The Partnership, Inc. is the 501(c)(3) affiliate of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. Its mission is to foster private sector involvement in workforce development to attract, develop, and retain intellectual capital that will serve as the future workforce for Delaware businesses.
Last month, the State Chamber announced the addition of Intern Delaware under its umbrella, which led to the creation of the program manager position. We are happy to welcome Alexis Williams to the team! She will manage The Partnership's four flagship programs: Intern Delaware, Superstars in Education, Delaware Principal for a Day, and the Delaware Young Professionals Network.
GET TO KNOW ALEXIS:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Clayton, Delaware.
That means we need to ask what high school did you go to?
I graduated from Smyrna High School. Go Eagles!
What excites you most about this position?
I grew up in a family of educators and saw first-hand how they played a key role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to become contributing members of their communities. My personal experience going through Delaware’s public school system combined with my master’s degree in student affairs in higher education, as well as being a young professional myself, makes me the perfect fit for this role as program manager. I look forward to building relationships with Delaware’s business community and connecting employers with young talent, and vice versa!
One of the programs you will be responsible for is Intern Delaware. What was your favorite internship and why?
I interned for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance in 2018. I had two consecutive internships, one with the director of events and one with the Women2Women program. At that time, I didn't truly know what direction I wanted to go towards when it came to my career. My time at the chamber was invaluable because I met so many people and learned about so many businesses — that experience really shaped my career and time in school. It also led me to this position!
What guiding principles or values do you apply to your work?
Two important guiding principles that I practice regularly are empathy and the concept of meeting people where they are. One never truly knows what another person is going through, especially now during a pandemic. I learned about intersectionality a few years ago — a concept surrounding the idea that everyone has their own journey and identities and faces unique challenges. Empathy and trying to understand someone else’s perspective is crucial in my work. Along the same lines, I try to meet people where they are. We all come from different backgrounds with varied experiences that inform our daily lives. As best as I can, I try to level-set and move forward from that point instead of assuming that everyone is always on the same page.
Best leadership advice you've received.
There is no singular best way to lead. In a leadership class I took in grad school, we often outlined examples and types of leaders, and I was inundated with models of what is considered a “good leader.” I concluded that leaders don’t always fit into boxes or categories. Leaders are adaptable, responsive, and reflective.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I have two:
“The world can only thrive when people know what they’re talking about. Find the thing that makes you want to know what you’re talking about. Then talk about it.” - Ruth Chang
“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
I love both of these quotes. I would describe myself as passionately curious. I get excited about projects, I love learning new things, and I am grateful to have the opportunity through The Partnership to be passionately curious about education, opportunities, and workforce development in Delaware.
What do you love most about Delaware?
I love how small, yet big Delaware can be at the same time. Whenever I go somewhere, I'm likely to not only run into someone I know but also meet someone new. I love how connected the community is!
Do you have a favorite Delaware spot?
I’ll give a favorite spot in each county! In Kent County, I love Big Oak Park. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years having picnics with my younger sister, walking the trails, and even watching my grandfather play baseball. In Sussex County, I most often find myself visiting Cape Henlopen State Park. The beach, the trails, the historic buildings — they’re all great. Lastly, in New Castle County, my favorite spot is Middletown as a whole. I love all the places to shop, eat, and explore!
Give us your top three books or podcasts.
By Tyler Micik
The Small Business Alliance (SBA) met earlier this week to discuss several bills that will have an impact on small businesses. Among these proposals are SB15, which would increase the minimum wage and HB150, which would legalize recreational marijuana.
The State Chamber believes that while an increase in the minimum wage is well intended, it’s going to harm the very people its intended to help. Not to mention it comes at a time when small businesses are still struggling to recover from the pandemic. Instead, members of the General Assembly should be supporting and promoting programs, like Forward Delaware, that can provide Delawareans with the tangible skills needed to advance their careers.
SBA committee members expressed concern over the legalization of marijuana without employer protections from liability, a standardized test for impairment, and a certifiable and agreed upon level of measuring what constitutes impairment.
Also this week, members from the State Chamber’s HR committee met with Senator Sarah McBride to learn about her proposal for Paid Family and Medical Leave. While a bill has not been introduced, Senator McBride has drafted a bill and is looking for feedback from the business community.
The State Chamber is holding its 6th Annual Small Business Day virtually on May 12-13 to discuss these policies and others. To find out more about these policy items and others that have been introduced this session, or to join a committee and engage in conversations that help shape Delaware’s future, contact email@example.com.
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
This week was relatively quiet for legislation impacting the business community. Of note was the House passage of HB200, the Clean Water bill. It provides significant investment in water infrastructure projects throughout Delaware, including addressing flooding and sewer issues and increasing Delaware’s clean water supply. The State Chamber has been an advocate for this legislation as it has appeared in various forms over the last few years. We are pleased with its passage. It now goes on to the Senate.
The General Assembly is now on Easter Break and will return April 20. The minimum wage bill (SB15) will be heard in the House Economic Development committee that week.
THIS WEEK IN DOVER
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
This week saw a number of bills heard in committees important to the business community:
The General Assembly meets next week, and then will be on Easter Break.
STATE CHAMBER HOSTS SPRING MANUFACTURING & POLICY CONFERENCE
By Tyler Micik, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce
The State Chamber and its Delaware Manufacturing Association (DMA) held their Spring Manufacturing and Policy Conference earlier this week. The event featured a roundtable discussion on recreational marijuana legalization from experts in states (California and Oregon) where marijuana is already legalized and its impact on manufacturers. The discussion was held just before the bill was heard in the House Health and Human Development committee.
Governor John Carney provided updates to attendees on Delaware's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to invest more in Delaware’s economic infrastructure, and continued support towards workforce development and training initiatives like Forward Delaware. Manufacturing keynote, Carolyn Lee, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute commended Governor Carney for supporting and investing in workforce development/training. Yet she pointed out that manufacturers face many challenges when it comes to filling manufacturing jobs, including changing perceptions about what modern manufacturing really looks likes. You can watch her presentation here.
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
This week the Delaware Senate passed SB15, which increases Delaware’s minimum wage starting in 2022. As previously reported, the increases are as follows:
The bill now goes to the House to be assigned to committee. More to come on that.
The updated version of HB150, a bill that would legalize marijuana was introduced this week. We will be reviewing the bill for any changes from prior versions and update you. In the meantime, if you have not yet registered for next week’s Manufacturing & Policy Conference, a reminder that there will be a marijuana roundtable to explore the impacts on employers. We also expect to hold another in-depth seminar on the issue soon. More info to come.
Also this week, the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) met and revised upwards revenues for FY2021 and FY2022 for a total of $322 million. The revision is largely due to strong performance in Personal Income Tax (PIT), Corporate Income Tax (CIT), and the Franchise Tax. In fact, year over year incorporation numbers rose from 12,000 to 15,000 new entities formed. The gains in PIT should largely negate argument this year on HB64, which would create new PIT levels for high earners.
Lastly, with the passage of the American Rescue Plan, Delaware should see another $1.4 billion to help with coronavirus relief efforts. Cities and towns are also expected to receive significant monies that can be allocated towards lost revenues along with water, sewer and broadband improvement projects.
This week the General Assembly returned from budget break. Of note was the introduction of SB15, legislation to increase Delaware’s minimum wage. If passed, starting in 2022 the minimum wage would be $10.50, $11.75 in 2023, 13.25 in 2024, and reach $15.00 in 2025.
A few months ago the Chamber sent a survey to members asking the impact these wages would have on their businesses. If you have current feedback based on these numbers and timing, please let Tyler Micik know. In addition you can provide public comment at next week’s Senate Labor Committee (time TBD) to let legislators know how SB15 will impact you and your employees.
The State Chamber’s Environmental Committee also received a win this week. The committee recently came to an agreement with DNREC regarding their proposed changes to the Brownfields Development Agreement (BDA). The DE Brownfields statute was enacted in the early 1990s to promote the redevelopment of historically contaminated and abandoned sites, and by all accounts the program has been a success. The State Chamber advocated against revisions in the language of the agreement that would impose greater liability on brownfields developers than the original statute, potentially deterring the development of abandoned sites. The State Chamber’s recommendations were taken into consideration and the problematic revisions were dropped. This is good news for brownfields developers because it continues the liability protections contemplated by the original Brownfields legislation.
By James DeChene, Armitage, DeChene & Associates
Marijuana has been in the news recently as both New Jersey and Virginia have legalized its recreational use. Here at home, articles in the News Journal and the Delaware State News have reported that legislation will be introduced this month in order to legalize its recreational use in Delaware. While specifics haven’t been released on the latest draft, the State Chamber is bracing itself to make the same arguments protecting its members from a number of issues seen in prior versions. Most notably there is still no instant spot test to gauge impairment, and historically these bills have not included protections to employers from liability stemming from accidents or other issues related to employee use.
While supporters may point to New Jersey, Virginia, and other states as proof that legalization works, it remains important to note that for the business community there remain significant issues surrounding legalization. In fact, those issues will be the focus of a Marijuana Roundtable discussion at the the State Chamber's Manufacturing and Policy Conference taking place on March 24th. Attendees will hear from representatives from states with legalization on the books and learn about the challenges employers faced with implementation and their new marijuana reality. Speakers include:
• Moderator: Rustyn Stoops, Executive Director, Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership
• Thomas Sanford, CEO, Eagle Precision Sheet Metal and Turk Manufacturing (invited)
• Mitch Magee, Director Global Advanced Manufacturing Technology, PPG Aerospace
• Anthony Macherone, Senior Scientist, Agilent Technologies
For more details, and to register, click here.
By Tyler Micik
The Tax Committee met earlier this week and discussed several key issues and policy proposals that will not only impact the business community but all Delawareans. Three particular issues discussed were a minimum wage increase, personal income tax, and Secure Choice.
There has been increased talks to raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $10.50 in 2022, with yearly increases reaching $15 by 2025. The reality of this proposal is that it may in fact hurt the people its intended to help. Many businesses, especially small business, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are still struggling to survive or recover. An increase in the minimum wage could cause some employers to lay off employees and, in some cases, close their doors permanently. A proposal to increase the minimum wage would be more palatable to some business owners when Delaware’s unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable rate such as 3.6% versus the current rate of 5.3%.
HB64 would create new personal income tax brackets for high earners, starting at 7.1% for those making $125,000 and topping out at 8.6% for those earning $500,000. The State Chamber's tax committee believes this bill would put Delaware at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new business and residents from surrounding states. Delaware is not facing a budget crisis, which would justify such an increase. Moreover, this bill comes at a time when Delaware businesses and employees face unprecedented uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secure Choice is a proposal by State Treasurer Colleen Davis that would create a State-run IRA program. The plan is projected to cost approximately $400,000 to implement. According to the Treasurer, the program would be designed for any employer that doesn’t already offer their employees a retirement plan and employers who offer a preexisting plan would be exempt from participating. Employees would have thirty days from their date of hire to either enroll or opt out of the plan. The plan would follow the employee if they relocated or changed jobs.
The Chamber is looking for feedback from members on how any of these proposals may impact your company or employees. Please direct feedback to Tyler Micik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tyler Micik
Advocating for Delaware’s business community – YOU! To the State Chamber this is more than just a phrase. It’s our mission. But in order to be successful in that mission we need to hear from you. Every member large or small has a voice, and our voice is stronger together. Our committees are your opportunity to be heard, learn about policies and issues that affect you, play an active role in shaping legislation, and to connect with other industry leaders.
In 2021, the State Chamber will be expanding and reengaging our nine committees. Our committees serve as the State Chamber’s policy incubator and idea generator. To generate great ideas, we need active volunteers – you. That’s why we have and are working to increase diversity and participation across the state on our committees.
The Ready in 6 Initiative is proof that ideas are born and progress emanates when great minds meet to discuss the issues affecting their businesses. That’s the task our committees are faced with in 2021. To be proactive and not just reactive. To talk not only about current policies but to also discover and identify the hidden day-to-day problems your businesses are facing on a variety of topics such as hiring/retraining, workforce development, health care, the environment, and taxes to name a few.
Also new in 2021, will be the addition of our technology committee. It goes without saying but technology has become increasingly important and is vital to the way we live and work. The technology committee will focus on issues such as data privacy/security, IT training/development, and automation.
In addition to greater diversity and participation, our goal is to give our members a more significant voice and greater communication. This begins by having regularly scheduled meetings as well as redesigning the committees’ section on our website. Our priority is you and our mission, to lead the conversation, generate new ideas and create change that benefits you our members and your employees.
Exciting things are happening within our committees as we begin 2021. Join the conversation by participating on a State Chamber committee.
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce respectfully offered a number of policies to the 151st General Assembly that, if enacted, would assist the business community in rebounding from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time help Delaware workers find new opportunities.
TAX CREDIT FOR RAPID WORKFORCE TRAINING & REDEPLOYMENT INITIATIVE HIRES
This past summer, Governor Carney issued Executive Order #43, which established the Rapid Workforce Training and Redeployment Initiative, a time compressed curriculum to be focused on in-demand industry sectors and/or occupations. The program will make available certificate programs, certification programs and access to the Today’s Reinvestment Around Industry Needs (“TRAIN”) program to help prepare Delaware workers who may have been displaced by the impact of COVID-19 find a new career path. The State Chamber recommends a refundable tax credit be made available to employers who hire graduates from these programs much the same as the credit for hiring veterans and those with disabilities.
ENGAGE IN CREATING PROCESS-RELATED EFFICIENCES IN OVERSIGHT AGENCIES
In recent years the State Chamber has focused on the process log jams that serve as impediments to development in Delaware. By working with agencies like DelDOT, the Chamber worked to streamline plan review process, resulting in simple project submission documents for a number of common projects, like curb cut-outs and driveway access. The Chamber has commitments from DelDOT to continue to find ways to streamline these processes, and now will be working with DNREC to do the same. These partnerships serve to find innovative solutions to issues without sacrificing public input and holding accountable applicants with incomplete application submissions.
FOCUS ON CHILDCARE
It is estimated nationally 30% of childcare facilities will not reopen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact to employers and employees will be felt across all sectors and become a challenge for all to overcome. Access to childcare in increasing in importance as businesses continue to reopen and expand operating capacity. While not a crisis in Delaware yet, the State Chamber urgers a proactive response by the General Assembly to prepare for this eventuality.
In addition, the State Chamber will be working with our Federal delegation to make much needed changes the CARES Act. A top priority change would be to extend the deadline for spending appropriated funds. Many programs Delaware directed CARES dollars towards, including expanding rural broadband, are a long-term investment due to construction needs, etc. While the State can appropriate these dollars, it is next to impossible to actually spend the money prior to the current deadline. Other priorities include an expansion of COVID-19 testing to help ensure businesses remain open, which in turn helps state finances and negates a need for tax increases next year.
2021 is bound to be a period of flux and transition. With the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic still being felt, the possibility of a vaccine being developed and distributed, along with a new President, Congress, Administration, and our own General Assembly, the business community should prepare itself to be more nimble than ever with change happening at lightning speed.