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‘New Americans’ talk barriers during symposium

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Opportunity LIVES Here Symposium in Delaware

Panelists discuss multicultural grocers during the Opportunity LIVES Here Symposium in Delaware./DBT PHOTO BY JENNIFER ANTONIK

WILMINGTON — Diversity in Delaware businesses took center stage Wednesday as professionals joined Senator Darius Brown for the April installment of the Opportunity LIVES Here Symposium.

The event was hosted by Brown at Wilmington University’s New Castle campus on  April 24, and emphasized Delaware’s multicultural needs as they relate to Brown’s senatorial district, which covers parts of New Castle, Wilmington and Edgemoor. Together, professionals and advocates alike dove into a variety of issues such as exports and imports, immigration, innovation and investment opportunities.

Bringing businesses to Delaware, particularly from an untapped African market, was a priority for several of the panelists who were invited to the discussion by Brown, like Floydcorp Security Solutions President and CEO Anthony Floyd, Jr.

“The state of Delaware is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of developing those trade agreements with the countries. This is going to be a collective effort, but guess what’s most important – it will help the number one economic edge for the state of Delaware through the Port of Wilmington, catalyzing economic business and employment for the people here in Delaware,” Floyd said.

Panelists pointed out that Delaware was at the epicenter of power in our region and in our nation given the First State’s corporation laws, proximity to major cities and President Joe Biden’s home state. The district is also home to the New Castle Airport, run by the Delaware River Bay Authority, as well as local access to three major interstates which connects travelers to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. That makes it a prime location for new businesses and trade possibilities, they said.

The multicultural aspect of Delaware life is beneficial to these economic drivers, according to World Trade Center Delaware President Carla Stone, and why programs like those offered at her organization are so important to up and coming businesses or new trade practices.  

“It’s not just a matter of how we bring products in; it’s about how to send them out, as well,” she said. “Connections are very important. Those of us who come from [diverse] families, have unique ties around the world. We just need to learn how to take advantage of those ties.”

But with increased international business opportunities of all kinds, Brown and panelists argued that more support will be needed for future immigrants, or new Americans. He sponsored Senate Bill 44 to offer that hand up by advocating for the creation of the Office of New Americans. 

Although several other states already have this office, some of which are neighboring states, Delaware does not despite data showcasing foreign-born residents as 9% of the First State’s population.

Of those, panelist and Delaware Hispanic Commission Chair Carlos de los Ramos said, “over 45% of them are Hispanic.”

“Immigrant-led houses paid $768 million in federal taxes. Delaware gained $228 million in state taxes so that’s the economic impact of these new Americans. About 30% of new Americans have a college degree,” he explained, adding that many immigrants eventually open up their own businesses in their new home state.

Panelists shared entrepreneurship concerns for new Americans as another reason why the office would be beneficial, highlighting multicultural grocers around the district. 

“There is a great influx of immigrants into the states,” All Peoples Food owner Frederick Ebede told the group. “We know that food unites people. . .  but it’s very difficult to find food you eat in your home country.”

For Ebede and other multicultural grocer panelists, starting their own grocery store was a way to bring their home country to Delaware and share it with others while creating an income source. 

Panelist Jose Aguilar of Fiesta Fresh Market, set to open in early May, added that immigration brings with it the concerns of language barriers and cultural differences. Entrepreneurship by new Americans, however, can bring with it a host of other concerns, especially for grocers who want to import those feel-good foods from home and now have to deal with “the difficulty of importing goods” which then forces the grocer to raise prices.

Engaging the community in discussions through the Opportunity LIVES Here Symposium and helping drive “innovation and technology into this corridor of New Castle which has traditionally been a blue collar” area is how change starts, Brown said. 

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