Sussex Economic Development committee heading in new direction

September 18, 2018

Just over a year ago, I began reporting to the people of Sussex County on the efforts by a group of volunteers who gathered monthly as the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, a 501(c)(3) corporation.  

With my first article in June 2017, I defined SEDAC and explained its function. Since 2011 we have sponsored a program for prospective new businesses called Sussex County Open for Business. This program serves both startups and established businesses seeking to expand here by creating a one-stop shop offering information on funding, business consulting and training. The program continues today and has joined with Del Tech’s 1 Million Cups program to offer support to the business community; it meets on the third Wednesday of each month and now meets at Del Tech, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

SEDAC’s original purpose is defined in our bylaws and I quote, “To be the premier economic development organization in Sussex (independent of any government ties or requirements) to encourage the retention, expansion, and attraction of business and industry for the benefit of all the citizens of Sussex County through education, communication and other means.”  We have also attempted to collaborate with all levels of government and the public sector to support economic development efforts that create and sustain a diverse business climate in our county. Over the years we have reached out to support projects that bring growth, improved quality of life and jobs to Sussex County.

We have been successful in these efforts but not at the level that our present membership believes that we should. Time waits for no man, nor does it wait for SEDAC. Things need to change, and we need to become more aggressive in our efforts to bring jobs to Sussex. Toward that end, we have amended our bylaws to change our membership criteria, and thus move in a new direction. The storm clouds of antigrowth have begun to form, and opposition toward creating the right environment for job growth and opportunities has been ratcheted up by those who seek to limit property rights, business expansion, job opportunities and affordable housing.  

Membership in SEDAC will be offered to all those who share our views that Sussex County must continue to be the land of opportunity for both the young and the old, who desire to stay here and come here. We have reached out to a number of businesses, associations and organizations that believe as we do that growth should continue. Positive response has been overwhelming. We will lobby governments to provide the infrastructure necessary to support the growth that will provide the jobs for our young people. The first steps in providing that infrastructure have begun. Improved broadband supported by both the state and the county is on its way. Road improvements in whatever form necessary must be developed.  

Regulations that do nothing to protect the public must be eliminated while retaining those that do. Government which doesn’t create jobs must work hand in hand with those of us who do.

The private-public partnership proposed by Gov. John Carney for economic development must be allowed to bring growth and prosperity not just to New Castle County but to all of Delaware.

Sewer and water improvements must keep pace with development so that when a project is proposed, the infrastructure is there. We should learn from the Middletown Story. To those that would spin all this to mean we should give business an open hand, try not to confuse what we say as anything goes, but to see that, given the right regulations, we can protect both our environment and quality of life, and continue to create jobs that keep our young here. 

Comprehensive land-use plans must be just that - and not so fraught with regulations that nothing gets done or only the very wealthy will be welcomed to Sussex.

Farmland that should remain in production must be protected, not exposed to a philosophy that reduces density to such a low level that all of Sussex will be paved over.  

SEDAC’s membership will grow, and the voices of those who would bring growth and prosperity to all of Sussex will be heard. SEDAC will continue the many initiatives that we have already begun but we must act now because, if we don’t, we will follow in the footsteps of so many other localities that have killed their very future through misguided actions by the well-intentioned.

Joe Conway is the chairman of the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee.
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