborhood associations. For-profit businesses and individuals are not eligible.
Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. April 1.
For more information and an application, visit de.gov/urbanag, email email@example.com, or call the Department of Agriculture Marketing Section at 302-698-4500.
by James DeChene
Reported this week in the News Journal, 42% of Delaware students entering their freshman year of college at a Delaware school are required to take remedial classes, for which they receive no credit, and more importantly, on material they should have learned in high school.
Delaware, it is noted, is 14th in the nation for education spending per student, yet 40th in terms of student achievement. The billion-plus dollars we spend on public education represents over a quarter of the annual budget, and is matched only by the state spend on public health.
Delawareans, and especially the business community, should be appalled at these numbers. These students represent the future of Delaware’s workforce, who will be stewards of the economy, and quite simply they are not, as a whole, receiving the education they need to be successful. Even more alarming is the flip side of the coin not mentioned in the article—if this many college bound students are forced to take remedial classes to bring their knowledge base up to basic competency, what is happening to the students who aren’t going to college? What skills gap do they face, and how do they position themselves to achieve a measure of success?
Anecdotally, we hear that employers are spending more and more time and resources to educate new hires on basic math and English skills in an effort to make them productive. This trend seems to be growing, and represents a glaring fundamental issue with Delaware’s education system. More and more students are graduating without the basic skills to be successful, and the incremental gains we see are nowhere near where they need to be, and certainly not worth the amount of money we spend.
Ultimately there needs to be a change in how education is provided in Delaware. Frustration is growing surrounding every facet of public education—the curriculum, the amount of testing, the amount of money spent, and on outcomes. For Delaware students to have the chance to compete and be successful in life, the primary foundation, education, needs reform.
By now most of you have seen or heard the good news: DuPont plans to locate the headquarters for its Agriculture company in Delaware.
Leaders of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and The Delaware Business Roundtable worked with the Governor’s office and Delaware’s congressional delegation in this successful effort to have the corporate headquarters of the DuPont, Dow independent Agriculture company locate in Delaware.
Click here for the press release from DuPont Dow released today, below is the joint media statement from the DSCC and DBRT that was distributed earlier this week.
Joint Statement from Mark Turner, Chairman of Delaware Business Roundtable (President and CEO, WSFS Bank) and Chip Rossi, Chairman of Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Delaware Market President, Bank of America)
“Today’s announcement that DuPont will be establishing the headquarters for its Agriculture company in Wilmington is great news for Delaware. We are very excited that both the new Agriculture and Specialty Products companies will be headquartered in Wilmington, following the planned separation of DowDuPont into three separate companies.
This announcement reinforces Delaware’s long-standing reputation as a business friendly state, particularly since a number of states were competing to have these businesses located within their borders. We believe some of the factors contributing to this decision were the state’s attractive business climate, the skilled and highly educated workforce and the close and constructive working relationship between government, business, and higher education in our state.
In terms of future job growth, DuPont’s recent announcement that the company is creating a process to evaluate requests by former employees to gain access to DuPont patent property is another sign of how maintaining DuPont in Delaware will foster the establishment of new entrepreneurial businesses and help create additional economic growth.
We appreciate DuPont’s ongoing commitment to the state and the fact that the company and its thousands of employees will continue to be active in our community, including with civic and charitable organizations. This announcement is good news for Delaware, for all Delawareans and anyone connected with our state.
In particular, we applaud the fact that Governor Markell and his administration and our congressional delegation demonstrated exemplary leadership and collaboration in working together with DuPont and the business community to ensure that the company and its employees will remain a vital part of our economy and our communities.”
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.