By Terry Rogers
On Wednesday, July 15, Melody Booker-Wilkins, the Economic Director for Sussex County, spoke to Milford area business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Milford’s Third Quarter Luncheon, which was held at the Milford Diner. Ms. Booker-Wilkins, who previously handled Business Development for Sussex County for the Delaware Economic Development Office, praised Milford leaders for their ability to grow business in the city.
“I would like to take the Milford Chamber of Commerce, the city leadership and the downtown groups and take them on the road,” Ms. Booker-Wilkins said. “Slower Lower Delaware? There is nothing slow about Sussex County and Milford is a huge part of that.” Ms. Booker-Wilkins said that she was proud that agriculture is the number one industry in Sussex County and that tourism brings in $850 million each year. She said she was very excited by the Bayhealth’s decision to build a new medical campus in Milford as well.
Ms. Booker-Wilkins said that it was her job to let the country know that Sussex County was open for business and that she spends much of her time helping businesses start, grow and prosper in the county. She pointed out that Milford did an excellent job of retaining and expanding businesses.
“We have recently provided $10,000 grants to various cities in Sussex County and I understand Milford will be using some of that grant money to implement the Downtown Milford Master Plan that is in the works,” Ms. Booker-Wilkins said. “Another thing we are really excited about is the expansion of the Georgetown airport and its rebranding as Delaware Coastal Airport. We think that its expansion will not only benefit the Georgetown area but will provide significant benefits for cities like Milford.” According to Ms. Booker-Wilkins the airport can currently only handle small commuter planes, but since the state has allocated $5 million to expand the runway to 6,000 feet, the airport could begin to accept 757s as well.
Mayor Bryan Shupe also addressed the group of business leaders, offering insight into recent changes in city government and growth in the city.
“A lot of things have changed over the past few months with the recent resignation of the city manager,” Mayor Shupe said. “We have hired a professional firm to complete a local and national search for the right person for the job. We hope to have someone in place in the next three months.” Mayor Shupe said that city department heads have stepped up to handle some of the duties that the city manager normally handles in order to keep the city running smoothly.
Mayor Shupe said that the new Bayhealth campus was on schedule and that he had been told to expect the new hospital to be open in 2018. He said that the loss of Skip Pikus, Ward II City Councilman and long-time businessman, would be felt for quite some time. Mayor Shupe said that Councilman Pikus was always so upbeat and positive, his death was not only a shock to the city, but even to his family and close friends.
“The Downtown Master Plan will be released in October,” Mayor Shupe said. “We are coming up with a strategic plan so that when new businesses come to town we can help them fit into the right location because we will know where we want the downtown area to go in the future. We have had a challenging summer, but Milford will do what it does best – pick itself up and get back on track. We will move forward and continue to build a town where businesses and individuals grow.”