Push Delaware to the Economic Tipping Point

June 15, 2011 By

I am returning from a trip to the Carolinas and I am worried.  I saw first hand the value of focus, strategy and investment by the state of North Carolina.  I had the privilege to speak with an expert in the field of server facility installation (servers are the storage spaces for computer software and data).  While I was familiar with the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle’s focus and collaborative efforts surrounding life sciences, I was unfamiliar with the focus on technology infrastructure.

 

What began to sound the alarm in my head is that many states have been investing heavily in their version of “The Next Big Idea” for years.  Case and point is that everyone in North Carolina seems familiar with the battle cry for focus, strategy and investment.  And while they are all singing the same tune, they are reaping the benefits of a strong economy, intellectual development, broad tax base, improved environment, and healthy community.

 

Here is a great example.  In September of 2010, Science In The Triangle reported that $116 Million will be spent to expand an already robust fiberoptic superhighway in North Carolina by an additional 2,500 miles (see map to right). The goal is to enable research that is “hobbled by limited bandwidth capacity”.  The result of North Carolina’s investment?  One of many examples is that Apple Computer decided to build a 500,000 s.f. that is expected to be part of it’s $1Billion investment. The Department of Commerce expects the result to be the creation of 3.000 jobs.  This is one of many such investments in server facilities.  This is on top of the decades old success in life sciences.

 

I am less concerned that we need to join the “me too” idea of replicating the fiber optic strategy of North Carolina.  This blog is less about seeing North Carolina as our competitor, but rather as our inspiration. We seem to be our own worst enemy when it comes to long tern strategy, allowing political bickering and either labor or industry alliances to stifle vision.I am more concerned that as a community (not just a Governor, not just a legislature, not just a non-profit, but a community), we are missing the focus.  If we are going to regain the innovation in Delaware that creates an economic revolution, the way the Financial Center Development Act did in 1981, we have better get cooking.  Delaware needs to think big, invest big, and to create a rallying cry that we all understand and become passionate about.

 

The fantastic news about Bloom Energy is not the end of a journey, it is the beginning.  Had we not had the Chrysler site and the intellectual muscle of one of the  best engineering Universities in the world, we would not have been a candidate. This example helps make the point for investment in infrastructure so that we will benefit for decades.  Now that Bloom Energy has landed, let’s consider taking this to the next level.

 

If our “infrastructure” is the University of Delaware and the Chrysler site, would we create some sort of tax free zone to enhance it’s marketability? Just 30 minutes up the road, competing Pennsylvania does exactly that with their now famous Keystone Opportunity Zones and Keystone Innovation Zones.  If industries that supply green energy technologies are our target employers, do we hear a rallying cry for the integration of these sciences into the school curriculum like we did when we sent men to the moon?  If Bloom, or the next five employers at the UD site play on the world stage, are we ready to declare Delaware a global center for competition and begin writing favorable legislation to attract international business, much like Singapore?

 

Let’s go Delaware.  Let’s push ourselves to the tipping point.  Let’s let out a rallying cry that we plan to lead.

 

Let’s put Delaware on the world stage and get ourselves back to work.

 

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    Brian DiSabatino is President of EDiS Company, a family owned construction company founded in 1908. In addition to family, Brian has a love for business, community, fishing and food.

    8 Responses to Push Delaware to the Economic Tipping Point

    1. avatar

      Brooke Bovard Reply

      June 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      What’s the point of “creating jobs” in  Delaware if all the tax money generated goes home to Garnet Valley, or winds up in the pockets of our many developers – building housing whose infrastructure the rest of the community has to pay for? 

      Delaware doesn’t need another “big idea” and she sure doesn’t need another pointless tax giveaway. We need considered investment in our children, by way of education and healthcare, and support for our small businesses and existing communities.

      Tax giveaways to these corporations amounts to the average citizen paying for both our drugged drinks AND our rape kits. No thanks.

      • avatar

        Jwsde Reply

        June 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

        I have been haering that refrain for over 40 years. Our schools continue to struggle despite subtantial costs per pupil. Th eproblem is less the fault of the schools than the dysfunctional uncaring parents whos offspring enter the schools behind the learning curve and never catch up. We do nee investment in educating young people that they need to reach 18 without becoming  a parent and dropping out of school. It i slikeyl cheaper to frund head Start,pay teens to attend school, study , and refain from becoming a parent than it is to backstop the problems ( the high rate of illegitimacy and its consequentail illiteracy,criminality, and unemployability. Until we do that , we are kidding ourselves.

        However, that does not mean that we don’t encourage job creation at the same time. Without jobs, the state will deteriorate . My point is that is hard to attract good job creating businesses when the illegitimacy rates continue between 45 to 67 % of the newborn population. That is a prescription for economic and social deterioration.

      • avatar

        Jwsde Reply

        June 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

        I have been haering that refrain for over 40 years. Our schools continue to struggle despite subtantial costs per pupil. Th eproblem is less the fault of the schools than the dysfunctional uncaring parents whos offspring enter the schools behind the learning curve and never catch up. We do nee investment in educating young people that they need to reach 18 without becoming  a parent and dropping out of school. It i slikeyl cheaper to frund head Start,pay teens to attend school, study , and refain from becoming a parent than it is to backstop the problems ( the high rate of illegitimacy and its consequentail illiteracy,criminality, and unemployability. Until we do that , we are kidding ourselves.

        However, that does not mean that we don’t encourage job creation at the same time. Without jobs, the state will deteriorate . My point is that is hard to attract good job creating businesses when the illegitimacy rates continue between 45 to 67 % of the newborn population. That is a prescription for economic and social deterioration.

    2. avatar

      MarkP Reply

      June 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      Good insight, Mr. DiSabatino, as usual.  I moved our companies and
      family to Delaware two years ago, as I saw it as a diamond in the rough
      (no pun intended) and huge upside potential, despite being in the
      aftermath of the GM and Chrysler plant closures.  Delaware has a port, rail, major airport (PHL), I-95 (love it or hate it), and a low cost of living compared to neighboring states.  I agree with the
      tax-free zones or similar incentives.  One big challenge for our
      governor will be selling it to the constituency.

      News of the Bloom Energy deal made my day, as I’ve been following this
      company with great interest for the past couple of years.  The Bloom
      Energy deal is just one of many wins that we need.  I hope the
      development office does not just sit on its laurels, but continues to
      aggressively pursue other opportunities and make Delaware an attractive
      option for high-tech industries. 

    3. avatar

      RGood Reply

      June 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      Along with policy incentives, there are also public/private organizations across the country that do an effective job promoting an overarching concept [like INNOVATION] in an area, instead of attracting by the single-industry methodology.  See what Upstate SC Alliance and the Kansas City, Kansas Area Development Council are doing at:

      http://www.upstatescalliance.com/pages/index/about

      http://www.thinkkc.com/index.php

      • avatar

        Brian DiSabatino Reply

        June 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm

        RGood:  I liked the links you shared.  You are “spot on”.  There needs to be a public/private partnership to develop and promote the Delaware Brand in a way that touts an overarching concept (like Innovation as you stated) while honing in on multiple employment groups.  If DEDO can help the grass roots of Delaware understand what our brand is, and interact with that brand, we could have 700,000 sales people.

    4. avatar

      Doug Rainey Reply

      June 24, 2011 at 3:07 am

      Spot on observations about North Carolina.  The tax-free zone is a good idea, although I agree it would be tough politically.  Delaware seems to be in a good place and we should not forget solar, which had its ups and downs in Newark, but breakthrough technology may be around the corner.

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