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Governor's Blog


Delaware Governor: Jack Markell


            

  Archived Posts From: 2013

Delaware: The Top State for Business

Written on: July 19th, 2013 in Job Creation

In Delaware, we listen to the priorities of our businesspeople. By working with them on all fronts, from driving down costs to improving our education system, we make the First State a great place to start a new company or expand a growing one. Last month, experts from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia confirmed that Delaware’s economy is “well-positioned,” for “decades of growth ahead.” They credited our state as a “first mover” in identifying opportunities for growth and praised our portfolio of generally high-wage industries.

Delaware offers a high quality of life, with beautiful beaches, parks, scenic farmland, a vibrant arts community, and a rich cultural and historical heritage. Furthermore, our long-time leadership in corporate law and our Court of Chancery’s unmatched expertise in this area have repeatedly earned our state acclaim as the most fair and reasonable legal system for U.S. businesses.

We’re committed to taking advantage of these assets and our policymakers’ work demonstrates the state’s dedication to meeting the needs of our many innovative and hardworking businesspeople.

Recent legislation places tighter controls on workers’ compensation medical costs and ensures that insurance carriers’ requests for rate increases receive a high level of scrutiny to tackle recent increases in premiums. We have also reformed of our unemployment insurance system to reduce the burden on employers and have focused on lowering gross-receipt taxes.

As part of our efforts to ensure entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need, we helped launch Start It Up Delaware, a public-private partnership that brings together our financial, accounting, legal and real estate communities to assist new companies. To drive down energy costs for businesses and families, we’ve focused on inexpensive and cleaner-burning natural gas, and last month, Calpine Corporation broke ground on a new power plant in Dover that is expected to serve about a quarter of a million homes.

Meanwhile, we are modifying or eliminating more than 140 state regulations to make it easier to do business and to improve government efficiency. In departments large and small we looked for and found ways to reduce paperwork, streamline permit applications and eliminate unnecessary rules, without sacrificing public safety. As a result of these changes, entrepreneurs and established companies can spend time building their businesses and hiring instead of filling out forms and waiting in line.

Supported by Democrats and Republicans, the regulatory reform process demonstrates our ability to bring together the right people and engage the public to make good decisions. Our close-knit community consistently allows business leaders to work together with government representatives at the federal, state and local level to resolve challenges.

Moreover, Delaware’s convenient location provides easy access to many major cities, including New York and Washington, as well as many transportation alternatives – international airports, Amtrak rail service and interstate highways – that put the rest of the world within quick reach. Recognizing our increasing reliance on the Internet to communicate and do business, we also prioritize maintaining the country’s best broadband infrastructure. Delaware has the fastest connection speeds in the country, nearly nine percent faster than our closest competitor last year.

We understand that entrepreneurs want to locate in areas with great schools that produce a skilled workforce. After our education plan finished first in the Race to the Top federal funding competition for its capacity to improve student performance, we continue to move forward. The Education Commission of the States recently awarded Delaware the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation, which recognizes creative changes that boost student learning.

We’re increasing enrollment in high-quality early education, raising standards in our public schools as a leader in implementing the Common Core curriculum and working with the business community on STEM programs that are relevant to the job market. For current workers, our Department of Labor is partnering with employers to establish a career readiness credential that companies can respect and trust.

As global businesses choose where to locate, we understand it serves them well to hire employees who can communicate with the markets they serve. We’ve started world language immersion programs in which students spend half of each school day learning in Chinese or Spanish, beginning in kindergarten. We expect them to be able to pass their Advanced Placement Language exam by ninth grade and, over the next decade, we plan to reach more than 10,000 young people.

As concerns about jobs leaving the country intensify, Delaware companies in advanced industries are bringing jobs back from abroad. ILC Dover, known for making spacesuits for NASA and personal protection equipment for military, Homeland Security and industrial users, moved manufacturing operations — and the accompanying 115 jobs — from Mexico to Seaford. And Hologic, a leading manufacturer and supplier of diagnostic, surgical and medical imaging equipment, has decided to move jobs here from Germany.

Delaware has a strong foundation to compete, lead and win on the global stage for many years to come, and I’m confident our economic successes will continue to multiply.

This blog was originally posted on CNBC.


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STEP helps small businesses export products and create jobs at home

Written on: July 12th, 2013 in Job Creation

As U.S. policymakers focus on putting Americans back to work, we must concentrate in part on opportunities beyond our own borders.

That’s why it’s so important that Congress reauthorize the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program, which is due to expire next year.

Let’s face reality: Plenty of economies around the world are growing faster than our own. Shouldn’t we do all we can to ensure that American workers can participate in that growth?

In 2012, exports generated 9.8 million American jobs. STEP has a proven track record of creating those jobs. 

The program recognizes that our small businesses have high-quality products and services that are in demand worldwide, but that they don’t have the scale or training to start aggressively pursuing overseas markets on their own. Different languages, economic systems and political cultures all present barriers. Through STEP grants from the Small Business Administration (SBA), state offices of international trade offer local companies foreign trade missions, translation support, marketing assistance, trade show exhibitions and other export-related efforts.

With an investment of $30 million, out of a more than $3 trillion federal budget, STEP affected more than 1,600 small businesses across the country in its first year. According to the SBA, the program enabled $74 million in actual sales and an expected revenue stream of more than $225 million based on continuing business development activities.

In Delaware, we have worked with Department of Commerce officials abroad to match our firms with interested buyers in high-value markets, including China, Brazil and South Africa. With this little extra boost, our entrepreneurs are able to make the difficult leap into expanding economies with untapped and rapidly growing communities of potential customers. The overseas interactions have lasting benefits, as entrepreneurs build new relationships that can serve as a catalyst for growth for many years to come. Furthermore, once companies start exporting, the process of entering additional markets becomes significantly easier.

The small businesses taking part in Delaware’s international trade missions have already reported nearly $4.4 million in new business as a direct result of our state’s $430,000 in grants. One Delaware entrepreneur had tried to sell his firm’s innovative pesticide detection systems in China previously but couldn’t get the right meetings to close the sale. The STEP trade mission led to sales within a few months, and the company continues to work on new transactions with Chinese end users and distributors. If U.S.-based firms do not perform this type of outreach now, others will, and our losses will be measured in fewer American jobs.

The backing of Democratic and Republican governors shows the potential for bipartisan action, but we have often been disappointed by Congress’s ability to reject broadly supported ideas because of partisan politics.

As I wrote in a letter this month to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a long-term re-authorization of the program will create sustainable jobs and further strengthen our nation’s global competitiveness. We simply can’t expect to compete if our businesses do not have access to the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the country.

Our small businesses and start-up companies deserve certainty that the pathway STEP provides to the fastest growing marketplaces in the world has a future. Increased sales will allow those businesses to put more Americans to work, and that’s an outcome that leaders of all political viewpoints can endorse.

This blog post was originally published in The Hill.

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Fairness for All: It’s Time to Pass Gender Identity Nondiscrimination

Written on: June 12th, 2013 in Effective & Efficient Government

Kindness, decency, and fairness are the values that Delawareans live by on a daily basis. They are the values I have encountered in towns and cities throughout Delaware. We look out for one another in this state of neighbors. Yet, for years, we have left one group of our friends, relatives, and colleagues behind. And it is past time to make things right.

Transgender Delawareans are not afforded basic legal protections from discrimination and violence that every person deserves. Under our State’s laws, it is currently legal to fire someone, deny them housing, or throw them out of a restaurant simply because they are transgender. This is simply not the Delaware way and it is time our laws reflect our values. This is one of the many reasons why I am proud to support the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013.

This bill, which is pending before the Delaware House of Representatives and has already passed the Senate, would add the term “gender identity,” which means a person’s deeply held sense of their gender, to our state’s hate crimes and employment, insurance, public accommodations, and housing nondiscrimination laws. It affords transgender Delawareans the same legal protections already afforded to everyone on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. In short, this bill will ensure that transgender Delawareans are treated fairly.

As Governor, my mission has been to help build a Delaware that is competitive in the global economy and welcoming and safe here at home. I know that we can only create jobs if we successfully do both. The best workplace environment is one that judges each of us on our merits, not on our identities. This is reflected in the more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies that have policies that protect employees on the basis of their “gender identity” and the nearly 200 Delaware businesses that have signed a statement of support for the passage of this law. They know that to get ahead, we need to harness the skills and talents of everyone, including our transgender employees and job seekers.

While this law will benefit our state and our economy, it also goes to the core of who we are as a community. My young friend Sarah, who just graduated from college in Washington, D.C. and happens to be transgender, has told the First Lady and me about her fear of returning to Delaware, the State she loves, without basic protections. A friend of mine, whose daughter also happens to be transgender and has faced bullying at her school in another state, has written to me that she wants to move back to Delaware with her family, but has decided not to because our laws would not protect her child and family from discrimination. There are countless more transgender Delawareans who live in fear of or face discrimination on a daily basis.

As a lifelong Delawarean, I’m convinced this is not the Delaware I know and love. As a father, I know that all our children should be treated fairly. And as Governor, I’m determined to make Delaware a safe and welcoming state for all to live, work, and raise a family.

It’s time we join the 16 other states, Washington, D.C., and over 170 cities and counties across the country that have passed similar laws. It’s time our law guarantees that our transgender relatives and neighbors can work hard, participate in our communities, and live their lives with dignity and in safety. It’s time that we pass the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013.

This blog post was originally published on The Huffington Post.


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Employing People with Disabilities: Good for Business’ and Delaware’s Bottom Line

Written on: May 31st, 2013 in Job Creation

As Chair of the National Governors Association, I’ve had a unique opportunity to tell the story of Delaware’s successes to leaders across the country and demonstrate ways in which our state has set examples for others to follow on issues such as education reform and health care innovation.

I’m particularly proud that the First State has shown leadership in the area of my national Chair’s initiative: employing people with disabilities. Today, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, who helped author the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress and founder and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, have joined me in Wilmington, along with the event’s co-hosts The Council on Foundations and the US Business Leadership Council, for a summit on boosting education and employment outcomes for Americans with disabilities. We are joined by representatives of the philanthropic community, policymakers and experts from around the country . The goals of the conference include increasing awareness of chronic unemployment of individuals with disabilities, including our veterans, and examining ways to bring together the business, philanthropic, and public sectors to address this challenge.

Chip Rossi, Bank of America’s Delaware Market President and our site host for the summit, writes about the event and Delaware’s proactive efforts in today’s News Journal. Highlighting our recent passage of the Employment First Act, sponsored by Representative Debra Heffernan, Chip notes that we now require state agencies to make skill development and mainstream employment a priority in serving the disabilities community. Chip also emphasizes the most important message of the summit and NGA initiative: from a business perspective, this is not about charity. Businesses that embrace a diverse workforce are robust in the long run.  The focus should be on a person’s ability, not their disability.

While it can be seen as a moral issue, our effort to increase the employment of people with disabilities is about a better bottom line. I can find no better example of that than this week’s announcement by Delaware-based Computer Aid Inc. that it plans to employ people with autism in over 3% of its consultant workforce by 2015. With passionate support from Secretary Rita Landgraf of Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services, the company has formed the first U.S. partnership with Specialisterne, a business founded in Denmark that identifies employment opportunities for individuals with autism. These employees not only hold down jobs, but in some fields that require tedious tasks like software testing and programming, they are among the best qualified.

Our greatest asset is our people and we need to take advantage of everyone’s abilities. Making disabilities employment a priority will not only allow more Delawareans to reach their potential, but also help ensure our state can compete and win on the global stage.


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It’s Time to Improve the Odds for Young People in Foster Care

Written on: May 10th, 2013 in Helping Our Neighbors

As a parent of a 17 and 20 year old, I understand the balancing act of parenting teens. We still operate under those protective instincts we had when our children were small, yet the job of parenting adolescents brings a whole new set of challenges. For example, we know it’s good to give them the space they need to test out their decision-making skills, gain independence, and assume personal responsibility. All too often, these fundamental life skills are learned “the hard way,” but they provide the building blocks that help our children become successful, productive adults.

Teenagers in foster care are no different. They need the same kind of parental support as their peers, yet too often the foster care system isn’t adequate to provide them with that support and those important “growing up” experiences. Youth in foster care often lack the stability, the tough love, and the assurance that someone will be there for them, to help them learn when they make mistakes and bad choices (because they – like all teenagers – will make them).

Let me be clear: We must improve the way we support teenagers in foster care. We need to work harder to give them the same support and guidance parents provide their own teenagers. It’s a critical ingredient to improving the odds for these young people and helping them build better adult lives.

In Delaware, I’ve made it a top priority to make sure our public agencies are doing all they can to support older youth in foster care, smooth their transition to adulthood, and ensure they are on a path to success. We’ve created opportunities to let these young people have a direct say in decision making related to their lives, invested in supportive services, and formed key public-private collaborations with community leaders to support these kids. I am proud of our progress.

Other states are also taking steps to support older youth in foster care, but more is needed. Unfortunately, across America, too many youth age out of the foster care, often at age 18, without a family or access to other basic needs such as housing or employment. As a result, they are more likely than their peers to drop out of school, become parents before they are ready, experience homelessness, or end up in jail – costly consequences that impact all of us. In fact, a newly published analysis by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative estimates that, on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care in America, the costs incurred to taxpayers and communities equal $300,000 over that young person’s lifetime – or $7.8 billion in total costs to the U.S. every year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have an unprecedented opportunity to create a better path for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. The latest adolescent brain research shows that the teen years offer a second chance to help kids overcome adversity and begin to thrive. And like Delaware, a number of states are increasing their focus on better meeting the needs of young people in foster care, starting at age 14, and extending beyond age 18. But not all are – yet.

That is why I joined the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative in Washington, D.C. to launch a national campaign to create a better path for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. Through the Success Beyond 18 campaign, I’m calling on my fellow governors to take a fresh look at how their states are serving foster youth, making sure these young people have the opportunities they need to succeed along their path to adulthood.

Parents know the teen years are a time of great change and transition, in which young people are rapidly maturing and preparing to take their place in an exciting but challenging world. We also know that well beyond age 18 – or age 20, or 25, for that matter – our children benefit from our guidance and support. We must apply what all parents know toward better serving teens and young adults in foster care. It’s the right thing to do.

Video from the campaign launch is available online.


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