First Look: Eds & meds set to propel Delaware economy

“Eds and Meds” rolls off the tongue of New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer as easily as “Good Morning” or “Have a Nice Day” does for the rest of us.

It’s Meyer’s economic development strategy, and it’s a great one. Hopefully all of our state’s leaders are drinking some of that Kool-Aid.

One need look only as far as our urban neighbors, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and see how their formerly industrial economies have been transformed by placing “Eds and Meds” – (education and Medicine /Healthcare) at the cornerstones of their economies.

The ancient job-creating businesses of the DuPont’s of the world, and the more modern mercantile banking engines of MBNA Bank and First USA, today really are in the rear-view mirror. They’ll always have a role, hopefully, but their ability to create new jobs and significantly expand payrolls is in decline.

That’s why this issue of the Delaware Business Times – with our focus on biotech – is so important. That is
our future here in the First State.

Unfortunately, AstraZeneca, the innovation legacy of the old Atlas Chemical–ICI venture, has one foot out of town, heading more towards Gaithersburg, MD, where its MedImmune immunology biotech acquisition is headquartered. And many of us are holding our collective breath, particularly given its reduced commitment to the region via its sale of its Fairfax headquarters to Ernie DelleDonne.

Off-setting that loss has been the phenomenal – almost breathless – growth of Incyte Pharmaceuticals, which has built an extraordinary headquarters in the old Augustine Cutoff retail site of Wanamakers, after its decade-plus of incubation at DuPont’s Experimental Station on the Brandywine.

Even CRODA, the Atlas Point successor to ICI, has been moving its traditional chemical-based intermediate products more into the biologicals.

The real X-factor for those truly interested in Eds and Meds, though, will come courtesy of places like Christiana Care and the University of Delaware, as well from Delaware’s other higher eds, particularly Wilmington U whas become an extraordinary engine of job creation, as well as Del Tech in career prep, Goldey Beacom, Wesley College and Delaware State University.

Robert “Dr. Bob” Laskowski had a great two-decade run of developing Christiana Care into the innovation model that his hand-picked successor, Dr. Janice Nevin, has been so robustly stewarding along the last couple years.

And while Patrick Harker was passing through the University of Delaware, enroute to heading the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the University somehow joined the big leagues of other leading state universities in becoming a catalyst for business incubation and economic development under the stewardship of David Weir and Mike Bowman.

Even UD’s business school – too often an island apart from Delaware’s business community, except in corporate governance – has become much more integral under Dean Bruce Weber with a robust entrepreneurship program that has prospered while its once flagship executive MBA program has declined due to lessening demand.

No, we’re not there yet. We’re not even close. But the good news is that our state has been moving in the
right direction for the last several years.

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