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TSDhttps://new.delawarelive.com/townsquaredelaware/
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We write to bring attention to our growing concern regarding the weakness of the economic recovery in Delaware and to offer some ideas on how we can get our economy growing again and put people back to work.

Delaware’s economic recovery is lagging the rest of the region due in no small part to the decimation of our construction and manufacturing sector(s) over the past several years. According to a recent analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America, the percentage of construction job loss in Delaware was the highest in the nation between November 2011 and November 2012. Delaware has lost nearly 40% of its construction workforce in the past four years, surpassing any other industry sector. To further illustrate this point, it is worth noting several years ago there were over 1,500 individuals enrolled in apprenticeship and training programs, today the number is approximately 800.  Related professions such as architecture and engineering and construction related suppliers and manufacturers have all been severely hurt by the depth of the recession and Delaware’s slow recovery.

Recent Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) forecasts for FY13, FY14 and particularly for FY15 only underscore the lack of an economic recovery in Delaware. The bleak revenue numbers in Delaware’s budget forecast will make it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the growing cost of education, Medicaid and the healthcare and pension costs associated with state employees. In addition, in FY14 the partial repayment of unemployment insurance funds to the federal government and the potential loss of $63 million in revenue for a contested income tax refund will only make budget balancing efforts all the more difficult for the Markell administration and General Assembly. To make matters worse, the unknown trickledown effect of potential budget cuts in Washington as Congress grapples with the debt ceiling, appropriations and sequestration only adds to our growing alarm regarding the future of Delaware’s economy. We all need to work together to find a way to grow our local economy.

The good news is that there continues to be a strong demand for projects throughout the State for transportation, as well as all other areas of infrastructure, public buildings and education, both K-12 & Higher Ed. Has there ever been a better time to take advantage of historically low interest rates and Delaware’s bond rating? We urge Governor Markell and his administration to develop creative financial alternatives and mechanisms to fund Delaware’s capital needs. It is estimated that 20% of every construction dollar is spent on wages. A substantial Build Delaware program will not only create jobs for Delawareans and Delaware businesses but add to the state’s bottom line as well.

We must spend not only to create jobs but to insure we have the future infrastructure necessary to compete within our region. Adequate roads, superior schools, attractive public amenities and sufficient infrastructure funds to attract businesses are the underpinning for any future successful Delaware economy.

Secretary Shailen Bhatt has certainly done a terrific job righting the ship at DelDoT, restoring public confidence in the agency and stating goals and objectives. However, while the recommended financial objectives recently presented by DelDoT in their annual capital budget are commendable, the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) clearly needs significant restructuring or additional sources of revenue. If not, the TTF will fail to provide the infrastructure improvements required to meet our economic development needs and those of Delaware’s traveling public in the years ahead. This is a quality of life issue that needs to be addressed. We urge the Governor and General Assembly to take a hard look at the benefits of implementing many the recommendations of the Transportation Trust Fund Task Force unveiled in March of 2011.

This is not a panacea. Only job growth in the private sector can truly grow Delaware’s economy and provide for long term fiscal health. However, there is a role for state government. The Governor and General Assembly can take the lead in creating a nurturing economic environment by creating jobs through a vigorous capital investment program.

State Government can prime Delaware’s economic pump and get Delawareans and Delaware businesses back to work.  Now is the time to act.

Brian McGlinchey, Marian Young, John. J. Casey, Jr. and J. Brian Murphy
President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary
Delawareans for Environmental & Economic Development

A. Richard Heffron
Past President
Delawareans for Environmental & Economic Development

Harry A. Gravell
President
Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council

Paul H. Morrill, Jr.
Executive Director
Committee of 100

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