Bill would create Site Readiness Fund for development
DOVER – One of Gov. John Carney’s newest business-focused initiatives will advance in the General Assembly this year after a bill was filed to create the Site Readiness Fund to support investment in economic development prospects.
Carney revived the $10 million initiative after it was cut from last year’s budget as lawmakers sought to close an unexpected pandemic-spurred deficit.
Senate Bill 127, filed by State Sen. Jack Walsh (D-Stanton) on May 10, would create the fund with oversight by the Council on Development Finance, the appointed body that currently oversees Delaware’s chief economic development investment fund, the Strategic Fund, as well as a number of smaller grant and loan funds.
The Site Readiness Fund would provide grants, loans or other economic assistance to businesses or public entities that invest in constructing, renovating, or improving infrastructure for sites that would attract job-creating projects.
“There is intense competition between the states to attract and to keep vital businesses that create and maintain these direct, quality employment opportunities. Therefore, it is critical to expand and sustain economic growth within the State to consistently maintain readily available commercial, industrial sites to attract new business, or expand existing businesses,” the bill reads.
Like the Strategic Fund, the Site Readiness Fund would be funded through annual taxpayer-backed appropriations from the state’s operating budget. It would also allow the Delaware Division of Small Business to set benchmarks connected to the grant awards, such as capital investment or job growth.
Bob Perkins, executive director of the Delaware Business Roundtable, was glad to see the legislature take up the bill this year after it failed to come to fruition last year.
“When we’ve got a business that wants to locate here and bring really good jobs to Delaware, being able to help them out a bit is a wise investment of state dollars,” he said. “Any advantage that Delaware can take over other states that are similarly trying to attract good jobs is important.”
Michael Quaranta, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, called the Site Readiness Fund a “smart, strategic step to take,” especially when considering how it could help companies and developers to consider rehabbing existing properties.
“It’s smart to put those properties back into play, especially when you consider the alternatives like urban sprawl expanding into what was either vacant property, farmland or open space,” he said.
SB127 is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Elections & Government Affairs Committee, its first stop in the legislative process.
Also sponsoring the bill are Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown), Rep. Bill Bush (D-Dover) and Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden/Wyoming), all of whom serve with Walsh on the board of directors of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the public-private economic development agency for the state. Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos (D-Elsmere) is also a sponsor but does not serve on the DPP board.
By Jacob Owens
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