Written on: July 24th, 2012 in Agriculture
The Delaware State Fair is about so many things – seeing old friends and making new ones, seeing the best work of our state’s young people, eating good food, listening to great music, and watching our children’s faces as they soar into the air on a carnival ride.
The fair, marking its 93rd year, is fundamentally about our state’s unique and powerful agricultural success story. We rely on 2,500 Delaware farmers to generate $8 billion in economic activity, the backbone of our economy.
One day each year is always designated Governor’s Day, when I have the pleasure of visiting the fair and meeting so many people who exemplify what is good about our state. I get to learn from our future farmers and entrepreneurs showing off their best work. I meet farmers who work hard every day on the land. And I get to share the enjoyment of watching the Governor’s Cup harness race, always a thrill. This year on Governor’s Day, we will celebrate the poultry industry and its impact and accomplishments as the major economic engine of Delaware agriculture.
My administration has put farms and farm families high on our priority list. We have invested in agricultural preservation programs, hitting a milestone of 100,000 acres permanently preserved earlier this year. We have invested in an innovative irrigation initiative, the Delaware Rural Irrigation Program, which has helped 850 acres of farmland become irrigated over the last year. And we will soon celebrate the success of our new Young Farmers Program, helping 10 families and individuals past the barrier of the high cost of land.
I always take inspiration in our work from visiting the fair. Above all, the people I meet – from the 11-year-old who has raised a pig all by herself, to the 67-year-old poultry grower who is helping feed people around the world – help remind me how important our task is to renew and strengthen Delaware’s future.
Working together, we can keep agriculture strong and successful in our state, and keep Delaware moving forward.
Written on: July 20th, 2012 in Job Creation
About nine years ago, I visited what was then MBNA, now Bank of America, at a facility in Newark. There, the company employed about 300 people with disabilities who were responsible for a variety of tasks including making promotional materials. I met a young man, about 25 years old, who was making t-shirts. I asked him what he did before he got that job and he told me he sat at home for six years watching TV with his parents. A light bulb went off in my head.
This job not only offered him a paycheck, but significantly improved his quality of life. He had a greater purpose, the ability to be part of a team and to be part of something bigger than him. And for his family – this job meant he had some place to go, something meaningful to do and support outside his family network. In turn, their quality of life improved as well.
He is one of many people with disabilities I’ve had the fortune to meet over the years. While they each have a unique story to tell, they have a common desire: to be included – to be afforded the same opportunities as all others.
This past weekend, I was named chair of the National Governors Association and subsequently announced my NGA chair’s initiative – A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.
My initiative aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Specifically, it will focus on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities, including veterans that return wounded, and the role both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.
I’m excited to start this initiative. Advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is the right thing to do, the smart thing for government to do and it makes good business sense.
Ultimately, there are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers. It doesn’t matter whether they were born with additional challenges to face or – in the case of our wounded veterans for example – acquired them later in life. What matters is what they have to offer and the tremendous impact this will have on their overall well-being.
Written on: July 6th, 2012 in Effective & Efficient Government
This past Saturday, June 30, marked the end of the 2012 legislative session. It also marked the end of an era for many in Dover, including House Speaker Robert Gilligan. A giant, not just in stature, but legacy, Speaker Gilligan announced his retirement after 40 years of service to the State. While the exits of Speaker Gilligan and several other legislators create vacancies on both sides of the aisle, we are fortunate in Delaware that our strength resides in the capacity of our people, even in challenging times, to work with a common purpose.
The bipartisan efforts of the 146th General Assembly resulted in progress for all Delawareans, regardless of their political affiliations.
We continue to make progress in getting more Delawareans back to work. The long list of legislative highlights focused on creating more job opportunities in Delaware includes the Veterans Opportunity Tax Credit (HB 275), which helps put recent combat veterans to work when they return from service. Strong financial investments were also passed in the FY13 budget to support small businesses and strengthen Delaware’s infrastructure, which is critical to getting people to work and products to customers.
A new book by Geoff Smart came out this week entitled, ” Leadocracy – Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) Into Government.” I was privileged to be part of its development. In it, Geoff quoted me saying, ” one of my most important responsibilities as governor is to encourage the state employees and others to take healthy risks.”
I believe one of the best examples of a healthy risk we’ve made in Delaware was our statewide investment of $22 million dollars to support early childhood education. We knew making Delaware’s public schools stronger was critical to ensure we stay competitive in a global war for jobs, which really equates to a global war for talent. That investment, renewed this fiscal year, was a key factor in Delaware receiving $49 million through the federal Race To The Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant.
We also continue to invest heavily in our education workforce. This legislative session we signed two bills into law that will help districts recruit great teachers.
Already our efforts are yielding results. This past spring, preliminary results from the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), showed statewide student gains in reading and math in every grade band.
A $20 million investment in the FY13 budget will continue to support open space and agricultural land preservation projects, which last year helped support the launch of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative. In addition, a new investment of $13.3 million will enhance statewide trails and pathways, an important investment in positioning Delaware as a desirable place to live.
Two significant achievements focused on increasing government transparency: the Lobbying Disclosure Bill (SB 185), which shines critical sunlight on the lawmaking process and dramatically expands disclosure requirements for lobbyists; and the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act (HB 300/310), which requires prompt reporting of third-party spending on advertisements during an election season before voters go to the polls.
I encourage you to review the full FY13 budget to see other great examples of how, together, we built on our existing strengths and made sound choices to keep Delaware moving forward.
To read more about New York Times best-seller Geoff Smart’s work to bring more private sector leaders into government and move our country forward, head to your local book store to pick up a copy of Leadocracy, or get it from Amazon.com, which is putting more than 1,000 Delawareans to work.