EDiS CEO DiSabatino named Business Roundtable chair
WILMINGTON – EDiS President & CEO Brian DiSabatino has been named the new chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable, one of the state’s most influential business groups.
DiSabatino succeeds ChristianaCare President & CEO Dr. Janice Nevin in helming the Business Roundtable, a local offshoot of the national organization that coalesces the top chief executives from around the state. He will serve a two-year term.
Created in 1981 at the suggestion of former Gov. Pete du Pont, the Business Roundtable aims to enhance the quality of life in Delaware by promoting commerce, job creation and select public policy issues. Members of the non-partisan, volunteer consortium represent over 75,000 state employees.
Notably, the campaigns by the Business Roundtable have yielded significant changes in Delaware’s governance in the last decade, perhaps none as important as the dissolution of the former Delaware Economic Development Office and the founding of the public-private Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) to attract and retain jobs. It continues to campaign on its “Ready in Six” initiative that aims to lessen permitting and regulation hurdles to speed development in the state to six months or less.
DiSabatino, the leader of a fifth-generation Wilmington construction management firm that has worked on major projects like Avenue North and the Town of Whitehall, knows those challenges as well as anyone and believes the leadership of the Business Roundtable is a difference-maker.
“We think that vision-making is exactly what we’re built for, and it’s never come at a more important time if we look at the Delaware economic landscape right now,” he told Delaware Business Times. “If we look at state revenues, which are generated by economic activity, Delaware has some really big challenges. I think we’re on a knife’s edge.”
DiSabatino noted that Delaware’s primary revenue drivers like personal income tax, corporate formation fees and corporate income taxes are inherently tied to economic growth, and other sources like escheatment, which was recently the subject of a Supreme Court challenge, are at risk. Unlike other states that have higher property taxes or sales taxes, Delaware could be impacted more by a downturn in economic growth.
“If it breaks the wrong way, it could catch the state and all of the things that we are used to seeing by surprise,” DiSabatino said. “From social programs to education to the environment, all of those things are at risk if we don’t continue a good, robust and healthy economic development for everybody.”
One of DiSabatino’s first goals will be to update the Growth Agenda report first published by the Business Roundtable in 2016 that helped lay out the need for the DPP. That report was fairly prescient for how the state’s business climate has advanced, although some facets are underreported, such as the growth of life sciences.
With the growth of the Delaware Innovation Space at the DuPont Experimental Station and University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, the expansion of Incyte and Prelude Therapeutics and the arrival of WuXi STA Pharmaceutical, the life sciences industry is set to be a major economic engine for the state, DiSabatino said.
“All of that really affirms that one of the natural strengths of Delaware is its intellectual capital,” he added.
DiSabatino is active on social media and well-known in the community for engaging in public debate and conversations about the future of Delaware, even giving a TEDTalk in Wilmington. He said that business leaders should be having those conversations with the public at all levels.
“I think it’s very important. If we, as CEOs, are going to be relevant to the general population, then we’ve got to engage each other, we’ve got to learn what the vision of the man or the woman on the street is for Delaware. It can’t just be the CEO’s vision,” he said. “And if we can, if we can engage in conversation, I think we can build more empathy and more understanding and deliver better results.”