As the owner of two small businesses in the 36th District, two-term Mayor for the City of Milford and a member of several non-profit Boards, I have had a unique look inside the local economy. What I have learned from each of these positions is that a healthy economy and job growth come from a spirit of togetherness and a partnership between business, government and the community.
Running our small businesses on a daily basis for the last ten years has taught us a real world, practical understanding of what it takes to create jobs in our local economy and how to meet the pressures and challenges that small business owners face. As an employer, I take the commitment to our employees, customers and our community very seriously. I know that if we are to meet these commitments, we must make smart decisions to grow our business in a responsible way.
As your State Representative, I have used my experience to focus on creating opportunities for small businesses to open their doors, grow and employ local families in our economy. While I welcome the large, national corporations that we have here in the 36th district and appreciate the jobs they provide, my focus has always been the small, locally-owned businesses and innovative entrepreneurs that make our area unique. We need to ensure that those businesses have as clear a runway as possible, so that they can take off and fly.
After Iron Hill Brewery announced that it’s relocating its latest location out of state due to a Delaware law limiting how many a company operate, I took steps to remove the restrictions and fight for free market principles. Primary sponsor of House Bill 158, I created legislation that allows brew-pubs to brew, bottle, and sell beer at other brew-pubs by removing the current restriction limiting such actions to no more than 3 licensed brew-pubs in the state.
As the Mayor of Milford, our team created the Rivertown Rebirth Plan that led to Milford’s designation as a Downtown Development District through the State of Delaware. The DDD program is designed to spur private investment in commercial business districts, stimulate job growth, improve the commercial vitality of our cities and help build stable communities in our downtowns. Rebates of up to 20 percent are available to qualified investors with qualified real property investments associated with commercial, industrial, residential or mixed-use buildings/facilities located within a designated downtown District. In Milford, 62 projects have driven $21,184,054 in private investments through the DDD program for both commercial and residential properties. The State of Delaware has committed to paying $2,477,270 through State grants and the City of Milford has committed to not collect $240,679 in impact fee and permit fee waivers as incentives for qualified projects. Notable projects that have taken advantage of the DDD program in Milford include the rehabilitation of the former Lou’s Bootery building on Front Street, expansion of the Music School of Delaware on Walnut Street and the creation of the Bank House Bed & Breakfast on North Walnut Street.
EXPANDING EDUCATION & VOCATIONAL TRAINING
My second Bill during the 150th General Assembly, HB 58, has increased the number of nursing students eligible for the Nursing Incentive Program by expanding its scope to include Delawareans pursuing careers at non-profit hospitals within the state. The proposal utilizes existing funds and was signed into law by Governor Carney in 2019.
Supporting State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn on SB 65, I pushed to increase the availability of vocational training through the creation of the Focus on Alternative Skills Training (FAST) program. Similar to SEED, which provides tuition-free college opportunities, FAST would provide tuition assistance of up to $9,000 to recent Delaware high school graduates who enroll in approved non-degree certificate programs. The measure is pending action in the Senate Labor Committee.
As the Mayor of Milford, I helped expand our workforce and create jobs by engaging our current employers, highlighted by partnering with Bayhealth Medical Center on their $350 million private investment in the Bayhealth Sussex Campus. Nemours Pediatric and Senior Care has committed to bringing neurologists, endocrinologists, speech and physical therapists to our area. In addition, the environment created by Bayhealth and the City of Milford encouraged Nationwide Health Services to invest more than $20 million — and a proposal of 300 good-paying, full-time jobs — into the current Milford Memorial Hospital site as they build an innovative, multi-use, healthcare-focused community.
House Bill 257, a bipartisan effort led by Rep. Benz and me, aims to help pay off student loan debt for new primary care physicians who practice in the state of Delaware. Over the course of the past few years, it has become increasingly more difficult for the average person to seek primary care in the state of Delaware. From longer wait periods for patients seeking an appointment, to a disproportionate amount of primary care doctors stretched across the state, the state has seen a six-percent decrease in primary care providers. The private insurance companies located in the state would put in $1 million to the loan repayment program and the network of hospitals across the state would match dollar for dollar to help fund the effort as part of the bill.
These things do not happen by chance. They happen as a result of a partnership between government, existing businesses and the community, which says to employers, “We want you here, we’re proud of our area, and we want to see you succeed.” As your State Representative I will continue this spirit of partnership to the state level, to help build and maintain that same spirit. Together, through these efforts, we can create an environment that allows families to determine their own future with quality jobs and a fertile ground for entrepreneurs.
A SENSE OF PLACE
Over the past ten years I have committed my time to several nonprofits, including the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford and Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI). I have seen first-hand the many benefits that local businesses organizations can have on our local economies. In addition to financial stability through economic development efforts, these organizations have created a vibrant sense of place where families feel a part of something much bigger than themselves. Annual events like the Bug & Bud Festival, Riverwalk Freedom Festival and the Running the Goat 5K highlight the uniqueness of our community, while raising money that is put back into our local economy through business incubators, pop-up retail initiatives and Downtown Development District (DDD) grant programs.
Residents of the 36th District want a State Representative that understands our local economy and has experience with meeting these challenges through partnerships. I will always strive to build and maintain that spirit of partnership, welcoming and encouraging employers. I commit to doing everything in my power to clear the runway so they can fly and create good, stable jobs for our families. And I will always encourage a sense of place for our communities, so that future generations can enjoy calling the 36th District home, too.