Written on: June 26th, 2012 in Effective & Efficient Government
When I visit local businesses – which I do all the time – I ask one question: How can we facilitate growth and success for their company? Their answer is often the same: businesses want a talented workforce as well as strong schools and thriving communities in which their employees and their families can live, learn and grow.
It's no secret that job creation is key to strengthening Delaware's economy, so here are a few ways we're addressing their answer.
Improving the economic climate in Delaware requires that all of us work together – private sector, all levels of government, community organizations, even academia.
This team approach will be especially important in the coming months as we look to tackle outdated, ineffective and redundant regulations while giving a boost to small business. When Executive Order #36 was signed, we launched a statewide effort that brings citizens, businesses and state agencies together to identify and remove regulatory hurdles.
Regulations can help meet shared goals. They allow us to drink clean water and breathe clean air. But we want to know when regulations aren't working – when they're intrusive, when they‘re slowing things down. This statewide effort will find those problems and remove them.
“This reinforces Delaware's ranking among the best places in the country to do business. Small businesses are deeply appreciative and we're looking forward to working with the Governor's administration to implement this order.“
– Ellen Valentino, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses
Just this year, businesses Capital One and Bloom Energy announced plans to create jobs in Delaware, while others currently operating in Delaware, including Amazon and JP Morgan Chase, announced plans to expand their Delaware workforce.
“We look forward to opening our second facility in Delaware this year, creating more than 850 new jobs in the state. We're grateful to state, county and local leaders who have committed to Amazon jobs and investment.”
– Dave Clark, vice president, global customer fulfillment at Amazon
Businesses looking to locate in Delaware want to know their employees will not only have access to good schools, but also safe neighborhoods, active communities and engaged leaders who are focused on continually enhancing the quality of life for residents.
We're constantly seeing evidence of this work being done - both by state and local officials as well as community organizations and local residents alike. Whether it's making air quality improvements at a local transportation facility or getting local municipalities to agree to lower their electric rates, it's clear that Delawareans come together to ensure the First State is first on the list for prospective businesses.
“[The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation] and its member communities share Governor Markell's goal of making Delaware one of the most attractive and competitive locals in the world. We recognize how important lower energy costs are to Delaware
– Patrick McCullar, CEO of the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation
A talented workforce is developed through great public schools and great public schools attract a talented workforce. Our new Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy, understands this and has already begun working with teachers, community members and local school districts to see how we can continue to enhance the public school system. We're working to strengthen our schools, in part, through putting emphasis on STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, STEM occupations are expected to grow by 17% from 2008 to 2018 compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations. With this in mind, last year Delaware officials convened a STEM Council to take a look at how we can be more competitive in this area. Community leaders donated thousands of hours of time to create a strong series of recommendations on how we can better prepare our kids for the future. The full report is available at stem.delaware.gov.
“You don't need a crystal ball to see what the future holds – though not all our students will pursue a STEM career, the vast majority of them will absolutely need some STEM skills to compete. Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless Pre–K–through–higher education STEM system so that our students have every opportunity to succeed, and provide the workforce to attract STEM businesses to Delaware.“
– Former US Senator, Ted Kaufman
Guest Post by Anas Ben Addi, Director of DSHA
Here in Delaware, and across the country, June is National Homeownership Month and the home buying season is in full-swing — an exciting time when many individuals begin considering what may be their future home.
At the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA), we have been hard at work developing programs to ensure each Delawarean has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of owning their home. Homeownership provides individuals, families and communities with a sense of security and stability. Purchasing a home can be a big investment, particularly for first-time home buyers, but many people find that they offset the upfront cost of buying a home by taking simple steps like applying for tax deductions. Additionally, with historically low mortgage rates, many potential home buyers are seeing added benefits to locking in a 15 or 30-year fixed rate right now.
Benefits from homeownership go beyond the obvious financial ones. For example, children can benefit from the stability homeownership offers including staying in the same school district for extended periods of time and learning positive finance and budget habits from their parents that come from owning a home. Additionally, homeownership benefits the community around you. Homeowners often live in their home longer than renters do. As a result, homeowners are often likely to become more involved in their community by voting, getting involved in their civic associations and shopping locally.
Through DSHA, Delawareans can find a range of programs to help them purchase a new home. For instance, the First Time Homebuyer Program offers individuals who haven’t owned a home in three years below-market mortgage rates at a time when rates are already at all-time lows. Similarly, Loans for Heroes provides qualified veterans below-market rates regardless of the last time they purchased a home. Additionally, other programs such as Rebuilding Our Community and the Second Mortgage Assistance Loan are available to help individuals with closing costs and down payment. We have worked to provide a program to meet all housing and financing needs and we hope Delawareans take advantage of this time to consider their options.
There is currently a large inventory of homes at varied price points, making it easier for Delawareans to find the home that’s right for them. I encourage Delawareans to take this time to make a plan, learn more about homeownership and take a look at homes within their budget – you may be surprised by what you find.
For more information on the programs mentioned, please visit Delaware State Housing Authority’s website at: www.destatehousing.com or call 302.739.4263.
Written on: June 7th, 2012 in Guest Posts
Guest Post by Collin O’Mara, Secretary, DE Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
For generations, starting with the stewardship of the Lenape and Nanticoke Peoples through the outdoor-lovers of today, people living on the Delmarva Peninsula have recognized the significance of our Delaware Bayshore. Although many of us just think of this remarkable area as a scenic part our state along Route 9 (or 1), around the world it is recognized as globally significant wildlife habitat—from National Audubon Society and Nature Conservancy to the Global Ramsar Treaty and Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network—due to the expansive coastal marshes, shoreline, farmland land and upland forests that provide critical habitat to more than 400 species of birds and incredibly diverse wildlife.
This is a region of incredible importance and every generation has done their part:
Thanks to numerous partners, more than 60% of the land in the Delaware Bayshore is fully protected as National Wildlife Refuges, State Wildlife Areas, State Parks, Farmland Preservation, Cultural Heritage Sites, or private conservation lands. These areas surround and help connect historic local communities like Del City, Port Penn, Leipsic, Little Creek, Bowers Beach, Slaughter Beach, Milford and Lewes.
The Delaware Bayshore Initiative is built upon a simple premise: that protecting and investing in our natural resources is one of the best ways to grow our economy.
Our Bayshore offers unrivalled recreational opportunities for hunters and anglers, boaters and kayakers, hikers and bikers, casual wildlife watchers, and families seeking outdoor opportunities to recreate and learn about nature—we want to build upon these strengths.
We also host thousands of birders and biologists from around the world who come to the Bayshore to witness the annual spring spectacle of more than a half million shorebirds, like Red Knots, taking a rest stop to dine on the eggs of horseshoe crabs.
Yet despite all of these amazing outdoor experiences, millions of visitors race straight down Highway 1 every year directly to our pristine beaches without any idea of the treasurers that they’re passing by.
2. Low-Impact Recreation
3. Stronger Communities
In each of these areas, there are a lot of activities already underway. We have a long list of current projects , but suffice to say we are maximizing the impact of State Wildlife Grants and other critical federal and state resources to conserve critical lands, restore wildlife habitat, and improve waterway access.
Just in the last year, we have worked with our partners to protect nearly 500 additional acres of land—and we’re working with our partners to protect thousands more, we’ve restored more than 600 acres of forest, wetlands, meadows and shrublands on public and private lands, and we’ve worked to control Phragmites on nearly 6,000 acres of tidal marsh on public/private lands.
We are also working with Delaware Greenways and DelDOT to complete the designation of the Route 9 corridor as a Scenic Byway.
This is not to suggest that this Initiative will not be without challenges:
Overall, we are confident that this Initiative will be a great success and we hope you will join us.
If the legacy of the past half century is land protection—let our chapter be focused on restoring wildlife habitat, strengthening local economies, and connecting people with America’s (and Delaware’s) Great Outdoors.
Let’s work with local communities and small businesses to enhance the Bayshore experience and strengthen local economies. Let’s marshal our resources once again to ensure that the Bayshore remains forever wild for current and future generation—as an economic driver for the state—and as a true national conservation area. The Delaware Bayshore Initiative is a concept whose time has come. It’s time is now.
So come, explore the Bayshore and discover Delaware’s wild side!
Written on: May 24th, 2012 in Guest Posts
Booking requests are up compared to last year, the arrival of warmer weather earlier in the year will draw people north sooner than expected and, based on what we’re seeing, consumers are planning to travel more than they did in 2011.
What’s really exciting is that the extremely favorable forecast was made before news that the Firefly Music Festival would be coming to Delaware.
In case you’ve been sequestered in a tiny rural B&B off the beaten path somewhere, here’s the lowdown on Firefly: Big names such as Jack White, The Killers, The Black Keys, John Legend and The Flaming Lips headline a lineup of more than 40 acts from July 20-22 at Dover International Speedway.
It’s the biggest weekend music festival that Delaware has ever hosted, and hopefully it’s going to be a lucrative one for the First State’s economy: the Tourism Office estimates the festival has the potential to bring in $12.6 million in tourism dollars.
There’s so much more going on this summer that will ensure Delaware tops its annual tourism draw of 7.1 million visitors. On Wednesday, the Delaware Tourism Office unveiled its enhanced Delaware Wine and Ale Trail with a tweet-up event,
Tweet The Trail, in Milford. The trail now boasts a passport and prize system similar to the Delaware History Trail – those who visit at least eight of the dozen sites on the trail and send the passport in will receive their choice of a Wine and Ale Trail wine glass or beer mug. We also made several digital enhancements to the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail, including a promotional video, links to dining suggestions near the sites, a Twitter hashtag, #TweetTheTrail, tips on Four Square and a board on Pinterest.
Things don’t slow down after Memorial Weekend.
NASCAR gets its motor running with its first race of the year, headlined by the “FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, on June 1-3; the Wilmington Greek Festival runs June 5-9; St. Anthony’s Italian Festival brings Sicily to Wilmington June 10-17; the Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Festival at Rockwood Park Rockwood Park July 7-8; the Delaware State Fair unfurls July 19-28 in Harrington (with Sugarland, Larry the Cable Guy, Miranda Lambert and Cheap Trick and Styx on the Grandstand stage); and the Wyoming Peach Festival blossoms on Aug. 4.
In addition to those standing events, there’s also the Delaware Tourism Office’s Delaware History Trail, the Delaware Geocaching Trail and the aforementioned Delaware Wine and Ale Trail, which allow visitors to plot their own event itinerary.
Make Delaware your destination this summer! Get started by visiting www.visitdelaware.com.
This past Tuesday, Legislative Hall was bursting with pints of red, ripe, Delaware-grown strawberries and tray after tray of strawberry cake. It was a sweet reminder that we are officially in the midst of the 2012 market season.
First to open this year was the Milton Farmers’ Market, which transforms a small park in downtown Milton into a modern-day open-air market, with great locally grown fruits and vegetables fresh from the farm. And that’s just one example – this year, we’re celebrating a record 27 markets in total, including 12 brand-new sites all across the state, from Wilmington to Selbyville.
They are also local gathering places; where friends can catch up with each other and neighbors can make new friends. There’s no better way to get to know your community than chatting with people about food, sharing recipes and tips over a basket of apples or a bag of zucchini.
The markets certainly help support our hard-working Delaware farmers and producers. Last year’s season brought in $1.8 million worth of business.
Yet they also provide a connection between consumer and producer that is vitally important today. There is no substitute for talking one-on-one with the farmer or farm family members who grew the tomatoes you’ll be making into spaghetti sauce tonight, the peaches your children will be enjoying in their lunchboxes at school tomorrow or the watermelon your entire family can enjoy as a delicious summer treat. The more Delawareans know about how their food comes to their table – much of it grown and raised here in the First State – the better off we all are.
Delaware’s farmers’ markets are also a symbol of how our communities remain strong. While the Department of Agriculture provides support and coordination, the markets are all run locally, sponsored by community groups, organizations and municipal governments.
To find a farmers’ market near you, along with opening dates and times, please visit www.dda.delaware.gov. I hope you enjoy your friendship, fellowship and food at our markets this year.