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Keep Sussex Strong looks to bolster local economy

Katie Tabeling

Bill Clifton | Photo c/o Keep Sussex Strong

Bill Clifton, executive chef and co-owner of The Counting House restaurant in Georgetown, keeps his spending dollar local when he can.

“It can be hard when you’re buying something like televisions. But I don’t buy from chain restaurants or fast food,” he said. “See, my family had the cannery in Milton, so everyone would come in at one time. Everyone knew my family, and my family would know everyone. I like to keep that connection.”

Now Clifton is sharing that drive to support small businesses in his home county with the “Keep Sussex Strong” advertising campaign created by the Sussex County Economic Development and Southern Delaware Tourism. He’s one of 14 business owners, ranging across different industries across Sussex County, featured at work and stressing the need for customers to shop locally.

“If you want to improve your local economy, you need to shop here,” Clifton said. “The money stays here. They pay taxes in your town and county. They help out your local charities and churches. They know what it means to be part of the community.”

Three commercials produced by W. Films will air on regional television and on social media throughout the month. Sussex County Economic Development spent $40,749 on the campaign.

Now that Delaware is taking the first steps in reopening, the goal is to inspire residents and visitors to spend money at small businesses where it is needed the most, said Sussex County Economic Development Director Bill Pfaff.

“We need to put customers on high alert that now more than ever, local businesses need them. They have been shut down or on part-time. We need to keep them alive,” Pfaff told the Delaware Business Times. “Without our local businesses, we would not exist.”

The advertisements feature other businesses like Nest Spa & Boutique in Milton; Pedal Works Cyclery in Delmar; James Thompson & Co., Inc. in Greenwood; Antique Alley in Bridgeville; Bow-Tique Grooming Salon in Georgetown; Bad Hair Day in Rehoboth Beach; Seaford Music Education Institute; Lord’s Landscaping in Millville; the Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro; Toys & Games in Bethany Beach; Solid Image, Inc. in Laurel; Blooming Boutique in Lewes and Kids Ketch in Lewes.

Not only do the commercials spotlight county businesses at work, but it also shows the towns, farmlands and the iconic Delaware beaches and coastal areas.

“It shows the rich fabric and character of southern Delaware, not only from a small business standpoint but from a visitor perspective as well,” Southern Delaware Tourism Executive Director Scott Thomas said.

Looking to the months ahead, Thomas predicts tourism will be kept more local rather that longer trips outside the region. His office is considering re-calibrating its own marketing messages for Delaware’s safe summer, since many businesses depend on the seasonal foot traffic.

“With the severity of what small businesses have felt, we have to do anything we can to support them and keep their lights on,” he said. “Keep Sussex Strong is a call to action, and people need to respond.”

The commercials will appear on WBOC-TV, WMDT-TV and Milton-based WRDE-TV as well as local cable systems and social media through at least late June.

Keep Sussex Strong is also compiling a directory of local businesses and how operations may have changed, like business hours and whether curbside or delivery options are available.

For more information on submitting business information visit KeepSussexStrong.com.

-Katie Tabeling


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