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New Downtown Development District awards highlight Harrington's challenges

Sarah Mueller
Gov. Carney talks about economic development with harrington officials.

Gov. John Carney visited Harrington this week as he highlighted new project funding for some Downtown Development Districts.

Harrington’s Downtown Development District has spurred economic development. But city leaders say getting designated an Opportunity Zone could help create more jobs.

The 2017 federal tax plan created Opportunity Zones, allowing developers to defer paying taxes to incentivize investments in distressed communities. But there was stiff competition for the available 25 designations in Delaware.

Connie Holland with the Office of State Planning Coordination said she hopes the Kent County city will have another chance to apply for Opportunity Zone status.

“We had so many people submit and so we had to look at the criteria and a lot of it had to be if you were a Downtown Development District and what your poverty level was and you know and how you could really maybe administer this or work through it," she said. "And it was difficult.”

Harrington has economic challenges. City officials say it’s hard for downtown businesses to survive when 35 percent of residents depend on food stamps and about 22 percent of people live in poverty. More than 60 percent of Harrington residents make less than $50,000 a year and nearly half have a high school education or less.

In the past decade, Harrington leaders say about 150 industrial jobs have left.

Gov. John Carney agrees it’s about creating more jobs.

“You know now’s the time to look at places like this, to expand," he said. "If he could fill some of those shovel-ready, semi-industrial buildings that he has, that would be great. A big shot in the arm.”

Carney also announced this week $4.6 million for eight Downtown Development District projects in Milford, Dover and Wilmington.

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