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EDITORIAL: 2022 brought new life to much of Delaware

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Delaware has much to celebrate as 2022 comes to a close. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ROVEN PHOTOS/UNSPLASH

As the calendar pages fall away to the last waning days of 2022, I’ve begun my end-of-year preparations.

Leafing through old newspapers and notepads to archive what needs to be saved from the prior year is an annual exercise that has been helpful in taking stock of each year’s highlights and disappointments.

Jacob Owens
Delaware Business Times

This year has been a difficult year in some ways, not the least of which is the Russian war in Ukraine that has injured or killed 200,000 soldiers on both sides and claimed the lives of more than 17,300 civilians, according to American and United Nations data. Seeing footage of hospitals, schools and apartment buildings being shelled in the conflict is a stomach-churning reminder of the geopolitical turmoil present in much of the world.

Economically, we’ve seen record inflation levels this year, squeezing the purchasing power of households and corporations alike. It’s led to rising fears of an impending recession and a wave of layoffs that have particularly struck the technology sector.

And we’ve seen our social fabric frayed just a bit more, due in part to the heated rhetoric around a mid-term election, the fervor over the loss of constitutional protections on abortion, a return of public mass shootings, a changing norm on social media with the sale of Twitter, and more.

For all those challenges though, the country has made significant, and often bipartisan, progress on issues like national infrastructure, climate change, veteran health care, domestic manufacturing and protections for gay marriage.

In Delaware, challenges around public education, highway safety and gun violence have been laid bare at times in 2022, but we’ve also made significant progress on economic development, revitalizing neglected communities, and investing in the state’s future.

In Newark, the University of Delaware continues to be an economic engine for the state. The STAR Campus has already begun planning new projects, including the first housing on-site via the Buccini/Pollin Group and a new center by the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals. It will also soon celebrate the official opening of the new FinTech Building, which will bring new attention and resources to Delaware’s financial technology sector.

That will be a boon to the fintech sector, which has seen a wave of new projects land in Delaware this year. Lending giant Ally has laid out plans for about 150 new jobs in a large expansion of talent after acquiring the startup Fair Square Financial, while City National Bank will add about 250 jobs near Newark in an East Coast expansion. Meanwhile, First State mainstays like Marlette Funding and M&T Bank have also been bulking up operations in and around Wilmington this year.

UD is also leading the way on R&D of clean hydrogen, recently unveiling a public-private partnership led by the university and Chemours in the Center for Clean Hydrogen. With several Newark-area companies, including Air Liquide, Versogen, Bloom Energy and W.L. Gore in addition to Chemours, working on the fuel source, the city is primed to be a major hub of hydrogen innovation.

It’s not just about the new jobs and research though. Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki invested $50 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding into a housing redevelopment and stabilization plan on the city’s East Side. In Riverside, the WRK Group celebrated the completion of the first phase of the ambitious REACH Riverside community revitalization plan while NERDiT NOW brought its growing business to the community.

In Dover, city leaders have embarked on an aspirational plan to reimagine and revitalize the state capital’s downtown, contracting well-known Philadelphia firm Mosaic Development Partners. Meanwhile the city’s anchor institution, Delaware State University, has begun an ambitious growth plan of its own that started with the acquisition of the former Wesley College but now includes new agricultural sciences facilities and an Interdisciplinary Health Equity Research Center, backed by the largest federal research grant ever secured by the university.

In rural Sussex County, even cities like Seaford are seeing a wave of revitalization as we come out of the pandemic. Just this month, city and state leaders unveiled a $60 million plan to redevelop a key shopping center to introduce coworking space, higher education, health care and more, making the area a destination again. The city has also seen an explosion of interest in development and jobs, led in part by the opening of the first Amazon facility south of the C&D Canal in Delaware.

Delaware has also fully reopened to those outside our borders, as tourism has spiked over the last two years. Our beach communities are busy virtually year-round now, with hotel stays and revenue meeting or exceeding pre-pandemic levels. This past summer’s BMW Championship brought unprecedented attention to the state, as more than 125,000 people attended the weeklong PGA Tour tournament while 16 million watched around the world.

As we turn the page to 2023, I can’t wait to see how these storylines, and new ones, develop across our state.

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