As the last few days of 2021 wind down and the emails slow to a trickle around Christmas and New Year’s, I like to find some time to reflect on 12 months of nonstop work.This year hasn’t quite been the year we expected it might be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
[caption id="attachment_203722" align="alignright" width="279"] Jacob Owens Editor Delaware Business Times[/caption]
Yes, we still have a raging global COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of 800,000 Americans, is mutating often and increasingly looking like a health concern that we’ll be living with for the foreseeable future. Considering we’ve had access to effective vaccines for more than a year now, it doesn’t have to be that way, and I hope you consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t yet.Meanwhile, a global supply chain crisis set off by the pandemic has also raged this year, leading to previously unimaginable backlogs at major U.S. ports, the shuttering of production lines at some auto plants and lengthening wait times for many consumer products.More harmful, the supply chain crisis has also led to the highest rate of inflation in decades, hitting 6.2% in October with reason to believe it may creep higher before hopefully falling. Transitory or not, inflation has become one of the top worries for American families and investors – although it hasn’t stopped consumer spending, which has risen in the last four months.On the national stage, Delawareans celebrated the inauguration of beloved son Joe Biden to the presidency. His year after inauguration day hasn’t gotten much easier though, due to the aforementioned health and economic issues, but also a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, a largely stalled legislative agenda and frequent Republican state opposition ending up in federal courts.Perhaps the new year could bring new favors from politicians looking to score points with voters ahead of November’s mid-term elections.Here at home, Delaware has had a fairly successful year despite the historic global turmoil.As of Dec. 15, about 68% of Delawareans over 18 are fully vaccinated, with that rising to more than 90% for those over 65, the age group most at risk with COVID. Numbers of vaccination could surely be higher, especially among those 18 to 34 where only about half of individuals are fully vaccinated, but deaths have remained relatively flat, adding a handful each week and now totaling more than 2,200.While many employers are still seeking workers to help fill roles following the pandemic, Delaware’s workforce is returning to fairly healthy levels. The labor force reached a record high of more than 489,700 in October, while unemployment has dropped to 5.3%.While more than a full percentage point higher than where Delaware was before the pandemic, the latest unemployment rate for the First State was lower than New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Average weekly earnings for Delaware workers have also risen about 3% year-over-year, largely due to the competitive job market for workers.Meanwhile, the Carney administration has successfully lured a bounty of new employers and expansion projects to Delaware over the past year, adding thousands of jobs over the next few years. Those wins come from a variety of skilled and unskilled industries, including major Amazon fulfillment and delivery centers, a recreational cabin manufacturer, the WuXi STA pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, a new headquarters for promising fintech startup Investor Cash Management, a call center and core credit product growth at Barclays, and more.We’ve seen private developers invest in Delaware to build modern space for even more growth, like MRA Group’s $40 million purchase of DuPont’s Chestnut Run labs. Meanwhile, the state-backed nonprofit Riverfront Development Corp. has started on its $100 million plan to reimagine the eastern bank of the Christina River, creating more desirable space for growth and added tourist attraction.All of this progress is being made at a time when the state government is sitting flush, with another budget surplus expected this year and $1 billion in federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act still filtering through state coffers. Gov. John Carney has pledged to use the funds in a way to alleviate the pain of the pandemic while addressing systemic needs like housing and education.While it may be easy to be a bit despondent regarding the never-ending malaise of the pandemic, it may well do us all some good to keep some optimism about what 2022 may hold. This year has proven that successes can be found.Thanks for reading Delaware Business Times this year. We’ll see you in 2022.