The 179th Annual Dinner of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce was a chance for business leaders and dignitaries to celebrate the influence of The Nemours Foundation and usher in a new slate of DSCC board of governance members.
But speeches never strayed far from the reverberations of DuPont’s merger with Dow Chemical Corp. and its impact on Delaware’s science and engineering workforce.
Calling the Nemours story “Delaware’s Story,” keynote speaker David J. Bailey, president and CEO of the Nemours Foundation, traced the success of the venerable company to founder Alfred I. du Pont, who bequeathed the entirety of his holdings to the foundation.
Each year Nemours receives 3 percent of the market holdings of A.I. du Pont’s trust – $157 million in 2015. Since its inception, the Nemours Foundation has distributed more than $2.7 billion for care of children — much of it utilized in Delaware, according to Bailey.
Last year the Nemours Children’s Health System celebrated its 75th anniversary and completed a $275 million expansion.
“I believe that Alfred I. du Pont may be the greatest single benefactor for children ever,” said Bailey.
Today the Nemours Children’s Health System operates two freestanding hospitals and 50 care locations in five states. It includes 600 physicians and 6,000 associates, and seven out of 10 Delaware children have seen a Nemours pediatric specialist.
“It’s all tied together by robust by a single platform network environment,” said Bailey. “Wherever Nemours is, all of Nemours is there. “
Roughly 3,800 Nemours associates — about 60 percent — work in Delaware and earn an average salary of $70,000 a year. According to Bailey, the foundation is projected to spend $760 million in the Delaware Valley in 2016.
But more than a million children and complex cases are required to support a top-tiered hospital like Nemours. With 203,000 children in Delaware, the foundation has embarked on expanding market reach in southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Bailey also noted issues like out-of-pocket expenses and a lack of transparency that continue to plague the broader health-care system.
“In 2015 for the first time hospitals and health care received more revenue from outpatient services than inpatient services,” he said, adding that the future of health care will be pervasive and individualized and could include new delivery models like telehealth technologies.
But Bailey said that the next great leap in improving the health of the nation and of Delaware will not come out of the laboratory or operating room, but from gains in addressing childhood illiteracy, one of the best single predictors of adult health.
“If all of the community stakeholders address it we can be successful,” said Bailey. “Delaware has a unique opportunity to become a model for this nation.”
While Bailey outlined a plan for continued growth at Nemours, Gov. Jack Markell offered a summary of highlights of the state’s broader economy and a tentative hope for the future of the Dow-DuPont spin-off companies.
The separation of the merged company into three independent, publicly traded companies will occur in 18 to 24 months, subject to regulatory approval. The companies include agriculture, specialty products and a material science company.
Markell pointed to the creation of 1,800 jobs by J.P. Morgan Chase, and the accelerated growth of companies like SevOne, Corporation Services Co. and Solenis as examples of Delaware success stories.
He also praised the Delaware Competes Act, a bill scheduled to be introduced this year, that is intended to make the corporate tax system more competitive and strengthen the business marketplace.
Then he turned his remarks to the news of DuPont’s merger with Dow.
“It’s difficult for all of us to contemplate a much smaller DuPont,” said Markell, who added that he remembers a workforce of more 20,000 when he was boy.
But he offered a two-part effort for the coming months: a push by congressional delegates to keep Dow-DuPont’s agriculture company in Delaware; and the creation of a network of academia and business leaders to fuel jobs and capital for job opportunities for former DuPont researchers and scientists.
“We’re working to develop a plan with universities,” said Markell, who added that his team has reached out to the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Tech. “We need joint research opportunities and links to capital.
“We’re committing to seeing as much of that talent [as possible] stay in Delaware,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper echoed the governor’s comments about DuPont employees. “They are smart, they have great work experience and we’re lucky to have them in this state and we want them to stay in this state,” said Carper. “We need to make sure we have the right tax policy in place to nurture startups.”
The annual dinner also marks additions to the DSCC’s Board of Governors as well as the announcement of the board of directors chairman. Salvatore J. “Chip” Rossi was elected as the 2016 chairman, effective at the annual meeting.
Rossi succeeds Mark Stellini, who will continue to serve on the DSCC board of directors.
Rossi is the Consumer and Global Wealth & Investment Management Risk executive at Bank of America, one of the world’s leading financial services companies. Rossi also represents the bank as the Delaware Market President. He has been on the DSCC Board of Directors since 2010.