By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
The General Assembly gaveled out of session early on July 1, 2020 in what was the earliest ending in recent memory due to what has been an almost indescribable year to date. With little to no drama on the money bills (Budget, Grants in Aid, and Bond) as they were passed on June 29th, the General Assembly was left to close out a few bills on consent agendas.
The Senate said goodbye to retiring Senator Harris McDowell, and the House bid farewell to retiring Representative Quinn Johnson. This means that for next session there will be two new co-chairs for the Joint Finance Committee and both the Senate and House Energy Committees will have new chairs as well.
As the General Assembly came back to session in January, members seemed poised to pass a series of legislation that included increasing Delaware’s minimum wage, expanding worker’s rights, and increasing the role and presence of private and public employee unions. Those bills largely went nowhere, and with the COVID-19 pandemic altering how the legislature would work, those bills were placed on hold until next year.
The same can be said for legislation the business community supported as well. Efforts to invest in clean water infrastructure, building a new high school in the City of Wilmington, modifying the state’s offerings of Association Health Plans and creating new workforce training platforms (more on that later) all took a pause as well.
That said, a number of bills important to the business community were introduced, and some were acted on in the final weeks of this session. They included:
In the midst of three months of uncertainty, countless Zoom meetings with Governor Carney, members and staff from his Administration, the chambers of commerce community, stakeholder groups and others, there were a number of positives that were announced, and work completed ahead of schedule.
The State Chamber has long been an advocate for rural broadband development and adoption. Last year’s announcement of BlooSurf, a project to bring broadband to western Sussex and Kent counties was met with fierce approval. Originally slated to be completed in 18-24 months, the project was able to be completed in just over 12 by using federal CARES Act funds to speed up the building process. In July 2020, 15 towers are set to be completed. Efforts to promote residential adoption of broadband will roll out soon after in preparation for what could be another school year of distance learning. Now children in these communities will be able to be active participants. Similar broadband adoption efforts are taking place in Wilmington with the similar goal of making sure all children have access to distance learning efforts.
For the last year, the State Chamber has pushed for the creation of a workforce training program similar to what has worked with ZipCode Wilmington. A compressed, 40-hour week training schedule focusing on in-demand career paths that will help transition low-skill workers into better paying jobs. While the legislation creating this program was not worked on this year, we continue to work with Governor Carney and his Administration on creative ways to implement such a program, especially in light of the potential permanent job losses related to COVID-19.
Between now and January 2021, when the 151st General Assembly convenes, much will have happened:
There remains a great deal of uncertainty as we enter the second half of 2020. What does remain certain, however, is the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s dedication to advocacy on behalf of its members – the business community.
Look for more opportunities in the coming months to hear from experts on the latest trends as the COVID-19 pandemic, and recovery, continue to evolve. Also look for innovative networking opportunities and other creative ways to get your business noticed. For more information, check www.DSCC.com.
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.
This week in dover
by James DeChene
Before we get to what happened in Dover this week, a reminder that our networking event at the Delaware National Guard Joint Force Headquarters is a week away. This is your chance to:
And now onto Dover. This week the JFC continued to hold meetings hearing budget requests from state agencies. I attended the Departments of Insurance, Labor, and Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) hearings, and each secretary gave a good overview of what their offices are doing and plans for next year. A few items of note included the work the State Chamber, and others like ABC, DCA, Labor and legislators, have done to address issues related to the Workplace Fraud Act and how work is performed on construction sites. That work continues, and I’m thankful that we’re reaching consensus on some big issues that will have a positive impact on the industry and its workers.
Of note from DNREC, Secretary Garvin made the announcement of a website launch in the coming month that will track permit applications made to the department. As you know, the State Chamber has been working with agencies like DELDOT and DNREC on streamlining their permitting processes to help development projects become 'shovel ready' faster. This tracking mechanism, apparently similar to what DELDOT has created, will show not only delays, or speed, from the DNREC side but also track if applications are missing data, causing a slowdown from the business side. More to come once the website goes live.
Hope to see you next week at the Guard event.
by James DeChene
During the State Chamber hosted its Developing Delaware event in Dover this week, Governor Carney told over 250 attendees a story about being approached by a gentleman claiming to have a catchy new slogan to market Delaware (a la “Virginia is for Lovers or I love NY). After the reveal of “DelaWow”, and the laughter that accompanied it, Governor Carney went on to make the point that there are things happening in Delaware surrounding economic development that are working (more on that later).
The Developing Delaware event featured insights on Delaware by the numbers from TIP strategies outlining Delaware’s workforce makeup, the types of industries represented here, and other key factors that businesses looking to locate here take into consideration in their decision-making process. That was followed by a conversation with site selectors tasked with comparing states, metro areas and other locations for their clients looking to set up shop. Key were the insights on the need to be nimble, to approve projects quickly, and to have a pipeline of sites shovel-ready to market and attract companies to Delaware. For more information and a recap of the event, visit www.dscc.com/developingdelaware.
Also this week was the groundbreaking at DOT Foods for their new 150,000-square-foot redistribution center on Wrangle Hill Road and Red Lion Road. DOT Foods is the nation's largest redistributor of food products in the US with 3.5 million-square-feet of warehouse space, $7 billion in sales and 4,800 employees. They will be creating over 250 new job opportunities with an expected $6 million annual payroll.
See, Cerron Cade—I can write on positive news too.
This Week in Review
by James DeChene
The CZA Regulatory Advisory Committee met earlier this week for the fifth time. During the meeting, reports were given from the various working groups focusing on individual components of the legislation’s requirements, including how to account for sea level rise, providing financial assurance, and how to monitor bulk product transfer. Of the reports, an agreement of sorts was reached on definitions related to bulk product transfer, while the other topics will be revisited in future meetings based on the amount of material needed to review. Regulations are to be finalized by 10/1/19, and with a little less than a year left, there remains quite a bit of work to be completed.
The State Chamber’s Healthcare & Employer Advocacy and Education Committees hosted a joint event focused on the legal and human resources issues of opioids, drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Attendees were presented with three case studies involving small, medium and large businesses, with a variety of circumstances surrounding employee behavior, benefits and worst-case scenarios.
Next week is the State Chamber’s “Developing Delaware” event taking place in Dover at the Modern Maturity center. Focused on how Delaware compares with surrounding states when reviewed by site selectors, looking at Delaware “By the Numbers” and hearing success stories from around the state, this is a great opportunity to learn about economic development activity happening in Delaware. With over 200 attendees already registered, it will be a great networking event, too. To register, visit: http://web.dscc.com/events/Developing-Delaware-Conversation-Collaboration-Innovation-2175/details
In Case You Missed It
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.
This past spring, Governor John Carney and the Delaware legislature put in place two key foundations for economic development: Modernizing the Coastal Zone Act and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the new public/private nonprofit responsible for recruiting new employers to the state. In addition, the City of Wilmington is undergoing the creation of a master plan to help revitalize Delaware’s corporate hub. An example of such a transformation lies just 20 miles to its north.
On Monday, September 11, The Delaware State Chamber hosted a trip to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Urban Land Institute has hailed the venture as one of the “most successful” redevelopment projects in U.S. history. The Navy Yard is a 1,200-acre urban development, offering the Philadelphia region a mixed use and centrally-located waterfront business campus. The Navy Yard is home to more than 13,000 employees and 152 companies representing industrial, manufacturing, office and research, and development sectors. To date, the Navy Yard has developed 7.5 million square feet of real estate in a mix of historic buildings and new high-performance and LEED® certified construction. Since 2000, more than $1 billion has been invested to transform the site into a world class location for corporations like GlaxoSmithKline, Urban Outfitters and Tasty Baking Company.
The PIDC (formally known as the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation) is Philadelphia’s public-private non-profit economic development corporation founded jointly by the City of Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in 1958. The PIDC serves as master developer, and oversees all aspects of the Navy Yard’s management and development, including master planning, leasing, property management, infrastructure development, utility operation, and the structuring of development transactions. Reed Lyons, Vice President Navy Yard Development, led our tour and pointed out that the Navy Yard had no public infrastructure when the U.S. Navy handed the site to Philadelphia. The Navy Yard transformation started with little but a vision, and 20 years later that vision has become a success story.
Mike Vanderslice, Environmental Alliance, Inc. and Chairman of the DSCC Economic Development Committee, says, “From an economic development perspective, I appreciated what our friends at the Navy Yard had to offer for what's 'working' and lessons they've learned as they continue to develop the historic waterfront area. Being in the environmental consulting field, it was impressive to see how far they have taken this former heavy industrial, blighted area, and turned it around into a vibrant campus for businesses.”
Link to Urban Land Institute’s article on the Navy Yard:
Link to the Navy Yard:
Chamber Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Gets Briefing on Pending I-95 Project
by James DeChene
This week the State Chamber’s Transportation & Infrastructure Committee heard from representatives from DELDOT and Whitman, Requardt & Associates, updating the committee on the status of the 301 Project (on time and on budget so far), as well as a major renovation project for I-95 starting in 2020.
Save periodic repavings, the highway between the I-95 and 495 split to above the Brandywine Bridge has remained virtually untouched for the last 60 years. The 2020 renovation project for I-95 will include a major structural and paving upgrade that will also include rehabilitation work for over 19 bridges and exit ramps, and will include other traffic flow improvements in the surrounding areas.
Scheduled to take place over two years, this project will have a large impact on travelers both local and passing through Delaware. The purpose of the briefing was to alert the business community for potential planning purposes, including offsite or off-normal working hours for employees, as well as other logistics planning. More information will be forthcoming to the State Chamber membership, so stay tuned.
UD STAR CAmpus Tops Off Tower
by Michael Smith
University of Delaware Director Strategic Initiatives/Partnerships, College of Health Sciences
Tuesday morning, August 22, we topped off the new Tower on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. Many in the business community are used to the groundbreaking and the ribbon cutting, but the top off is something that is extra meaningful for UD.
Historically, this started with the Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced due to construction. Today, the top off symbolizes community, partnership, research, education and innovation. UD’s impact goes beyond the classroom and today this top off showcases our commitment to Delaware’s future and the impact the University of Delaware will have on economic development for the state of Delaware. This is a milestone moment for the community, University of Delaware and the state, as we continue to transform the former Chrysler Manufacturing plant into a new hub that mixes research, education and industry into the innovations of tomorrow.
The College of Health Sciences will occupy floors 2-7. Floors 8-10 will be spec space for outside companies. There will also be ground floor space available for amenity businesses. The college space will include a 300-person auditorium for events and classes, demonstration kitchen, child nutrition lab, and sleep lab. It will also house augmented reality and simulation space, innovation and maker space, research space, conference rooms and office space. The Tower will create a unique environment for the collision and collaboration of industry and partnering organizations that will drive economic development for the state of Delaware.
The Tower will open August of 2018. Come see it for yourself. As we inspire, impact and innovate, we need you to partner, dream and collaborate with us to drive STAR Campus, UD and the state of Delaware forward. The sky is the limit!
The University of Delaware’s STAR Campus hosted the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) on Wednesday, March 1st. Dr. Kathy Matt, Dean of the UD’s College of Health Sciences, was the keynote speaker. Dean Matt highlighted the STAR Campus’ role as a center of innovation that combines cutting-edge research, world-class academics and flourishing businesses.
The STAR Campus began in 2009, redeveloping the former Chrysler automobile assembly plant. The site has completed Phase 1 and 2 development, housing the University’s College of Health Sciences, Bloom Energy and SevOne. Upcoming Phase 3 development includes a 10-story office tower that will house state-of-the-art classrooms and research facilities for the university. The $40 million structure will also offer three floors of office space for high-tech commercial tenants. The project is slated for completion by mid-2018. A proposed Amtrak station to be built along the tracks immediately north of the STAR Campus could provide an additional catalyst for business expansion.
EDC Chair Michael Vanderslice of Environmental Alliance said of the project, “The Phase 3 expansion provides a great opportunity for the STAR Campus to create more collision space between businesses and the University. The EDC looks forward to working with the STAR Campus as a key player in Delaware’s economic growth.”
The EDC also thanks Michael Smith, the College of Health Sciences’ Director of Initiatives/Partnerships for hosting the meeting.