After months of searching and multiple interviews, The City of Milford has chosen Milford native Stephen Masten as the new Director of Economic Development. Both the Milford City Council and the Economic Development Advisory Panel, which was established last January as part of the Economic Strategy Plan, support the position in their ongoing efforts to analyze and mobilize economic development in the City of Milford.
Born and raised in the Milford area, Masten is a veteran of the United States Army and has a degree in Human Services from Delaware Technical and Community College. Over the years, Steve has been involved with countless community service organizations including Kiwanis Club of Milford, Boy Scouts of America, youth baseball and Slaughter Beach Town Council.
Masten has an extensive background in economic development including more than 25 years of experience with the Sussex County Economic Development Office. As Director of this office Masten analyzed census information, housing projections, labor data, traffic studies and business projections in order to attract and retain businesses to Sussex County. Steve has also been a committee member of the Delaware Economic Development Council, Delmarva Economic Development Council and the County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.
Milford LIVE caught up with the new City of Milford Economic Development Director to find out what he sees as the future for Milford.
What do you see as Milford’s most recent successes in the area of economic development?
Milford’s town council has an interest in economic development. They have supported the Complete Communities project that will take a look at the town of Milford and recommend next steps in the areas of “economic development, transportation, planning and policy, healthy communities initiative, and local government training.” This project demonstrates the town’s interest in wanting progress in the area of economic development. Now that I am on board, I am looking forward to participating with this initiative with the University of Delaware and learning how the local economic development office can support the initiative.
What area do you feel needs improvement?
The areas that need strengthening are organized economic development initiatives that will connect existing projects and add businesses that will support jobs for local residents. A goal I have will be to work with the economic development team to develop, communicate and promote an economic development profile for the area that is a synthesis of the current research and that can reach into the community and help activate and educate current resources with in the community (retirees with specific skills, employers needing to expand, workers who are considering repurposing their careers).
What steps does Milford need to take to continue its progress in economic development?
To continue its progress in economic development, Milford needs to continue to be aggressive in developing business opportunities and supporting existing businesses. Adding a person to spearhead these initiatives and provide support for existing business to move forward, locate resources, and develop a network of workable business strategies and solutions specific for the Milford area was a huge step in promoting economic development.
What part of the job are you most looking forward to?
Being a Milford native, I have the community and its needs at my heart. I am looking forward to helping add to the already vibrant business community and to add additional businesses as appropriate. In addition, I am looking forward to supporting entrepreneurs who are looking to start businesses by putting them in touch with resources they need. I am also looking forward to fleshing out the action items needed as a result of the economic development study and to monitor the progress and success of those initiatives.
What do you see as being the most critical components of encouraging economic development?
Building relationships and maintaining relationships with the Milford community, with business community, with the education community is one critical component. Communication with all stakeholders is a key to success. Also, communicating to business owners/local leaders the importance of moving forward with new ways of thinking about their current business and business practices and introducing ways to strengthen or improve their current business initiatives to other ideas that will be profitable and beneficial for all stakeholders.
What types of businesses/industries would you like to attract to Milford?
In my first week of work, I have begun to lay groundwork with two manufacturing clients who are interested in locating to the Milford area. I am excited about the opportunity for new businesses that will be connected with the Kent County Sports Complex project north of Milford. Finally, I am happy to say in my first week, that I have been able to help a local entrepreneur who wants to start a small business, supporting their efforts and connecting their needs with the services offered by the Small Business Development Technology Center.
Among his goals for the next twelve months, Masten states that he would like to attract new businesses, expand existing businesses, create jobs, promote economic development initiatives and identify available buildings for new businesses. The position of the Director of Economic Development will include researching existing economic initiatives and supporting their completion, meeting with current business owners to identify their needs, identifying business development opportunities that will create jobs for local residents or strengthen existing businesses and developing funding options for existing and new businesses through grants and economic development programs, small business loans. The Economic Development Director position is expected to play a critical role in the future of the City of Milford for the next several decades to come and will help shape the City’s ongoing comprehensive plan. Steve Masten’s Office is located at 201 S. Walnut Street in City Hall and can be reached by calling 302-422-3712, extension 310.