Delaware Economic Development Office seeks nearly $39 million

DOVER — The Delaware Economic Development Office made its budget request Tuesday, formally proposing a slight increase in its operating budget and a decrease in its capital budget.

With officials gathered in Legislative Hall in front of budget officials, DEDO wants $38.85 million for capital expenses, the majority of which goes to either the Strategic Fund or the Diamond State Port Corp.. The Strategic Fund is used to entice businesses to settle in Delaware, providing money for construction projects, loans or other implementation strategies in an effort to make the state an attractive site for companies.

Under DEDO’s proposal, $10 million would go to the Strategic Fund, and $18.9 million would be allocated to the port corporation to allow it to make infrastructure improvements and purchase container cranes.

The fund is receiving $10 million this year, a steep decrease from the past five years, when it received at least $22 million annually. The port was earmarked $13.5 million in bond authorizations in July.

Several other requests of $1 million for local research and science efforts are identical to the current fiscal year.

There is also a recommendation for $3.15 million to continue improvement of the Wilmington Riverfront, matching the total provided this year.

The department’s operating budget includes an additional $300,000 in appropriated special funds, or money generated by DEDO that requires legislative approval to spend, to be used for marketing. The funding will allow DEDO to promote the state’s new Endless Discoveries slogan and branding campaign. The planned marketing efforts are geared toward tourism, a $2.9 billion industry for the state in the previous fiscal year.

DEDO Director Bernice Whaley touted the agency’s impact, crediting it with helping bring the 1,800 new jobs JPMorgan Chase & Co. plans to create in Delaware in the next four years. Grant and loan programs have been successful in boosting small businesses and helping improve cities’ downtown centers, she said.

Ms. Whaley also praised the three Kent County music festivals, Firefly, Big Barrel and Delaware Junction, for bringing dollars to the area. Firefly began in 2012, while the inaugural Big Barrel and Delaware Junction events were held this past summer.

DEDO views Delaware Junction in particular as a potential target for growth, officials said.

The agency’s budget request will be considered by the Office of Management and Budget as the governor prepares his January recommended budget. From there, the Legislature crafts the budget over a four-month period.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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