Carney says his economic plan puts focus on recapturing ‘old’ jobs

John Carney

John Carney

DOVER — Democratic nominee for governor John Carney unveiled an economic development plan Friday that includes streamlining regulations, repurposing old industrial facilities and placing more focus on Delaware’s agricultural sector.

The state’s current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he said the state has to be “quicker and smarter” to find success in a changing economic climate.

A key part of his strategy is developing more “new ‘old’ jobs” — middle-class opportunities in manufacturing and related fields, which have declined in recent decades.

Working with private companies to redevelop sites such as the former Claymont steel mill and Wilmington General Motors factory could not only turn them into job centers once more but also clean up pollutants, Rep. Carney said.

As a result of the proposal, the state’s Coastal Zone Act, which places some restrictions on industrial development, could see changes.

vote-logo-2016The congressman supports eliminating some state government regulations, a process begun this year by Gov. Jack Markell and the General Assembly. Rep. Carney’s proposal includes the creation of a special council consisting of personnel from several state government agencies, to “fast track” permitting for companies under select circumstances.

“If we get a group together like that that you can identify issues more expeditiously and, as I said, not cut corners but get through the process on a quicker, smarter trajectory,” he said.

Rep. Carney cited as Delaware’s main historical strength its well-educated workforce, partly a result of the DuPont Company’s presence. He said he views career-preparation programs and higher-education courses, especially in science and technology fields, as crucial to continue building its working population.

The state has an above-average unemployment rate, but its economy is shifting away from manufacturing and chemicals, areas that have dominated for decades.

Officials have repeatedly stated Delawareans are competing in a worldwide market and creative thinking will be needed to allow the state to thrive.

“People always say to me, what’s the next big thing for the economy in Delaware and to me that’s the wrong thing. It’s what are the next 50 things?” Rep. Carney said.

The plan was first publicly detailed Friday at a New Castle County Chamber of Commerce meeting and, fitting with the affinity many policymakers hold for the group and ones like it, includes strengthening ties between state government, businesses and organizations like the chambers.

While Republican lawmakers, including GOP gubernatorial nominee Sen. Colin Bonini, have pushed for right-to-work laws, Rep. Carney said he does not support such policies. (Right-to-work laws prevent unions from forcing new hires to join the local union and pay dues to the labor organiztion.)

“I’ve never heard any employers mention that as one of the key factors that they’re looking for,” he said. “What we hear they’re looking for is quality of the workforce. They’re looking at tax and regulatory environment, how quickly they get their facility up and running, they want to know they have access to markets.”

Rep. Carney said he aims to fully fund the state’s farmland preservation program at $10 million, an amount recommended by the General Assembly but only met twice over the past eight years.

While officials have warned of significant budget problems next year, Rep. Carney said he would try to set aside $10 million if he is elected.

“Fully funding that farmland preservation and doing other thing to protect family farmers in our state should always be a priority,” he said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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