Chamber Connections, July 2020
Bringing Business to Kent County – even in a Pandemic
For the last three months, it may have appeared that there was nothing happening in the Kent County Levy Court Complex. There were no cars in the parking lot. The windows remained dark. And the building was locked up tight – in the face of the pandemic. One may surmise that absolutely nothing was going on. But nothing could be further from the truth!
Under the surface, our Kent County workers were doing their very best to ensure the well-being of the county’s residents, our Kent County Com- missioners continued to be engaged via zoom and telephone, and Linda Parkowski, Executive Director of the Kent Economic Partnership, was working as diligently as ever to entice companies who are looking for a home to Choose Delaware! Contacts were being made, the beneﬁts of do- ing business in Kent County were being pitched, and deals were being sealed. Economic development did not come to a screeching halt just because COVID-19 came to visit.
In 2018, the Rockport study, the results of which guide and direct Linda’s work, suggested that Kent County would be an ideal location for small and medium sized manufacturers. Making business owners aware of what Kent County has to offer is key. Our region has an amazing story to tell, but someone must tell it, someone needs to be the spokesperson. Linda has spent a lot of time creating contacts and “pitching” Central Delaware to small manufacturers who are look for the ideal location for their businesses – and her hard work is paying off!
Currently, Linda has a list a 15 potential projects for Kent County. These projects all involve manufacturers of various goods from health care equipment to plastics to textiles and more, and they are at various degrees of development in terms of making the deals. Four of the projects are in their infancy, what Linda likes to call early and middle stages, the rest have progressed to more se- rious degrees of development. Four of the projects are relocation projects and four are projects needing some assistance with things like permitting, drawing workforce, and the like. All the projects mean new jobs for our area, new streams of revenue, and growth in our economy.
One such project that is current- ly drawing a lot of attention has to do with the Dover Post building on South Little Creek Road. With the decision of the folks at the Dover Post to downsize their needed space, a portion of that building became available. In May, the 24,000-square- foot warehouse was purchased by Steven Manlove, CEO and president of two small manufacturing companies, for $1.4 million.
Textile Manufacturer, Avalon Industries, Inc., and plastic container maker, International Container Corporation, will be housed in 18,000-square-feet of the building, while the Dover Post will be able to lease the remaining 6,000-square- feet. Since the printing of the Dover Post was moved off site to the News Journal’s printing plant, downsizing to 6,000-square-feet will provide ample room for the paper’s 18-person staff.
Avalon Industries, Inc., currently based in Baltimore, produces straps, bags, covers, and more. International Containers creates disposable containers currently used in laboratories. These companies promise to bring 40 new positions to Central Delaware.
Linda also maintains a short list– emphasis on “short” – of lost projects. Occasionally, after some negotiation, company leaders may choose not to come to Central Delaware. Sometimes this decision has to do with something on their end, some- times it has to do with something that is lacking here. A common reason has to do with the 1 ½ hour commute to the nearest airports. With the environmental assessment now complete at the Kent County Aero Park, and the signing of the joint use agreement for the air cargo ramp imminent, perhaps that will add to the arsenal of the amazing beneﬁts of doing business in Central Delaware.
While pitching and negotiating projects, Linda is also working hard to set the best direction for Kent County post COVID-19. With more and more companies setting up workers to work remotely, the pitch
may need to change. Central Delaware offers a beautiful, tranquil rural setting creating an ideal environment to work from home. A broad- band committee has already been initiated to ensure that bandwidth is adequate to support workers who are setting up ofﬁces in their homes, sometimes in remote corners of the county. Collaboration is key and Linda is constantly working to involve as many people as possible.
Linda is looking forward to Rock- port 2.0, an extension of the 2018 study, which will drill down further on its ﬁndings. The ﬁrst study emphasized small and medium manufacturers as potential targets, while this study will be able to zero in on certain speciﬁc industries. In addition, the study will match industries with the talent that is currently available in the County’s workforce.
There is great potential in Kent County and there are many reasons for companies to continue to choose Delaware as their desired place of business. Competitive land prices, low tax structure, close proximity to major cities, rail access, a government where citizens are heard, and beautiful landscape work together to make Central Delaware an amazing choice for businesses. And how about this: 15 potential projects, two new manufacturers coming to town to relocate in an existing building, an air cargo ramp closer than ever to being up and running, and plans for a post COVID-19 economy… all things that even a pandemic couldn’t stop! Who wouldn’t want to do business here?!