DelDOT makes billion dollar commitment to Sussex’s future

GEORGETOWN — With a theme of “Celebrate the Past/Envision the Future,” Sussex County’s annual Today & Tomorrow Conference provided a look at the state’s committement to spending on transportation projects.

Dressed as Star Wars’ Princess Leia in the spirit of Halloween, Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan avoided the dark side and offered a lightsaber look into the future of transportation as keynote speaker for the Oct. 31 conference held at Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens Campus.

Secretary Cohan, whose costumed entrance drew rousing applause, addressed generational trends in transportation, innovation in delivery of goods, technology’s high-tech role and DelDOT’s billion-dollar commitment to Sussex County.

“We are going to spend a billion dollars in Sussex County over the next six years,” she said. “It is coming. I encourage you all to look at projects. We are doing more in Sussex County than we have ever done in Sussex County. It is way long overdue.”

DelDOT’s plans include more than new construction and upgrades. There’s innovation and change which in Delaware are greatly impacted by population demographics: millennials, seniors and persons with disabilities.

“It’s not the Evil Empire, but population,” Secretary Cohan said.

Millennials, persons who reach adulthood early in the 21st century, are “shaping the way we deliver transportation in this country. They are largest generation we have ever seen. There are 80 million of you little boogers out there. Millennials, they are one of the driving forces.”

The high-tech world of the internet, apps and utilization of bus service and public transportation are factors in DelDOT’s crystal ball. SecretaryCohan said the belief that many senior-age citizens are not technologically savvy “is incorrect.”

That goes for persons with disabilities, Secretary Cohan said. “They are changing the way we deliver transportation in Delaware,” she said. “They want to go to the mall …”

“We are on the verge of the biggest, fastest acceleration in transportation we have seen in this country since the creation of the automobile. You guys agree with me there?” said Secretary Cohan. “So, what we need here in my opinion is a transportation of the future that is going to require a governmental leap of faith. What do I mean by governmental leap of faith? What I mean is a field of dreams; build it and they will come.”

Secretary Cohan recognized Sussex County officials for their partnership in dealing with transportation challenges.

“I really want to give a huge shout out to Sussex County Council and (County Administrator) Todd Lawson for their comprehensive land-use plan. You guys have put in a ton of effort into that,” said Sec. Cohan, adding that she and DelDOT are “looking forward to going into the future together” with the county.

“There is a lot more innovation coming out of our department. It is going to be extremely challenging,” said Secretary Cohan. “We need your patience. We have an epic investment. You have our commitment that we are going to be delivering it. All you’ve got to do is look around. The force is strong in Sussex County. So, help me Sussex County, partnering is our only hope.”

1 million cups

In the conference’s 1 Million Cups spotlight were entrepreneurs Rick Ewing, founder of the award-winning EagleWingz Hot Sauce, and Susan Ryan, whose Good Earth Market, farm and restaurant in Clarksville has expanded to two locations generating over $1.7million in annual sales.

The Eaglewingz Brand Sauces Private Label Program is now found on tabletops and in kitchens in nearly four dozen top restaurants on Delmarva and in Baltimore and Lancaster. Created about three decades ago as Chesapeake Brand Hot Sauce for family and friends, Eaglewingz sauces have claimed numerous awards, including Best of Delaware in 2010, third in the world for the World Hot Sauce Awards in Louisiana in 2014, and top honors for Pineapple Teriyaki at the New York City Hot Sauce Expo in 2017.

One of Mr. Ewing’s children, daughter Cassie, a 2018 Delaware Tech graduate and Wilmington University student, recently joined her father in the family sauce business.

Ms. Ryan started the Good Earth Market while owning a home construction company. Her farm was the second USDA certified organic farm in the state of Delaware.

She says seeds for her business’ organic growth were planted when Dr. Oz came on the scene. “He debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He was the health expert. That was great for our business,” Ms. Ryan said.

In 2012, Good Earth Market & Organic Farm was named the Business of the Year by The Center for the Inland Bays.

An established local pioneer in organic/healthy foods, Ms. Ryan said the business took a new route when she attended a conference in 2012.

“They encouraged us to bring people onto to our farm, bring people on for an experience. I really feel that that is the future of our business,” said Ms. Ryan.

That led to a café and ultimately a restaurant. “It’s great to be a pioneer,” said Ms. Ryan. “We feel like we can still be competitive because we can move quicker. We still can be first to market.

“I love Sussex county. The area where we are has grown tremendously. I am thrilled to part of it. We’re ‘mom and pop’ and we offer a unique experience.”

Ms. Ryan remains committed to the U.S. national organic program and is an advocate of all things natural.

Ms. Ryan is an active member of the Delaware Agri-tourism Association and very active in her community. Good Earth Market has hosted numerous fundraisers throughout the years raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for community projects.

Panelists for the Celebrate the Past/Envision the Future discussion were James Baxter IV, farm manager of Baxter Farms Inc.; Delaware Department of Education Sec. Dr. Susan Bunting; and Dwayne Kilgo, Director of Information Technology for Sussex County government.


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