By Gary Budzak
Information on economic development for the city and county was discussed at the most recent Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“Things were going fast and furious until the economic downturn,” Chamber President Holly Quaine said at the beginning of the talk, held at the Council for Older Adults. “Now the pendulum’s swinging the other way.”
City of Delaware Economic Development Director Sean Hughes said that while there has been a 32 percent increase in the local labor force since 2000, 80 percent of the people who work in the city don’t live in Delaware.
“We want people to have every opportunity to not only live here, but to work here,” Hughes said. “For sustainability, we want to see those tail lights turn around.”
Delaware County Economic Development Coordinator Jenna Jackson said, “We are working on a strategic plan for the county.” The plan includes a look at demographics (the average age is 37), economic drivers (a 6 percent annual growth rate over the past decade), and the workforce (60 percent of which is educated) for the county.
“We have a regional plan in mind as well,” Jackson said.
Hughes said the city is trying to not only attract businesses, but to retain and expand them (about 65 percent of what he does); as well as managing projects and resources, preparing sites and infrastructure, and offering economic “gardening” (growing companies in the community from the ground up) and incentives (like incubators) to businesses.
The city is focusing on boutique manufacturers (custom production in limited quantities) as opposed to traditional manufacturers, Hughes said.
Delaware only has 250 acres available to develop, but the county commissioner’s approval of the Sawmill Parkway extension “gives us access to 1,600 acres,” Hughes said. “Call it phase two of our industrial park.”
“We have 264 available properties in the county,” Jackson said. She said that people often look for a site in the county before the Economic Development team knows about it. “Sometimes they talk to you, sometimes they don’t.”
“We’re almost like real estate people,” Hughes added.
Both Jackson and Hughes said there will be new separate standalone websites for the city and county, to be launched in October.
In addition, Delaware will soon add an economic development specialist to assist Hughes. Delaware City Council recently approved adding the position after consulting with Hughes.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.