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Delaware's efforts to deal with the Great Recession and the loss of
major employers is the subject of a new book by University of Delaware
professors William W. Boyer (left) and Edward C. Ratledge.
2:51 p.m., Feb. 17, 2016--The Great Recession, which lasted in
Delaware from 2008 to 2014, hit the First State particularly hard.
The period also saw the disappearance of major employers including
Chrysler, General Motors, and Avon. DuPont cut many jobs and the sale of
MBNA to the Bank of America also resulted in significant job losses.
Dealing with these setbacks while trying to attract and keep
companies and the jobs they bring is the subject of a new book by two
University of Delaware authors.
Growing Business in Delaware: The Politics of Job Creation in a Small State,
by William W. Boyer, Charles Polk Messick Professor Emeritus of
Political Science and International Relations, and Edward C. Ratledge,
director of the Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research,
examines the responses from Delaware policymakers and business leaders
in addressing these challenges.
Published by the University of Delaware Press, the book is the fourth in the authors series about public affairs in Delaware.
In their introduction, the authors recount the cooperation between
Gov. Pete du Pont (1977-85) and the General Assembly following a series
of adverse business-related events in the 1970s. This collaboration
allowed Delaware to adopt a more proactive management approach to
What followed was a series of economic development initiatives
leading to the creation of the Delaware Development Office in 1981,
which later became the Delaware Economic Development Office. This gave
the First State a nationally unique proactive state management agency
for economic development.
During an interview with the authors, Ratledge said that the economic
growth measures initiated under du Pont have worked pretty well over
The number of financial industry jobs went from 5,000 to nearly
50,000 today, Ratledge said. We now have Bank of America, Capital One
and J.P. Morgan Chase, among others. Additionally, J.P. Morgan Chase
purchased the south campus of Astra-Zenecas Fairfax location for $44
million. The site will eventually house more than 1,000 employees.
Each of the following six chapters provide an in-depth analysis of a
prominent recipient awarded state funding to create jobs, with Chapter
One focusing on the rise and decline of Astra-Zeneca.
The next major job growth strategy provided by the state following
the 1981 enactment of the Financial Center Development Act involved the
Astra-Zeneca pharmaceutical company, the authors said.
Delaware offered a package of incentives that included $18.7 million
in cash grants and land, about $79 million in roadwork, $30 million in
tax credits, plus training, infrastructure and other perks. This became
the most expensive package Delaware had ever offered to keep a company
in the state, the authors noted.
While the company employed nearly 5,000 workers at its Delaware
locations, a series of legal setbacks, loss of patent protection and
corporate acquisitions saw the loss of 550 research jobs in 2010 and
another 400 in 2011.
Other chapters focus on Delawares port, Wilmingtons Riverfront,
Fisker Automotive, Bloom Energy and the Delaware City refinery, while
looking at the wide variety of grants, efforts to grow business by other
means, and the politics of economic development.
The state has had some successes and some failures, Boyer said.
Markets change over time, and the ways companies have to do business
Boyer also noted that while some ventures resulted in failures, like
establishing Fisker Automotive at the site of the former General Motors
Boxwood auto assembly plant, success stories include Wilmingtons
Riverfront and the Delaware City refinery.
While the Wilmington Riverfront eventually became an economic
development story, it also was an extremely compelling example of
brownfield redevelopment, the authors note.
The economic benefits would have been difficult to realize without
the considerable remediation work required and the partnerships between
businesses, contractors and state and city governments.
The Wilmington Riverfront project is already solvent, Boyer said.
The companies that do business there pay taxes, the brownfields are
cleaned up and there are hotels and entertainment venues there, as
The politics of job creation, the authors note, involve many
factions, each of which thinks their cause and interest are the most
They all think the money should go to them, and they all want to
have their own way, Ratledge said. At the end of the day, politics
permeates everything, including job creation.
Ratledge also noted that Delawares economy is moving away from big
companies like DuPont. Changing technology and foreign competition have
also resulted in the loss of manufacturing jobs locally and nationally,
The middle management in companies has disappeared because of
computers, and a lot of manufacturing jobs have left, and they are not
coming back, Ratledge said. Its a very complex business.
Although hit particularly hard by the Great Recession, Delawares
fiscal condition is pretty good, and debt is not a controlling thing as
is the case elsewhere, Boyer said.
In the concluding chapter, Lessons Learned, the authors note that
governments employ two basic strategies to increase economic development
The first strategy calls for improving the overall attractiveness of
their jurisdictions as places to operate by improving the education and
skill levels of the workforce, as well as providing adequate
infrastructure and a good quality of life for employers and employees
The second strategy, one pursued by Delaware, involves offering firms
specific awards, such as cash grants and loans, and, according to the
situation, providing favorable tax abatements and rates and enacting
legislation favorable to a business. This approach also involves making
available free or low-cost worker training, donating a desirable
worksite, or reducing some specific cost of doing business, such as
The major lessons, the authors conclude, is that due diligence before
employing this strategy is necessary, something that has not always
been done, and remembering that businesses are always subject to
Job creation will always be with us, and competing with large states
with more money is especially challenging, Boyer said. When you
factor in politics, it becomes a very complicated issue. Delaware wants
to be seen as business friendly, and this is something it can do.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photo by Evan Krape
Originally published by UDaily.
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