FOSTERING A STRONGER, HEALTHIER ECONOMY

A PRO-GROWTH, PRO-WORKER ECONOMIC AGENDA

INTRODUCTION

BETHANY HALL-LONG’S CAREER has left her with a perspective on economic development informed not only by her job as the General Assembly’s most productive legislator, but also by her position as a professor and an educator. She understands that economic development isn’t just a series of investments and business decisions, but a complex, interconnected web of resources, people, and policies ranging from grant and loan programs to strong schools and good infrastructure.

DELAWARE’S ECONOMY IS CHANGING before our eyes. Chrysler and GM are gone. Even DuPont, a company with more than 200 years of local history, downsized its workforce at the end of last year. Although we’ve enjoyed success in other sectors, the lessons of the past 20 years could not be clearer: we cannot rely on a handful of major employers to carry our economy. Rather, we have to create a business climate that encourages broad-based, cross-sector growth.

LUCKILY, WE HAVE A HEAD START. Wilmington’s innovation corridor features coworking spaces like the coIN Loft, The Mill, and 1313 Innovation. The state has taken the initiative to establish itself as a hub for blockchain technology, which is already cementing itself as the future of currency and commerce. And our colleges and universities have stepped up not only as world-class educational institutions, but as research centers and economic engines that may well prove to be our greatest asset in the years to come.

THE FOLLOWING ECONOMIC PLAN recognizes that our economic future is one steeped in innovation and loose networks of entrepreneurs, and supports policy priorities that advance that vision. Just as importantly, it dispels with the myth that education and economics are two separate topics. Education is not just the key to a skilled, knowledgeable workforce but—as we increasingly see in the examples shown by the University of Delaware and Delaware State University—an economic powerhouse in its own right.

IT’S JUST ONE EXAMPLE of how Bethany’s experience has prepared her to be effective in the lieutenant governor’s office—and how she’ll fight for a stronger, healthier Delaware.

ADVANCING EQUALITY IN THE WORKFORCE

CREATING A WORKFORCE ENVIRONMENT rooted fundamentally in values of fairness and equality are critical to Delaware’s growth and the development of its workforce. In recent years, Delaware has taken important steps toward equality:

Bethany proudly supported all of those efforts—but she knows we have further to go.

OUR ECONOMY GROWS WHEN WORKERS—and particularly women—earn a fair, equal wage. Unfortunately, women who work full time year-round were paid 79 percent of what median male earners made, according to the American Association of University Women. Delaware’s 81 percent earning ratio ranks just 19th in the country. We need to do better—and we can.

WE HAVE TO RECOMMIT to the promise of equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The lieutenant governor is in an ideal position to work with legislators and the next administration to introduce legislation encouraging wage transparency and equal wages based on employees’ work and qualifications, not the circumstances of their birth or the details of their private lives.

FURTHER, Delaware needs to pass paid maternal and paternal family leave—not just for the benefit to parents and the workforce, but also for our kids. Legislation like House Bill 165, sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, allows for greater flexibility and support at home while bolstering employee morale and reducing turnover.

FOSTERING—AND SUPPORTING—INNOVATION

WITH OVER 100,000 SMALL BUSINESSES providing local goods and services statewide, entrepreneurs and start-ups are an indispensible part of Delaware’s economy. Local growth in the technology, science, and health sectors has created a framework for the expansion of a 21st century workforce, if we seize the opportunity.

BETHANY’S TIME AS A LEGISLATOR and a professor have shown her firsthand the tremendous work that private and public entities have accomplished through collaboration. The Delaware Technology Park is just one example of these public-private partnerships. It success has led to the creation of more than 16,000 local jobs in high-demand fields, and its model of collaboration between private innovators, public support, and university research and innovation have helped lay a foundation to attract new and prospective employers to Delaware.

EVEN WITH EXAMPLES LIKE DTP IN MIND, Delaware has to expand opportunities for small businesses and start-ups to enter, sustain, and expand in Delaware—including through financial support. In addition to technical training and assistance programs, we must continue funding programs like the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO)’s Start It Up Delaware initiative, which offers $250,000 in grants for start-ups to grow and develop. These programs are vital to attracting, retaining, and expanding businesses right here in Delaware—particularly in critical fields like science, technology, and health.

THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S FLEXIBILITY and position between the legislature and governor can be used to help cultivate stronger partnerships between government resources, small businesses, and programs supported by Delaware's Small Business Chamber and others. The Emerging Enterprise Center, the coIN Loft, 1313 Innovation, The Mill, Hatch House, and the University of Delaware’s Horn Program are just a few examples of resources and programs that have helped develop successful start-ups and small businesses here at home. Delaware needs to encourage their establishment and growth with affordable coworking and makerspaces, robust capital networks, and strong neighborhoods that appeal to young professionals and families alike.

EXPANDING OUR HOMEGROWN WORKFORCE PIPELINE

OF COURSE, ALL OF THIS STARTS at home. Training a world-class workforce with a mixture of skills and qualifications means starting earlier—much earlier. At this moment, the next generation of workers and innovators are currently in classrooms—many of them public—which is why we need to teach technical and vocational skills throughout the secondary and post-secondary education systems. The data show that individuals who develop these skills have higher earning potential than their peers who only have a diploma. We need to use this knowledge to capitalize on a huge opportunity.

THAT BEGINS WITH DEVELOPING AND SCALING meaningful, regionally in-demand work-based programs throughout our educational system. These certified programs equip students with valuable skills, higher earning potential, and better job placement rates. More specifically, individuals who obtain a post-secondary certification, apprenticeship, or associate degree have a median starting salary of $47,000, compared to $30,000 with a high school diploma.

WE ALSO NEED TO ENHANCE and broaden the relationship between educational programs and businesses throughout the state in order to bridge the education-to-workforce gap. We can accomplish that by fostering specific partnerships between the business community and our educational institutions. Furthermore, Delaware needs to develop financial incentives and supports for businesses that help bridge the workforce gap, in order to improve the synergies between schools and employers in need of skilled workers.

CONCLUSION

SEN. HALL-LONG UNDERSTANDS that our economy thrives when entrepreneurs have the support to innovate, workers enjoy a high standard of living, and public officials promote a healthy business climate. Her economic platform recognizes the need for both “white collar” and “blue collar” skills in our workforce, the vital role of education to economic development, and the fundamental promise that we will be judged by the quality of our work, not our gender, race, or private lives.

THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR is in a perfect position to use their role between the governor and the legislature to advance an economic growth agenda—one that supports small businesses as well as large—and to help strengthen our state against regional and global competitors. A dedicated lieutenant governor can deliver a stronger, healthier Delaware—and Sen. Hall-Long is the only candidate with the experience, the record, and the relationships to make it happen.