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CEOs pushing for a new economic development plan in new report

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s business leaders are calling for a new economic development roadmap to prop up the state’s fledgling entrepreneurial economy.

Made up of the state’s top CEOs, the Business Roundtable group released a study Wednesday, asking lawmakers to better fund colleges and universities, incubate startups and improve K-12 education.

Robert Perkins runs the Business Roundtable. He says part of improving public schools comes from making teachers and students accountable for test scores.

“...we [should] allow for an appropriate process of reviewing teacher performance to make sure they are doing the things that they ought to do and to make sure the system is well funded," Perkins said. "Right now, the system is well funded, but the scores certainly don’t indicate much progress.”

The report also targeted Delaware's Coastal Zone Act.

Held in high regard by conservationists, the regulation outlines strict requirements for businesses setting up along the Delaware Bay or River.

Those sites are often nestled next to existing rail lines, the Port of Wilmington and interstate highways, allowing quick access to the arteries of the eastern seaboard.

“From a regional standpoint, those should be attractive sites for potential businesses. They are not attractive sites at the moment because of the Coastal Zone Act as an impediment," Perkins said.

They're also often polluted from past businesses. Perkins says loosening coastal zone restrictions could allow companies to help clean up the sites, while also boosting the economy.

Perkins also complimented Gov. Jack Markell (D), saying he has done well in positioning Delaware’s economy for the future, but that the next governor will need to rely more on public-private partnerships to properly move it forward.

That means, in his mind, the Delaware Economic Development Office, which hands out taxpayer funded grants to big and small businesses alike, should become part of a public-private partnership.

The report says such an entity could better market and pitch the state to outside companies, help identify real estate options for businesses relocating here and the group could help match public cash going toward growing the economy.

Shifting demographic changes are among the top threats outlined in the report, as older people move into Delaware, potentially changing its perception to a retirement state.