Melody Booker, a victim of the economic times, is now helping other businesses find the right combination to stay in business, expand and cut red tape.
Help available to local businesses
Melody Booker, a DEDO business development leader assigned to Sussex County, says there is help out there for businesses.
The Delaware Development Office has several programs, including the Limited Investment for Financial Traction (LIFT), a loan program allowing businesses to defer interest payments on their line of credit for two years.
For helpful resources contact:
Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE): scoredelaware.org
Delaware Small Business Development Center: delawaresbdc.org
U.S. Small Business Administration: sba.gov/localresources/district/de
Booker, who has lived in the Milford area for 22 years, lost her job in radio management but was hired by the Delaware Development Office (DEDO) as a business development leader with a concentration on Sussex County. She’s only been on the job four months, but she has already got her feet firmly the ground.
She doesn’t see much difference between her previous career as a radio station manager and working for DEDO. “It’s all about communication,” she said last week, as she spoke to members of the Sussex County Council. Booker attended the meeting to better acquaint herself with the council.
Booker’s task is to help retain and bring new businesses to Sussex County by working with elected officials and business people. “I want to be the point person for you in Sussex County,” she told the council.
Her directive comes from new DEDO Director and Secretary Alan Levin, who has placed a greater emphasis on tourism and business development in the counties.
Hired in September, she has already met with many elected officials and business leaders in the county.
After speaking with her for just a few minutes, it’s easy to see why she was hired. Her enthusiasm and passion are infectious as she speaks about the limitless possibilities for business and job creation – even in tough economic times.
She is also quick to give her opinion. Ask her about meetings, which seem to be endless in her line of work. “Meetings may be great, but I’m always looking for ways to take it to the next level,” she said.
Before taking her new job, Booker was facing a possible move out of the area to find another job in radio. “But this is where I love, and this change has been the best change for me in so many regards,” she said. “This is where my passion is.”
She has fallen for her adopted home like so many others who move to southern Delaware.
Although she has a graduate degree in public administration and wanted to become a town or city manager, she ended up in sales and marketing. “I guess they were not ready for a fresh-out-of-college young lady,” she said.
Ironically, she moved to the area from Baltimore because her ex-husband, Mike, took a job as city manager of Milford.
She worked in sales at WGMD radio after graduation from college at University of Maryland and University of Delaware and then worked in sales for WBOC for three years before getting hired in sales for the three Milford-area radio stations, Eagle 97.7, Cool 101.3 and the state’s first full-time Hispanic station, LaExitosa.
She said business retention and expansion are the main goal in her department, but small businesses – the vast majority of businesses in Sussex County – need help and advice. “To some, it’s a matter of survival,” she said.
She said the main drawing cards to attract new businesses to Sussex County include its natural beauty and strong family ties, the pro-business attitude and the speed in which matters can be resolved.
“She has been very active and helpful to the county,” said County Administrator David Baker.
She said her job is to bring in all layers of government to help businesses solve problems. “I look at my job as a collaborative relationship with the county, state and municipalities working directly with businesses,” she said.
There is no doubt businesses of all sizes are hurting. Booker said business people are telling her that money is too tight and banks are slow to lend.
She is getting on-the-job training. “I don’t know it all,” she said.
One thing she has picked up on is the need for more communication between all levels of government in Sussex County. “”We can work better together,” she said.
Booker is married to the recently retired James Wilkins and the combined family comprises three children and one grandchild.