Officials highlight Delaware's strengths

Panelists show realtors why investors should consider First State
April 23, 2014
The Cape May Lewes Ferry in Lewes was one of the infrastructure strengths touted for real estate professionals at the symposium on April 3. BY NICK ROTH

Sussex County resident Scott Green estimates that when completed, the new 2-mile trail linking Gordons Pond and Herring Point in Cape Henlopen State Park will bring nearly 25,000 bike riders a year who will use the ferry connecting New Jersey to Delaware.

There are already tens of thousands coming to ride the Junction and Breakwater Trail, said Green, Delaware River & Bay Authority executive director, to a room of commercial real estate professionals gathered at Dover Downs April 3 for a symposium on development strategies.

The ferry acts as a tourism link for Delaware, which is why the authority is planning to spend $400 million over the next 10 years upgrading and improving services, said Green.

Green was one of 10 panelists to highlight Delaware’s strengths and areas of needed improvement to real estate professionals who are selling the state as a place for commercial entities to expand.

Others panelists included Jim Waddington, Kent County Economic Development director.

Waddington discussed the development of Food Innovation Districts and the emerging food-processing facilities market.

These districts - designated as food hubs - would be developed specifically to bring businesses specializing in new-age food packaging and processing techniques to the county, he said, such as a facility that creates gluten-free food.

The districts could be done with a public/private partnership and could be used as an economic gardening tool to expand the regional food industry, Waddington said.

Gov. Jack A. Markell touted Delaware’s friendly business environment and pushed the importance of three new programs he’s proposed over the past few months to improve the state’s roads, waterways and downtowns.

When people who invest in real estate look at moving to a certain area, the governor said, there are three things they look at – the quality of the workforce, the cost of living and the quality of the infrastructure.

“Do we want to be the state where investments aren’t being made, when neighboring states are?” he asked the crowd.

Delaware Economic Development Office Secretary Alan Levin promoted strategic location, its beaches and the need to invest. He said 35 percent of the East Coast’s population is within five hours of Delaware, and Sussex County offers two of the top five beaches in the country.

“No other location in the nation can boast that strength,” he said. Saying “yes” to reinvestment is the way to push the state’s economic future forward, he said.

U.S. Army Brigadier General Ret. Howard Yellen highlighted the value of Dover Air Force Base which could expand if other bases close. He said there would need to be a comprehensive strategy, a consensus moving forward, realistic marketing, government support and patience.