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Delaware sees surging interest in light manufacturing

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CP Cases manufacturers heavy-duty protective cases for touring musicians and the military. Recently, the British company moved its United States operations to Frankford as part of a growing number of light industrial manufacturing projects in Delaware. |  PHOTO COURTESY OF CP CASES

While Delaware may be well-known for its credit cards, chickens and cancer drug development, one of the hottest markets in the First State is actually in light industrial manufacturing.

Over the past year, more than half of the projects approved for taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund grants have included some degree of manufacturing, running the gamut from water treatment products to semiconductor accessories to protective cases. In a state that is still ruing the loss of major automotive manufacturing plants early in the 21st century, the return of manufacturing jobs is a welcome sign for both workers and economic growth.

Becky Harrington, vice president of business development at Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the state’s public-private economic development organization, said her office has seen a resurgence of manufacturing projects since the COVID pandemic. She estimated that more than 90% of DPP’s current prospect pipeline has some component of manufacturing involved.

“There’s just a lot of interest nationwide right now, especially from foreign companies. About 25% of our projects right now are foreign-owned companies, mostly from Europe,” she said.

That international interest is driven by a post-COVID strategy to get products closer to consumers, America’s regulatory stability compared to other markets like China, and the huge influx of federal spending in manufacturing coming through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, especially around semiconductors and renewable energy, Harrington explained.

Delaware is seeing interest due to its lower cost of business on manufacturers, which includes no personal property tax that would apply to expensive machinery and no sales tax – the gross receipts tax would only apply to products sold in state, she added.

Most of the projects landed by Delaware are smaller in scale, typically under 250 employees, which is “the sweet spot” for the state’s labor market, Harrington said.

One such project was CP Cases, a British company that makes heavy-duty protective transport cases for touring musicians, the military and more. It relocated growing operations in Maryland to Frankford due to the competitive business climate and a ready-to-go site that included natural gas service.

Harrington noted that the state’s 2-year-old Site Readiness Fund helped to land that prospect by preparing the site and laying infrastructure like gas service for an employer like CP Cases, which is creating 16 new jobs and relocating nine others. 

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