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Delaware: Economic Development Focusing on Retention and Expansion

Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Aug/Sep 09)
"The national economy is anything but robust," says Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO). "Not just in our state, but worldwide, companies are not moving; they are just trying to survive." To support that survival, Delaware is focused on retention and expansion; but while much of DEDO's outreach is targeted to already existing medium-and-small sized firms, the First State is still vying for prospects from other areas.

A small business stimulus, the Limited Investment for Financial Traction (LIFT) program, was instituted this past April to help qualifying small businesses with three to 50 employees navigate over tough economic times by offering a maximum loan of $25,000. During DEDO's seven-year loan with the borrower, the first two years require no interest or principal payments and the remaining five years are principal-only payments (DEDO makes the interest payments). "Hopefully, they can pay back at a time when economy is better than it is today," says Levin.

With a population of slightly more than 873,000 as of 2008, Levin notes that the state is too small to allow competition between counties, townships, cities, and the state. He acknowledges the leadership of the current administration of Governor Jack Markell, who was elected in November 2008 after serving as state treasurer for three consecutive terms. Currently, economic development officials meet on a monthly basis to discuss concerns and opportunities, working together to get permits through quickly.

Green energy is just one of those opportunities. Blue Water Wind and Delmarva Power are working towards an offshore wind power facility located 11.5 nautical miles off the coast of Delaware that is scheduled to open in 2011. "We became the first state to secure a Power Purchase Agreement for offshore wind, one and a half years ago," says Levin.  As a result of this project, the state anticipates an influx of ancillary businesses such as platform and steel manufacturers.  

Biopharmaceutical firm Isogen LLC has also made news with its Science Center, a new 20,000-square-foot, contract aseptic filling and manufacturing facility in Newark. The firm has successfully completed its media fills (a mandatory, three-step process that tests a facility's equipment, processes, and procedures to ensure product and deliverables meet quality standards) and has begun fulfilling a backlog of customer orders to large, medium, and small/virtual pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies. The center helps bring novel and orphan drugs to market faster for highly-niched, low-volume clinical and early-stage commercial, sterile, global companies.

 "When my partner and I selected Delaware as our headquarters for Isogen, we knew that we had found a new home, one that would offer a wonderful place for our employees to live, our customers, partners, and colleagues to experience, and for our business to grow," says Les Edwards, CEO of Isogen. "DEDO offered financial incentives and introductions to people and organizations in Delaware that helped make Isogen a reality. We always had the big picture in mind and knew early on that Delaware, with the Wilmington area's rich pool of talented and skilled resources, was a good place to build our team. Now, we are planning an expansion and expect to add a significant number of Delaware professionals to our team by the end of 2010."

Robin Uhl, director of business development for Isogen, adds, "We anticipate the company will continue to have a positive impact on the Delaware market by adding jobs, bringing customers and partners to experience the area, supporting local businesses, and helping establish Delaware as a key biotechnology hub on the East Coast." She credits the "helpfulness and professionalism of the DEDO, New Castle County, and Governor Jack Markell's Office for creating a win-win situation for Isogen and Delaware."

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