The last time a Republican has occupied the Governor’s mansion was in January 1993. In January 1993 then Governor Michael Castle went to Washington to become Delaware’s lone Congressman and Democrat Tom Carper became Governor. During the reigns of Tom Carper, Ruth Ann Minner and now Jack Markell, Delaware’s economy has been a roller coaster. As of late the roller coaster ride is on the straight away track waiting for an uphill climb, but we are not sure when or if that will ever happen.
Delaware’s economy mirrors the same trajectory as the national one, with unemployment hovering over 8.2 percent. In the last few years we have watched Delaware’s corporate landscape shrink with General Motors, Chrysler, Valero shutting down their plants sending thousands to the unemployment lines. MBNA was sold to Bank of America and as of this writing 30,000 Bank of America employees face pink slips. DuPont, one of Delaware’s oldest and storied employers has been shrinking its North America workforce and shipping jobs overseas as emerging markets become the growth sector.
The last twenty years in Delaware has eroded Delaware’s prominence with elected leaders ignoring the warning signs and failing to react with positive leadership to change course. With the changing economic landscape in Delaware, what can our elected leaders do to change course?
Make Delaware a Right To Work State – Currently, Delaware is a forced unionism state which prevents companies that do not want to hire a union workforce to avoid Delaware in favor of states that allow them to operate without forced unions. A right to work state allows employers and its employees to decide for themselves if they would like to become a union shop. If Delaware become a right-to-work state, Delaware would become more attractive to potential employers.
Make Delaware the Silicon Valley of the East – What propelled Delaware to world-wide prominence with du Pont, Hercules and W.L. Gore, must be the focus of the 21st Century Delaware if we are to create high-tech, science and technology jobs. It is unknown if Delaware will ever be a manufacturing state again or what Delaware’s banking sector will look like in the future, but Delaware must make it easier to explore research and development, including start ups in the science and technology field. Delaware’s high schools, colleges and universities must have strong curriculums that embrace science, technology, engineering and math. Governor Jack Markell emphasized this, but little has been done to date of making this a reality.
Deregulate Energy – While it has been tried in the past, we must deregulate the energy industry in Delaware. Increased competition with lower rates and more advanced greener solutions will not only reduce the energy cost burdens on Delaware families and business, but will also open the gates for green technology jobs. While the jury is still out on green jobs, America’s success has been on the trial and error of innovation entering the free markets to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Who knows, Delaware could become the hub of green technology jobs if we let it, and do it right. With rising costs on energy and fuel, the environment for success is ripe for the taking.
Create a Medical School in Delaware – Much talk about opening a law school in Delaware has been done, but with Delaware’s aging population health and health technology is more important than ever. Delaware already has a law school with Widener in North Wilmington, but Delaware lacks a medical school. The future demand on health care demand is ripe for Delaware to enter the foray of medicine and medical technology.
Lower Tax Burden on Individuals and Businesses – Historical evidence has proven that when the tax burden is lowered on individuals and businesses, consumer confidence and spending goes up and businesses respond with higher growth and increased employment. Lowering Delaware’s tax burden will also attracted small businesses that otherwise would not have been started to open and given an opportunity to flourish.
Remove Bureaucratic Red Tape for Business Start Ups – In order to make Delaware the economic laboratory of innovation, Delaware must become once again a center of entrepreneurship and innovation. Delaware’s elected leaders must review all red tape and bureaucracy that hinder a business start up from happening. Small businesses historically create the most net jobs, and this is the engine of Delaware’s economy. Until Main Streets through Delaware are filled with store fronts and businesses, Delaware’s economic success will be nothing but a distant memory.
Delaware’s economic success is contingent on the vision and leadership of its elected leaders. Elections matter, and elected leaders must focus on free market enterprise, not government regulation to drive Delaware’s economic engine. Let’s band together for a prosperous free-market Delaware.
This article was previously published in the October 2011 edition of The Conservative Caucus of Delaware's quarterly newsletter. To become a subscriber contact firstname.lastname@example.org.