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Delaware must build on the spirit that kept DuPont home

The announcement that DuPont will be establishing the headquarters for its agriculture company in Wilmington is great news for DuPont, its workers, and all Delaware families whose livelihoods depend on a strong and thriving private sector.

But the work for Delaware’s future is far from done. The competition we face from other states and overseas is fierce, and state leaders must build on the vision, flexibility and spirit of cooperation that ensured the DuPont unit wouldn’t leave for competing states.

The News Journal succinctly laid out the daunting challenge Delaware faced in retaining a DuPont presence in its ancestral home:

"After two centuries of shared history between DuPont and Delaware, local officials had just 10 weeks to pull together a deal that would secure the company's future in the state it helped to build.

That meant putting together an incentive deal with enough tax breaks, subsidies and capital improvement assistance to keep thousands of jobs in New Castle County.

It also required working together to present an unrelenting sales pitch that would beat out much larger states Iowa and Indiana, a feat many analysts and other outsiders considered unlikely, if not downright impossible."

As Gov. Jack Markell noted, “It certainly wasn’t out of the question that we could lose all of it.” In the end, however, Delaware overcame the odds to keep a portion of DuPont at home through hard work, bipartisanship and a nimbleness that isn’t often seen in today’s fractured political and economic climate. Gov. Markell, the leaders of the General Assembly and the entire congressional delegation are to be commended for working together to keep DuPont in Delaware.

How did they do it?

Both political parties worked together. State and federal leaders engaged in a productive dialogue with DuPont and other business leaders about what was needed. Members of the General Assembly acted quickly and decisively by passing the Delaware Competes Act, signaling their interest in making Delaware more business friendly. Taken together, it created a winning package that reinforced Delaware’s long-standing reputation as a business friendly state – particularly since a number of states were competing to have these businesses located within their borders.

We believe some of the factors contributing to this decision were the state’s attractive business climate, the skilled and highly educated workforce and the close and constructive working relationship between government, business, and higher education in our state. In terms of future job growth, DuPont’s recent announcement that the company is creating a process to evaluate requests by former employees to gain access to DuPont patent property is another sign of how maintaining DuPont – and other major employers – in Delaware will foster the establishment of new entrepreneurial businesses and help create additional economic growth.

Looking forward to opportunities that lie ahead, we believe that the same collaborative approach that yielded success with DuPont can become a useful model on such important issues as improving sustainability of state revenues, carefully controlling state spending and creating an even more robust economic development effort to help Delaware businesses grow and create additional jobs attracting new businesses to our state.

The business community in Delaware is committed to working with state leaders to build on the solid foundation of existing and prior work that supports economic development in Delaware, including the work of the Delaware Economic Development Office.

We will provide resources and give voice to issues that need discussion while working collaboratively with state officials. The Roundtable took this approach with its recent study of state finances, and both the Roundtable and Chamber participated in the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee. Importantly, the Roundtable and Chamber also are working together to develop a growth agenda for Delaware so that Delawareans can benefit from increased availability of jobs and economic prosperity.

Once again, Delaware has shown that it is willing to do what it takes to create a more business-friendly environment – much to the credit of the Governor, the General Assembly and the congressional delegation. This is a message that is not lost on industry leaders both inside and outside the state when they are deciding where to invest, build and grow their businesses.

Now is the time for the public and private sectors to continue to build on this success to transition Delaware to an economy focused on growth, innovation, collaboration and flexibility to the benefit of our workers and taxpayers for generations to come.

Mark Turner is the chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable. Chip Rossi is the chair of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

This op-ed was originally published in the News Journal.

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