Commentary: Positive economic development news in Sussex

By Joe Conaway

The pandemic has definitely put a hurting on the economy of Sussex County, but through it all, there are people out there working extremely hard to protect those businesses that are already here and to seek new businesses that are looking to relocate.

Joe Conaway

I asked a number of Sussex Economic Development Action Committee (SEDAC) members who work in economic development to report on their activities in these trying times. You can find their full reports at sedac.de.org, but here are some highlights.

As we all know, tourism is a major part of economic development in Sussex County, as is agriculture. The first two reports are from that area.

Scott Thomas of Southern Delaware Tourism offers a great guide as to how economic development can work in Sussex. His report highlights projects that are being developed along our waterways, including Grove Park Dock in Rehoboth Beach, Baywalk in Dewey Beach and Milford’s vision of an extended Riverwalk.

Ray Sanders of the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek shares information on this hidden gem just outside of Dagsboro. This attraction offers residents and visitors alike a great opportunity to experience and learn about the unique flora of the coastal plain and to discover ornamental horticulture that thrives here.

Linda Price, secretary of SEDAC and president of the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, provides a review of what’s going on in the Georgetown area. From the development of the new apartment complex, The Oaks at Georgetown, to the opening of the SUN Behavioral Delaware hospital and the Veterans Affairs hospital extension, things are happening in and around Georgetown. The reopening of The Counting House Restaurant & Pub on The Circle and its many new events have made Georgetown the place to be.

Ed Lewandowski of the University of Delaware worked with the town of Laurel and the Laurel Redevelopment Corp. to develop a comprehensive waterfront redevelopment plan for Laurel. It is known as The Ramble and provides some insight as to how a community can reconnect to its water resources. With the assistance of the university’s Sea Grant Sustainable Coastal Community Initiative, The Ramble is an opportunity to develop a land-use/growth scenario that would bring people and jobs back to downtown Laurel. Seaford, Laurel and Georgetown are also working with the state through its Downtown Development District grant program.

Trish Newcomer, economic development director for the city of Seaford, reports on exciting developments there. From the luxury apartment complex known as The Residences at Riverplace to the brand-new car dealership on U.S. 13, Lakeshore CDJR Seaford, things are popping in Seaford. Oyster House Park will be constructed, giving a nod to the significance of the oystering industry in western Sussex in the early 1900s. The creation of the new Western Sussex Unified Sewer District, through the efforts of Sussex County, Bridgeville, Greenwood and Seaford, will provide additional opportunities for all of northwest Sussex County.

Jamie Burk, assistant town manager of Millsboro, provides an update on happenings there. He proudly points to the new Avid Hotel and Grotto Pizza, both under construction there. Anticipating new growth and with an eye to having infrastructure in place when business comes knocking, the town is completing the design of a second water-treatment plant and is beginning the design for expanding the capacity of its existing treatment plant. Mayor and council are to be commended for their foresight.

Bill Pfaff of Sussex County Economic Development provides a detailed report on the economic development activities of county government. The county maintains a number of grant and loan programs designed to assist both current and new businesses to expand and move to Sussex County. The Delaware Coastal Business Park at the county’s airport has been a focus for the county and has added two new businesses to its existing client base. When COVID-19 hit, the county began an advertising campaign to assist existing businesses through this pandemic. The county provided $65,000 to create this program.

Finally, Lauren Swain, Sussex County manager for the Delaware Division of Small Business, has provided a list of a number of financial assistance programs that are available through her division, including the Hospitality Emergency Loan Program. All these programs are designed to provide help for small businesses to assist them through the pandemic.

These are not the only SEDAC members involved in creating jobs, attracting new businesses and retaining and supporting existing businesses. SEDAC will continue to encourage the retention, expansion and attraction of business and industry to Sussex County.

Joe Conaway is chairman of the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee. For more information go to sedac.de.org.