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Viewpoint: Seize the moment today to build a bright tomorrow

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John Carney Guest Columnist

Have you ever had a moment perfectly frame for you how much things have changed?  It happened to me last month.

It was at a reception for students who had participated in my Congressional App Challenge event. I was watching a pitch video for the winning app made by four talented young women from Cab Calloway School of the Arts.  The app is called VirDoc.  It demonstrates an animal dissection through a step-by-step video on a phone or tablet.

In 1971, when I was sitting in Mrs. Bathon’s biology class dissecting a frog, I couldn’t have imagined that 35 years later kids sitting in those same seats could be performing the same experiment – except on their iPhones.

How the world has changed really hit home for Delawareans in December when DuPont announced that it was merging with Dow, and that 1,700 employees were being let go. The company that once employed more than 25,000 in Delaware now employed 6,000.

The message couldn’t be clearer: Delaware’s economy is in transition.  We have to be ready to compete for new opportunities. That means helping startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs succeed.

I’ve made this a priority in Congress.  I was the main sponsor of a provision that makes it easier for emerging companies to go public and trade their stock.  Making an initial public offering is critical because it gives companies access to funding that helps them grow and hire new employees.  On average, 92 percent of a company’s job growth occurs after an IPO.

I’ve also been a champion of the Make It In America agenda, which includes the America COMPETES Act – a law Congress passed that helps small- and medium-sized manufacturers invest in innovative technology.

Delaware has come a long way in recent years in its support of small and growing businesses.  A few weeks ago, I toured the Mill, a new co-working space in the Nemours Building in Wilmington.

As you step off the elevator, you see display cases filled with patents and artifacts from the original DuPont mills at Hagley.  And then you turn the corner into old DuPont office space that has been transformed into a space with modern desks, warmly lit conference rooms and state-of-the-art technology where entrepreneurs can plan and build their ideas into successful companies.

Not long ago, the Mill, and other co-working spaces, like the coIN Loft and 1313 Innovation – both in Wilmington – sounded like a futuristic, Silicon Valley vision of a workplace. Now they’re the hub of a growing entrepreneurial community here in Delaware. 

Delaware has come a long way in building the infrastructure to support startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs.  But we have to build on this momentum to retain the many talented employees we have, attract more growing businesses to the state, and build a stronger, entrepreneurial community.

Delaware’s future will certainly look different than Delaware’s past. But this is our chance to make sure it’s just as bright.

Democrat John Carney represents Delaware in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

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