By Terry Rogers
On Wednesday, January 15, Governor Jack Markell was the keynote speaker at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford’s First Quarter Luncheon, held at The Rookery North in Milford. Governor Markell praised the business climate in Milford and answered questions from those in attendance regarding issues facing the General Assembly in the upcoming session.
“Milford is home to many excellent businesses,” Governor Markell stated. “A few weeks ago, I visited a few of the businesses in the area, and was very pleased at what I saw. Dentsply-Caulk is a world class company providing dental supplies all around the world. They are the leading player and have an important standing worldwide, while being based right here in Delaware.”
Governor Markell also praised Baltimore Air Coil, a company he visited in 2009 when the economy was struggling.
“The economy was tough then, but Baltimore Air Coil added eighty to 100 new jobs in Milford when they closed a plant in the Midwest,” the Governor explained. “Although we hate to hear of anyone in the country losing jobs, the fact that they chose to expand in Milford is significant. Not only did they increase their Milford location when other companies were struggling, since that time they have added 150 new jobs, making them a great Milford story.”
The Governor also commended Walls Irrigation for their continued growth and remarked that it was very exciting to see the growth of art studios in the town. Governor Markell pointed out that one of the biggest issues facing this session of the General Assembly will be issues regarding the budget.
“The focus needs to be on economic development,” he said. “I am sure Senator Simpson as well as Representatives Harvey Kenton and Dave Wilson will agree that we must be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. We also need to address the bay breaches and flooding, which seriously affect many residents of Milford.”
Governor Markell stated that during his upcoming State of the State address, he will focus on workforce development, explaining that companies like Baltimore Air Coil have many choices for expansion. As Markell discussed the needs of employers in the area, he commented that there are vacancies out there, but that too many employers are telling him they cannot find the people qualified or skilled enough to do the job.
“When a company considers expanding, one of the most important factors they look for is whether there is a quality workforce in the area,” Governor Markell explained. “They must be able to hire those with the qualifications to do the jobs they need. We need to shift our views in education and develop a collaboration with business to be sure children are ready for the future.”
Opening the floor to questions, the Governor was asked about public education and improvements he saw necessary to getting children ready for the outside world.
“We will see a significant increase in the budget to keep class sizes small, despite the fact that we expect to see twice as many children entering public schools,” Governor Markell explained. “Some of these students may be leaving private schools due to economic issues or because public schools have improved tremendously over the past decade.”
When asked about increased costs related to the Affordable Care Act, Governor Markell explained the roll out of the federal program in Delaware. The State was given a choice to create their own website and roll out their own program, use the federal site and allow them to do all the promotion or a combination of both. In the end Delaware chose to use the federal site, but do their own promotion. Although the national roll out of the Affordable Care Act has been littered with troubles, Markell stated their were some positive sides to the program.
“Unfortunately, we did not expect the flawed roll out of the federal website, and although it is a good idea, it needed better implementation,” commented Governor Markell. “The encouraging news is that many who could not previously get insurance now can.”
The Governor was also asked what the State was doing to encourage students in Milford to return to the area for employment. The governor replied that as a parent himself he knows that we want our children to grow up, get a great education and return to the area to live and work.
“To encourage this, we need better access to industries who need skilled workers,” he said. “We need to not only make it clear to our children what careers are available and what career paths they need to take, but guide them them step-by-step on how they can move from one level of an industry to another.”