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WILMINGTON – Mayor Mike Purzycki announced Friday that he was appointing Sean Park as the city’s next economic development director.
[caption id="attachment_229275" align="alignright" width="258"] Sean Park | PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF WILMINGTON[/caption]
Park, who was named the office’s deputy director in 2021 and has served as the acting director since April when former longtime director Jeff Flynn left for the private sector, will take over the four-person office that leads the city’s efforts to create and retain jobs – a role that will have a heightened importance in coming months and years as several major development projects get underway.“Sean has done a very fine job since taking over the Office of Economic Development following the departure of Jeff Flynn last spring,” Purzycki said in a statement announcing the appointment. “Sean has a strong background in policy and development and brings a diversity of experience to this role. I trust he will continue to build on the many achievements of the OED and attract new businesses and residents to the city.”Born in South Korea and raised in Wilmington’s Brandywine Hundred suburbs, Park earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Delaware in 2010.After college, he joined the Peace Corps as a community development volunteer and served more than two years in Granada in the Eastern Caribbean, advising non-profit organizations, coordinating events, and creating educational programs for local schools and summer camps.Park then earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the Kennedy School at Harvard University, graduating in 2016 with a concentration in political and economic development. Afterward, he returned back to the First State’s largest city that was in the midst of an economic revitalization.“Growing up in Delaware, I kind of had this desire to explore bigger cities. I lived in D.C. and Boston, and I just wanted to kind of take the best elements of these bigger cities and think about how to bring those elements to a small city like Wilmington,” he said.In his time working with Flynn, Park said he learned that relationships were just as important as the data and trends that can drive effective programs.“He taught me the ropes on not only economic development, but also in politics and working within the system to be effective for all the stakeholders,” he said.Now heading the office, Park said he aimed to continue the trend of investment and development in Wilmington. One potential growth avenue may be lab space, which the region has a big demand for with little supply, he said.“I think there's an opportunity here on with Riverfront East to kind of build this out,” he said, referring to the $100 million project led by the nonprofit Riverfront Development Corp. that would reimagine the east side of the Christina River.Park also led the city’s application for federal funding in the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program to support Riverfront East and he expects to apply for other federal grants.“I think there's a unique opportunity for infrastructure funding since the federal government has released new infrastructure funds with the Build Back Better program,” he said.After the success of the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in Wilmington – just a few months after he took over the office and worked in partnership with the state and county to promote local businesses – Park said he hopes to attract more major events.“We felt the PGA Tour event was a big success and I think we've proved that Wilmington can handle an event of that magnitude,” he said. “Hopefully we can land some more.”