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Public-private partnership could take over economic development

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A working group of business leaders and state officials submitted its recommendations to Gov. Carney earlier this month for a public-private partnership that would take over many of the economic development activities currently handled by the public sector.

“I think this report is a very good roadmap,” said Carney, who created the working group by executive order.

The report outlines a plan to shift economic development programs from public agencies, such as the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), the Delaware Economic Development Authority, and the Council on Development Finance, to a public-private model. The working title for this group is the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.

The partnership would take over many of the tasks that now fall under DEDO. These include attracting investment, marketing the state as a business center, recruiting fresh talent, and researching economic trends. It would also work with the county governments and other business groups, such as the Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce.

Some public programs, such as small business support, workforce development, and neighborhood grants, would remain in DEDO’s wheelhouse. The agency would also continue to administer the Delaware Strategic Funds, which offers low-interest loans and grants to businesses for redevelopment, relocation and job creation.

“This should not be seen simply as an effort to privatize statewide economic development in Delaware,” the report states. “Privatization is not what the working group is recommending.”

The report leaves the door open, however, for the partnership to take on more tasks if the State determines it would be more effective.

The report highlights the need for transparency, metrics, and investment from both the private and public sides of the partnership.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership would be structured as a nonprofit and led by 15 board members and two co-chairs (one being the governor and the other a prominent business leader).  Its estimated budget is $2.5 million, with $1.5 million in state funding and a million in private funding. DEDO will retain oversight responsibilities for the new group.

Carney said he would like to see legislation creating the group as soon as possible. The report sets as its goal the second quarter of 2017 for a bill.

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