Creating more jobs is critical to restoring Delaware's promise and prosperity, Governor Jack Markell told the state Legislature in his State of the State address on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010.
"Our focus is on creating more and better jobs and building a stronger economy for us all. To do that, Delaware must be the best state to start or grow a business. We will create an environment for new prosperity. We will encourage economic growth, demand a leaner, more efficient government and provide our children a world-class education so they can work in first-class jobs," Markell said.
In an address that spoke frankly of the problems the state faces, Markell struck an optimistic tone while laying out some of the detailed efforts by the State to create more jobs in Delaware. He made clear the State's competitive advantages, explained how it is fighting to keep every job that is already here, and moving aggressively to expand economic opportunity for everyone. He specifically mentioned:
· Supporting the State's Small Business LIFT program, which helps businesses gain access to lines of credit -- he said it has aided 37 small businesses in a year.
· Launching the Jobs Incentive Fund to give business the ability to invest in high-growth jobs and implementing a "Business Finders Fee" for businesses that help bring other companies to Delaware.
· Partnering with the SEU to put people to work while driving down the state’s energy costs.
· Improving our quality of life through efforts like statewide recycling and investing in affordable housing through the Housing Development Fund.
· Improving responsiveness to state permitting applications, specifically that DNREC and DelDOT will offer an answer to most applications within 60 days.
· Recognizing the need to expand manufacturing in Delaware.
· Investing in infrastructure, including the Port of Wilmington, to help Delaware export what it makes to other states and countries.
· Supporting Bond Bill funding for a center for high-tech labs, health sciences and other research at the old Chrysler site.
Markell said: "To restore Delaware's promise and prosperity, we will reshape the way we, as a State, do business. We want every business to feel the way the founder of a new company that recently located in Seaford felt when he told me: 'After doing business with Delaware, I don’t see why anybody would do business anyplace else.' "
Government also needs to be smaller and more efficient if it is going to respond quickly to economic opportunities, Markell said in the speech. The Governor, who will present a balanced budget on January 28, explained a few of the ways that the State has cut costs, including slashing the number of state fleet vehicles; eliminating 1,000 positions in state government; renegotiating leases on state buildings and cutting the total square footage of office space; reducing by 100,000 the number of checks the State cuts each year; no longer printing budget books and saving several hundred thousand dollars in cutting other print projects; and better leveraging the State's information technology across agencies to save significant IT costs.
"Businesses want to operate in states that prudently manage their fiscal affairs, in good times and bad," Markell said. "In the end, we want our State government to provide core services and enhance our quality of life in a way that is affordable. That’s what we are doing. By making government leaner and more efficient, we make our State a better place to create new and better jobs."
The State of the State made clear that businesses want to locate in areas with strong public schools where employers can send their children and want a workforce ready to meet new challenges. Delaware has proposed changes and achieved support across the state for an education agenda that puts kids first. The State's education agenda rests on improving student readiness by holding them to high standards; effectively using student data to drive classroom results; ensuring teacher quality; and turning around persistently low-performing schools.
"Providing a world-class education is not only our moral obligation -- our State’s economic future depends on it. Every state is competing for the businesses that seek the best and the brightest of our youth. So we must build on the foundations of success our hard-working teachers and administrators have already established," Markell said.
"Government cannot be all things to all people," Markell continued. "Our commitment to protect those who cannot protect themselves is unwavering. Our commitment to educating our children is unshakable. And our commitment to creating jobs is unmistakable. But, to be clear, government alone cannot change the world – only people can."
Investing in new jobs, making government more cost-effective and strengthening our State's public schools is the best way to ensure that Delaware succeeds in the long-term, Markell said. He ended his State of the State with a call to action:
"We got through a difficult year together. Because we will keep our commitments to our State and each other, then someday, when we are long past these turbulent times, future generations will look back at the first years of this decade with wonder." he said.
"They will say that despite enormous struggles against a record-setting recession and unprecedented budget deficits, we joined together to set the State on a better course. They will know that we restored our State's prosperity and renewed our promise of more accountable government, world-class industries, responsible economic growth, a sustainable quality of life, a well-educated citizenry, and a society of opportunity for all. We will meet these challenges together, because we will seize this chance today and do what is best for our children’s tomorrows. Those future generations will look back and say, this was the beginning of Delaware’s finest hour."