‘Prosperity’ group touts first year as $105 million success

DOVER — At a public update on Wednesday, Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) staff used a case study of a business they attracted to the state as evidence the new economic development panel is having its intended effect.

Called Just Food For Dogs, the business will be relocating to Delaware in the spring and making a $3 million capital investment in a commercial kitchen.

Becky Harrington, DPP director of business development, said the dog food manufacturer plans to hire up to 50 employees in its first three years, maintain an annual payroll of at least $2.24 million and have a demand for technical and skilled workers — both food preparers and chefs.

“They’re a premium dog food company out of California that’s growing fast,” said Ms. Harrington. “The lead came to us from a community advocate who’d been talking to the company’s CEO. He mentioned that he was looking into New Jersey for a production and distribution facility for a new contract with Petco, so she asked him: ‘Have you thought about Delaware?’ and he said no.”

The DPP was able to slow the business owner’s planning just long enough to have him consider relocating in the state, said Ms. Harrington.

“He quickly changed his mind after looking at the business case for Delaware,” she said. “It wasn’t difficult for us to show that we were stiff competition for the New Jersey site. “

Ms. Harrington says the DPP has 54 similar projects in the works.

Established in 2017, DPP was Gov. John Carney’s replacement for the Delaware Economic Development Office. Designed as a public-private partnership, the DPP is intended to attract companies to the state and help create jobs.

The status update on the DPP’s progress played to a full room at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus on Wednesday night. Stakeholders including DPP president Kurt Foreman, Rep. Bill Bush and Rep. Lyndon Yearick turned out to trumpet the panel’s goals and accomplishments.

“The DPP really is a private sector-driven entity,” said Gov. Carney — himself the DPP board co-chairman. “There are five public sector members and four members of the General Assembly. It has exceeded my expectations. There’s great value in having a public-private partnership.

“In our tradition, as a small state working together, I thought a government and private sector partnership was a perfect way to take advantage of that strength at a time when competition is as intense as it’s ever been.”

Notable among the DPP’s achievements in 2018, says Ms. Harrington, included participating in 10 business announcements (two new to the state and the remainder expansion projects) which they believe will add a $105 million dollar investment in the state’s economy over the next three years. These businesses also created 700 new jobs and retained 1,100, says Ms. Harrington.

According to Mr. Foreman, the DPP took in $2 million in state funding and $1.3 million in private sector funding in 2018. Personnel costs gobbled up 48 percent of that fund, followed by 36 percent spent toward programs.

The DPP says it’s managed to attract 39 private sector partners that help provide the funding.

“Anyone who wants to look at Delaware will get our assistance,” he said. “Whether it’s from our team or from our partners up and down the state, we want to make sure that we’re using our resources wisely and focusing on things where we have real strengths and advantages.”

Sectors the DPP is focusing on attracting, Mr. Foreman says, are in the fields of science and technology, food and agriculture, healthcare and education and business and financial services. As important as providing resources to prospective businesses, the panel said, is making the state a hospitable place to do business.

Going forward, the DPP says a continued focus on developing the state’s workforce and reducing the regulatory barriers to entry will be crucial.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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