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Community Economic Development News

Editor’s Notebook: The data is important, but let’s avoid a Chicken Little mindset

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Peter Osborne
Editor

It probably only feels like I receive another ranking of states, cities, or companies each day. In recent weeks, I’ve been told that Delaware is in the top three states when it comes to Internet speed (HighSpeedInternet.com); that we are one of the worst states to start a business (WalletHub.com); and that Richards, Layton & Finger again tops the chart in The Deal’s M&A rankings.

The list goes on, and to be fair, we contribute to the whole thing with our Top 25 lists.

Twelve issues ago, I laid out my vision for this publication and feel we’ve made some progress. We’re doing a bit better covering downstate business issues. I don’t think we did a good job covering the recently completed General Session, but we’ve got a plan for the next one. We’re beginning to publish a better mix of news, analysis, context, and features that we hope include some useful advice. We’ve added business leads, increased the number of promotions (with photos), and are trying to at least capture news briefs that enable you to quickly catch up. Page views on our website are consistently up 60%+ since the beginning of the year. And we are getting a better handle every day on where we need to improve.

I was humbled by a note I received earlier this week that said “I’ll put it this way: the publication is now a “˜must read’ when in the past it was an “˜I’ll get to it.'”

That meant a lot, particularly knowing that we were about to introduce the next phase of our vision. Back on page 19, we devote six pages to a conversation among seven business leaders on the topic of economic growth in the state. We’re calling this the Delaware Dialogue. It will be a recurring feature (every two or three issues) with space to discuss at length the challenges to Delaware’s success.

It’s an opportunity to unite rather than divide by properly framing the debates. We’ll bring together people with different points of view, getting them to talk (and maybe argue a bit) and hopefully by the end come up with a few next steps. More importantly, perhaps some of our readers will be motivated to get involved on one side or the other.

The genesis for this week’s topic about economic growth was a particularly dark assessment by the Caesar Rodney Institute that the Delaware economy is struggling. I read the report having just attended a very positive reception touting the attractiveness of Delaware for companies that are looking at moving here. So while I respect the data, I’m not sure it feels like the sky is falling.

The transcript reflects different perspectives. Yes, the data is scary. But there’s also a level of excitement that’s building around Delaware’s chances to attract people and companies. I don’t get the sense that our leaders are ignoring the data; you’ll see that Logan Herring from the Riverside community is actually living the data as he fights to revitalize his neighborhood. But there’s also something to be said for leading withthe good points, while you work behind the scenes to fix the bad stuff.

We recently reported on the launch of the Ready in Six initiative that’s being led by the Delaware Business Roundtable. Alan Levin talked about it during the discussion and argued that we’ve studied these things to death and it’s time to just move forward. He’s right. But change requires getting concensus from everyone at the table without worrying about who is getting credit.

And the state seemed to do that recently when it added some language to bonding legislation at the end of the recent Session. One local publication criticized the addition, which offers to pay companies 3 percent of their construction costs if the price tag is over $75 million and more than 500 jobs will be created.

I have absolutely no problem with this addition. States offer incentives every day. New Jersey did it with Barclays and now we’re looking at losing 520 technologists from the company’s Riverfront operation (although I’m convinced that many of those people will choose to stay here and take jobs with banks like M&T/Wilmington Trust, JP Morgan Chase, and others who are filling similar positions).

Providing economic incentives to huge, profitable companies at a time when our neighborhoods and schools need the help and when smaller existing companies will be hurt by those arrivals (Amazon is the current bully; it once was Wal-Mart) is a good future topic for the Delaware Dialogue. I want our readers to help us identify future topics for the Delaware Dialogue. Recidivism? Minimum wage? Right to work? They are all topics that often divide us. I think the core themes for this paper focus on Innovation, Workforce Development, Economic Development, and Health Care Costs. I also believe that the margins (Far Left and Far Right) often make it difficult for the middle to create change. If you have other ideas for topics, please drop me a note at [email protected].

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