By Carla Sydney Stone
Most World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) members - about 71 percent according to a recent poll - believe a significant disruption in trade and investment is likely to occur this year, with investments being put on hold amid global economic uncertainty.
That is one of the key findings of the just-released WTCA Trade and Investment Report "Global Connections, Local Growth." The WTCA, of which the World Trade Center Delaware is a long-standing member, partnered with the trusted research firm FP Analytics, associated with Foreign Policy magazine, on this exhaustive study that examined what drives economic growth and development in the face of changing national policies and a "new normal" in the global trade environment.
Based on the report's conclusions, Delaware is well positioned to weather the storms and become a leader for years to come.
The report focused on three main factors for successful economic development: connective infrastructure, human capital, and the network effect, which refers to the importance of partnerships and cross-agency cooperation. Delaware excels in all three.
Delaware, with its natural geographic advantages and waterway assets such as the Port of Wilmington and the C&D canal, already serves as a logistical hub for shipping on the East Coast. The proposed significant expansion of the Port will ensure its place as a growing economic and employment anchor.
While Delaware's transportation network can already reach one-third of North America's consumers within eight hours, major infrastructure improvements coming to our rail systems and airports, as well as powerful logistics operations including the recently announced Boxwood development, will allow Delaware to maintain our edge in years to come.
Delaware's higher education system attracts students from all over the world. It reflects Delaware's diverse economy, from agriculture to finance, health to IT, and manufacturing and tourism. Partnerships between local industry and create an environment where graduates will want to remain to continue their research, start businesses, or work in the companies that benefit from Delaware's vibrant educational climate.
Delaware can boast many institutions that welcome experts from all over the globe to collaborate on projects to tackle some of the most complex problems facing the world today. They partner with programs such as Delaware Tech's Environmental Training Center and the University of Delaware's Lasher Labs in Sussex County to Delaware State University's Claude E. Phillips Herbarium in Dover and UD's STAR Campus Newark and the many state-wide entrepreneurial programs.
The results of these efforts can be found in the new companies located throughout the state and along what is being termed the "Delaware's Innovation Corridor."
One other vital factor: The presence of a World Trade Center office. The report showed that "strategic partnerships between global and local stakeholders are the critical enabling factor for cities competing for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and seeking to expand local businesses' access to new markets.
Those cities with a WTCA member on average draw foreign direct investment per capita at twice the rate of their country, and export goods at 1.55 times the national level, per capita. These thriving FDI destinations are also engines of job creation, with every $1 billion in annual FDI being associated with a 1.5 percent higher workforce participation."
The deep local networks between the public and private sector have always been a hallmark of Delaware's business ecosystem. For over 30 years, the World Trade Center Delaware has been a close partner with local, state and federal government agencies, and to Delaware's business and academic communities seeking to increase Delaware's international reach. We look forward to working with our partners in making Delaware an international innovation capital for years to come.
Carla Sydney Stone is the executive director of World Trade Center Delaware.