New Castle County stock exchange takes big step

DOVER — New Castle County Council voted Tuesday night to allow construction of a stock exchange in Wilmington, a decision the council president called “a game changer” and a “shot in the arm to both the state and the city.”

A stock exchange, officials say, would bring venture capital funding to Delaware, something currently lacking, according to New Castle County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Plan.

By voting unanimously to approve the Delaware Board of Trade resolution, council members authorized the issuance of $15 million in revenue bonds to be used to construct a new exchange.

The resolution was supported by County Executive Tom Gordon, a Democrat, and came out of discussions between county officials and representatives of the Delaware Board of Trade. The Delaware Board of Trade aims to develop the first “venture” exchange in the country. The exchange would create opportunities for startups and small companies to receive funding, according to county officials.

“DBOT can offer new businesses a more attractive alternative to traditional venture capital funding,” Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi said in a statement. “One of our biggest economic challenges, access to capital, can become a core competitive advantage. This is big.”

A spokesman for the Department of State, which oversees corporations in the state, said the project is being directed by the county at this point, and state officials have not been briefed on specifics. A spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell touted several aspects of Delaware’s government and economy but was vague as to whether the administration backs the exchange.

“Delaware is already a place where many businesses choose to incorporate due to its favorable business climate and respected courts,” Kelly Bachman said. “In addition, we have a well-developed financial sector, with most major U.S. banks represented. All of these elements combine to create an environment in which there is a supportive business community and many talented professionals who can help make the exchange a success and foster growth for the companies that ​list on it as well.”

The bonds will be the obligation of DBOT, meaning taxpayer money will not be exposed to possible harm or misuse, according to county officials.

The Delaware Board of Trade includes former CEOs from several American stock exchanges, as well as a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden.

“The Philadelphia Stock Exchange contributed nearly half a billion dollars per year in annual capex spending and over $100 million in annual salaries. If that were replicated in Wilmington, it would be transformational,” council President Pro Tem Penrose Hollins, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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