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Kent County Manufacturing & Distribution News Statewide

State Chamber’s ‘coolest thing made’ contest shines light on manufacturing

Katie Tabeling
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DOVER — Delaware business leaders are on the search to crown the coolest thing made in Delaware, spotlighting the First State’s role in local manufacturing and the thousands of jobs it supports.Delaware business leaders are on the search to crown the coolest thing made in Delaware, spotlighting local manufacturing.

The contest, launched by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Manufacturing Association earlier this year, to highlight the state’s role as a manufacturing hub in local markets and beyond. With up to 130 initial entries, the competition has been narrowed down to 50 products this week through a bracket-style voting system.

The “coolest thing made in Delaware” will be named at the spring Manufacturing and Policy Conference on March 28.

“People often think that manufacturing left Delaware when Chrysler and General Motors ceased to make cars here, and that’s not the case,” DSCC President Mike Quaranta said. “All you have to do is hop in your car and drive through any industrial part in any of our communities and you can see the company names, many of which you have no idea what they do, and they have between 25 and 300 people. They all have their niche, but they’re all innovating.”

Delaware’s manufacturing sector employs around 28,000 people, according to the state chamber. It also accounts for $5.6 billion of the state’s gross domestic product in 2021, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Most of these companies qualify as small — with 91% of all in the state that employ less than 100 people.

That’s not to say that Delaware hasn’t managed to shine bright with nationally-known products from DuPont’s Kevlar, Rapa Scrapple making Scrapple, ILC Dover’s inflatable space habitats, and Perdue and Mountaire Farm’s chicken wings and chicken nuggets. The state has also been rising in prominence in bioscience and pharmaceuticals in recent years, with the support of National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals drawing talent to the University of Delaware campus.

The DSCC was inspired to host the contest after Quaranta attended the Conference of State Manufacturers Associations the state chamber is also the affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers where a Wisconsin-based organization held a competition. 

But for Quaranta, who got his formal introduction to the First State when he became chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), it’s also about shifting the perceptions of what’s made here.

“I remember when I started here [at the chamber] I encountered people at Edgewell and I had no idea what they did. But if you walk into a store and you see suntan lotions and feminine hygiene products on the shelves, that’s all made here,” he said. “Right next door is Procter & Gamble, and they produce Pampers wipes. If you go to a store in Toronto or Mexico City, and find that brand, those are made in Delaware.”

In the end, Quaranta hopes the contest also can work to shift perceptions of what manufacturing jobs exist in the world today, ranging across roles for those who hold high school diplomas to higher degrees. 

“People have this vision that you leave a job and you look like you left a coal mine. Nothing could be further from the truth these days, they’re safe and spotless.  With training and certificates you can stack credentials and open more possibilities in a career,” he said. “There’s a lot going on here and I think this contest will open people’s eyes.”

 

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