Innovation Delaware: Why move your business to Delaware?
By Larry Nagengast
So, you’re starting a new business, or you want a better place to park the one you have.
Start with the old adage about the three most important things in real estate: location, location, location.
With New York City 130 miles to the north and Washington, D.C., 95 miles to the south, Delaware is the midpoint of the northeast corridor. That means easy access to all those big-city contacts by air, rail and interstate highways – and a cost of living that’s lower than most sections of neighboring states because Delaware has no sales tax, no statewide property taxes and lower local property taxes than most nearby states.
Additionally, Delaware’s low corporate taxes make it ideal for business – which is why more than 50 percent of U.S. publicly traded companies are incorporated in Delaware. Another reason is Delaware’s court system, which is well versed in business law. That’s especially true of the Court of Chancery in Wilmington – a well-regarded forum for the resolution of disputes regarding the internal affairs of business entities.
Access to capital is another critical building block of successful entrepreneurial economies. Leading Edge Ventures, a Delaware-based early-stage venture fund sponsored by First State Innovation, provides funding to companies at a critical stage in their development.
Location isn’t that big a deal, you say, because most of your business relies on computers and online connections. Well, that means you’re going to need fast internet speeds and a tech-savvy workforce as your company grows.
Depending on which survey you look at, Delaware ranks either first or second in the nation in internet connection speed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Delaware second in high-tech share of all businesses in 2015. Leading companies in the growing fintech sector – JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and CitiBank, just to name a few – have learned that they can count on Delaware’s homegrown talent to meet their personnel needs.
The presence of the DuPont Company, AstraZeneca, Incyte Corp. and other science and pharmaceutical businesses adds to the strength of Delaware’s workforce. “The strength of Delaware in key domains such as advanced materials, industrial bio-technology, chemical ingredients, financ-ial and legal services, and health care gives innovators a strong base to draw from in order to accelerate and scale their businesses,” says Doug Muzyka, DuPont’s senior vice president and chief science and technology officer.
Speaking of DuPont, the DuPont Experimental Station research and development facility in Wilmington is home to some of the world’s most important scientific discoveries and was one of the first industrial research laboratories in the world. Today, the Experimental Station serves as a key research site for DuPont. Scientists and researchers pursue science-based solutions for global markets, including agriculture, nutrition, energy, transportation, electronics, safety and protection, construction, and performance materials.
What’s more, in April 2017, DuPont and the University of Delaware announced a new partnership with the state to create the Delaware Innovation Space, an incubator designed to create opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.
If you do need help honing the skills of your workforce, that’s something Delaware Technical Community College has been doing for 50 years. And a new program, Pathways to Prosperity, gives high school students a road map to help them prepare for jobs in high-growth industries, while picking up professional certifications and college credits along the way.
Delaware boasts a wide range of top educational institutions, from some of the best public high schools in the nation to highly ranked colleges and universities. Delaware’s educational system has been recognized on a national level; in fact, it is the recipient of the prestigious Frank Newman Award for State Innovation, awarded by the Education Commission of the States as recognition for creative changes that improve student learning.
And that’s not all: The region surrounding Delaware, which includes higher-education hub Philadelphia, is home to scores of colleges and universities.
As an entrepreneur, you know the value of being able to associate with others who share your creative drive. “Entrepreneurs have persuaded themselves that being around each other is important,” says Bernice Whaley, former director of Delaware’s Economic Development Office.
That helps explain an explosion of co-working spaces in Wilmington – Start It Up Delaware, 1313 Innovation and The Mill – and the continued success of Delaware Technology Park, home to 54 sci-tech companies and host to its own business incubator on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. NextFab, the Philadelphia-based maker space, is about to open a satellite center in downtown Wilmington, providing an additional outlet for creative artisans and crafters.
“There is a spirit of innovation here that is the result of Delaware being more than a state. It’s a large community where individuals, businesses, government and education intersect and interact with each other. I suspect a new business would find that very appealing,” says Mark Brainard, Delaware Tech’s president.
Due to Delaware’s compact size, the ability to collaborate between the state’s five colleges and four universities, research centers, the business community and leading scientific institutions is unmatched by neighboring states. Plus, Delaware boasts a workforce of highly skilled and educated talent, and government leaders continually strive to meet current and future demands for talent through programming and other business assistance. More than 26 percent of the state’s residents have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Besides the work environment and highly skilled workforce, business leaders may find much to like about living in Delaware. Housing options abound – from beach houses to chic urban homes, farmhouses and planned communities – and the state has the fourth-highest home ownership rate in the nation.
The beaches of coastal Sussex County have become a popular destination in spring and fall as well as summer. Sites associated with the DuPont Co. and the du Pont family, including Hagley Museum, Winterthur, Nemours and the nearby Longwood Gardens, attract visitors year-round, as do the historic and natural venues that have recently been linked as the First State National Historic Park.
For those who desire arts and culture, Delaware is home to the opulent and historic Grand Opera House, which has been a landmark for more than 135 years. Opened in 1871, The Grand presents more than 75 shows each season, ranging from symphony orchestras and ballets to the latest rock and comedy stars, with jazz, folk and family artists represented as well. The Delaware Symphony, Opera Delaware and First State Ballet Theatre are all in residence at The Grand.
There’s also the 150-year-oldDelaware History Museum, theDelaware Art Museum, the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, Biggs Museum of American Art and the Delaware Theatre Company, which attracts professional actors and artists from Broadway and regional theaters across the country.
Putting it all together is Mike Bowman, president of Delaware Technology Park. In his words, Delaware’s assets for innovators include “location [close] to large markets, [it’s] easy to travel anywhere (including beaches), [it’s] business friendly in costs, taxes and courts, [has] an agile, supportive and decisive government, extraordinary talent and space, a multicultural community and a Tier 1 research university.”