Perdue drops plan to move AgriBusiness headquarters to Delaware

DELMAR — Local, county and First State hopes that Perdue Farms would cross the border and relocate its global AgriBusiness base from Maryland to southern Delaware have hit a disappointing decision.

Perdue this week announced that a proposed move to Delmar, Delaware is no longer in the works.

“After much thought and deliberation, Perdue Farms has made the business decision to not relocate its Perdue AgriBusiness headquarters from Salisbury, Md., to property in Delmar, Delaware as previously planned,” said Perdue spokesperson Bill See. “We are constantly reviewing our business and real estate holdings across our company and determined that moving forward was not in our best interest to ensure we operate our business as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

“It is extremely disappointing,” said Rep. Tim Dukes, whose 40th District encompasses Delmar. “But I guess the goal now is we move on past Perdue and we look for another business who would like to relocate to Delmar.”

“Certainly, for the town, the mayor (Michael Houlihan) and myself, it was disappointing to hear the news,” said Delmar Town Manager Sara Bynum King. “But at this point we know a decision has been made. We were always under the understanding that until we were told something different, we were to believe they were going to proceed forward in the manner in which they described.”

“We’re disappointed in Perdue’s decision not to come to Delaware,” said Sussex County Economic Director Bill Pfaff. “But from an economic development standpoint, we’re going to continue to use all the tools that we have to attract businesses to come to Delaware.”

Mr. See said Perdue recognizes this is “disappointing news for the town of Delmar, Sussex County and the state of Delaware, and we are grateful for their support and patience since first announcing our plans to relocate to Delaware in 2010. We appreciate the commitment of both the town of Delmar and Sussex County for infrastructure improvements ahead of our planned move.”

“Everybody has been anticipating and wondering. At least now we are clear about the direction of Perdue and that is not a question that we will have to answer,” Ms. Bynum King said. “We’ll just work harder on marketing our economic development along (US) 13.”

With talk of a possible move to Delaware in the works since 2010, Perdue Farms announced in the fall 2015 it had closed on a property purchase along US 13 in Delmar.

Perdue’s proposed relocation would have brought upward of 200 corporate jobs from Salisbury to southeastern Sussex County.

Perdue’s decision comes as an economic jolt to Sussex County, the town of Delmar as well as the state of Delaware, which all pledged funding for new infrastructure.

In July 2018, Sussex County Council approved a one-time grant of $125,000 to the town of Delmar — the county’s support toward infrastructure improvements needed ahead of the planned Perdue AgriBusiness relocation from Salisbury.

The county’s $125,000 pledge coupled with $125,000 from town of Delmar and a $205,000 pledge from the state of Delaware was collectively earmarked for sewer/water upgrades to a multi-acre site along Old Stage Road.

Those upgrades would serve seven parcels — one of which was earmarked for Perdue — along Sussex Highway, hiking hopes for additional commercial development.

“Delmar welcomes new businesses that want to move there,” said Rep. Dukes. “It (Perdue) would been the anchor right there with 200-plus jobs.”

Rep. Dukes addressed speculation that Sussex County might consider taking back its funding.

“That remains to be seen. There is some concern about the county wanting money back,” said Rep. Dukes. “But to me I think it is a great investment for infrastructure to have water and sewer running north on US 13 in Delmar. It’s hard for me to believe that we are even having a conversation that there are areas on US 13 that do not have proper infrastructure to bring a business.

“I think it is a worthwhile investment for everyone to leave their money there and let’s get the work done. Let’s get it ready. Hopefully all the money will stay, and we will be able to do the project with or without Perdue,” Rep. Dukes said. “That’s the best we can do for now.”

“I did receive an email prior to being notified by Perdue that they (the county) were not going to be relocating, that the county was asking for a recall on the funds,” said Ms. Bynum King. “I know that the county has been pretty insistent that their contribution toward the infrastructure project was surrounding Perdue coming and bringing 200 new jobs to Sussex County.

“Of course, it has always been the town’s position that initially when we addressed the county a while back, we were looking at assisting the utilities to serve Perdue,” Ms. Bynum King said. “But then when we stepped back and we came back to the county the second time we thought in looking at the bigger picture we were really looking at the highway regional zoning district, which includes several parcels to the north of the Perdue parcel to be served.”

Mr. Pfaff noted the county funding was designated by the county council. “It’s up to the council to decide what they are going to do with those funds,” he said.

A recall of county funding would obviously impact the project.

“If they do, then the town, of course, will have to reevaluate our plans in extending the water and sewer to service the highway regional district because we’ve already started the process. We have made an award on that project,” said Ms. Bynum King. “At this point we are pretty much at a standstill because without the county funds we will not be able to complete that infrastructure as it is currently designed. We have to re-evaluate on our own to figure out how we are going serve that highway regional district.”

Mr. See added that Perdue “will be donating the land valued at $279,900 back to the town of Delmar so they can redevelop it.”

“Perdue has a long history in the First State, and we remain committed to the communities in which we operate and where our associates live and work,” said Mr. See.

Perdue employs more than 2,900 associates in Delaware, including two Delaware harvest plants in Milford and Georgetown, and contracts with more than 270 poultry farm families and more than 435 farmers from whom we purchase grains, Mr. See said.

“We’ve also invested more than $80 million in nutrient recycling at our Perdue AgriRecycle facility near Seaford,” said Mr. See.

Perdue’s total economic impact in Delaware exceeds $693 million, Mr. See said.

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