[caption id="attachment_226761" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Gov. John Carney, center, moderates a panel of two site selectors, KPMG LLP managing director Robert Boehringer III (left) and Lawrence Moretti, principal at LFM Corporate Location Solutions. The two site selectors weighed the progress Delaware has made in attracting developers. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
DOVER — Two national site selectors came to discuss Delaware’s strengths and weaknesses Thursday at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s “Developing Delaware” meeting.The scene before scores of Delaware’s business leaders was nearly identical to one four years before: Gov. John Carney sat in an armchair on a stage, flanked by KPMG LLP managing director Robert Boehringer III and Lawrence Moretti, principal at LFM Corporate Location Solutions. But this year, the message was drastically different. Delaware is now a force to be reckoned with as site selectors look in the Mid-Atlantic Region, due to its investments in infrastructure and streamlining its permits.The question now is: How to get the First State on a national platform?“Delaware is at the point of having a product. Now it’s how do you brand it to position the product. How do you promote the fact that you’re starting to book infrastructure throughout the state?” Moretti said.Delaware may also be reaping the rewards from one of the unexpected side-effects of the pandemic, as companies are re-evaluating their headquarters and their supply chain and workers reassess their living situations. More than 4.9 million Americans left cities for the suburbsin 2020, but that rate may be slowing down. But Delaware’s strong central location on the East Coast as well as its relatively short drive time to major markets in Washington D.C. and New York still make it stand out.Even with the improvements Delaware has made with the push from the Ready in Six initiative, there are states that still move even faster. Comparatively, states in the Southeast have invested significant dollars in sites to attract businesses down the line. Boehringer noted that his client Mark Anthony Brewing, owner of White Claw Seltzer, settled on a site in Columbia, S.C., for its1.3 million-square-foot production facility.The company broke ground within eight days.
[caption id="attachment_226760" align="alignleft" width="300"] Lawrence Moretti, principal at LFM Corporate Location Solutions, left, talks about Delaware's lack of ability in attracting "mega projects" with 1,000 acres or more. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
“The investor expectation is that speed matters,” he said. “You have made some progress. I think it’s a continuous, evolving process of how we continue to get better. The competition isn’t slowing down.”While Delaware has less land mass than most states, Kent and Sussex counties have room or development. Key economic leaders there have focused on small to medium manufacturers, and both site selectors agreed this was a good strategy.Site selectors advised Delaware economic development officials to consider broadening the scope in how they market the available inventory. There are niche industries out there like plastics and composites that are rapidly growing that could make a good fit for the state, especially with Dupont.Generally, there are technology and other innovators, which the site selectors estimated need between 500 to 1,000 acres and key infrastructure in place – which may be a challenge for Delaware. For example, Intel Corp. broke ground on two chip factories in Ohio which will bring 3,000 jobs on a 1,000-acre campus last month.“Incentives play a big role in attracting that kind of project, and Ohio has a very good program. I don’t think Delaware should be looking to attract mega projects. It’s not easy to assemble a 1,000-acre site,” Moretti said. “I think that’s going to be pretty challenging.”Carney took a slight exception to that assessment, pointing out that Delaware has delivered on such a project. STA Pharmaceutical USA, a subsidiary of global pharmaceutical company WuXi AppTec, has broken ground this year on a 200-acre campus in Middletown.“Part of that, my belief, is we’ve made significant investments in biopharmaceutical manufacturing at the University of Delaware,” the governor said. “That kind of institution serves as a research vessel for higher education for the economy like for small states like ours.”Both site selectors commented that a talented workforce will always be looming large in company executives’ minds as they look to make the final decision on where to build or relocate. Manufacturers and industrial companies are becoming more sophisticated, so they pay close attention to training programs.But it also becomes a quality of life issue to ensure that people who want to relocate for jobs in Delaware would want to live here too.“Before a final decision is made, people want to know if I put a shovel in the ground, will we be successful?” Boehringer said. “Because these projects are there for 50 years plus. They’re not going to move it, so they need to know they have that ecosystem there.”
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