The Delaware Business Roundtable released a framework for economic development and growth that includes public policy recommendations centered on three strategic goals to be implemented over the next five years.
The Delaware Growth Agenda is based on interviews and guidance from more than 100 Delawareans, including representatives from economic development organizations, higher education institutions, businesses, government, labor and nonprofit organizations.
The framework envisions an even stronger and more robust partnership between the public and private sectors to guide future success, according to officials.
Specific recommendations include:
Building an entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. This includes bolstering federal, state and private investment in higher education, and emphasizing the health care, science and technology fields, engineering and entrepreneurship programs. The framework calls for the creation of an “Innovation District” as a destination for entrepreneurs and startups, as well as for marketing Delaware to regional and national angel investors and risk capital networks.
Pursuing a new approach to economic development. The framework calls for establishing a public-private economic development organization, crafting a new comprehensive statewide economic development strategic plan, and a marketing campaign that pursues new investment and jobs in key industries — including financial services, business services, education and knowledge creation, manufacturing and distribution.
Enhancing Delaware’s business climate. The Growth Agenda says the state must ensure Delaware’s infrastructure meets the needs of a 21st century economy, including updating the Coastal Zone Act to provide greater flexibility in redeveloping brownfield sites. The framework also calls for improving the state’s public education system, taking a leadership role in facilitating more efficient development and permitting processes, and creating a Futures Council of Delaware.
“The vision of the Delaware Growth Agenda is that our state will focus its efforts on becoming a global magnet for leading-edge technologies, talent and investment,” said Mark Turner, chairman of the Delaware Business Roundtable and president and CEO of WSFS Financial Corp. “This framework puts forth clear-eyed, achievable strategic goals and strategies that can accelerate Delaware’s economic engine — but only if the public and private sectors work together to make that vision a reality.”
The full recommendations under each of the goals and strategies can be found in the framework, which was developed collaboratively by TIP Strategies and the Delaware Business Roundtable. TIP Strategies is an economic development strategy firm that has worked with states and communities across the country.
In addition to presenting a strategic vision and goals, TIP Strategies also examined Delaware’s economic health over time compared to other states in the region.
Among the findings of the framework:
- Many of the traditional economic pillars of the state — including cars and chemicals — are no longer significant job generators.
- Manufacturing accounted for about 20 percent of the state’s non-farm employment in 1990. By last year, it was just 10 percent of all jobs.
- The state lost more jobs in manufacturing and corporate headquarters than any other sector between 2010 and 2014 — while health care and professional services sectors experienced robust job growth.
- Delaware is home to a growing base on which to build a vibrant entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem — and higher education must become the long-term driving force behind that ecosystem.
- Delaware’s labor force participation rate between 2010 and 2015 showed the fastest percentage increase among the 50 states.
- In a number of areas, such as private sector earnings growth and gross state product per capita, Delaware’s economic performance is trending negatively when compared to other states.
“We are facing real challenges, but the Growth Agenda encourages a reset of economic development in Delaware over the next five years,” said Bob Perkins, executive director of the Delaware Business Roundtable. “First and foremost, things cannot continue as they have because Delaware’s existing companies — nor the industry sectors themselves — can be counted on to serve as engines of future growth. We must take a new approach, and the public and private sectors must work together to get it done.”
The Roundtable’s intention is for the Delaware Growth Agenda to spark a much-needed discussion of how to expand economic opportunity and jobs throughout the state during the 2016 election cycle that will result in concrete action thereafter.
The Delaware Business Roundtable is a non-partisan, volunteer consortium of CEOs whose companies collectively employ over 75,000 people in Delaware.