By Terry Rogers
On March 16, Downtown Milford Inc. and businesses located in the downtown area were presented with awards as part of the Excellence in Delaware Revitalization Awards. The awards were designed to celebrate the successes in business throughout the state. Businesses and Downtown Milford Inc. received five of the 15 awards in competitive categories.
“We were delighted and honored to receive so many awards,” said Lee Nelson, Executive Director of Downtown Milford Inc. “We were competing against other Main Street organizations and we brought home one-third of the awards available. The award winners are the spark keeping Milford growing and we can’t thank them enough.”
Petite Sweets, one of the newest downtown businesses in Milford, was given the Outstanding Business Owner Award, while Milford Parks and Recreation was given the Outstanding Community Partner Award. Dan Marabello was given the Downtown Volunteer of the Year Award. These were non-competitive awards nominated by DMI.
“It is a privilege to be part of the town and to be recognized,” said Albert Sierra, owner of Petite Sweets. “It meant a lot to us. We are trying to be active in the community and this award shows us that we are succeeding. It was an honor to receive the award and be recognized for our hard work. We are excited to see what comes next for our company and the city.”
The five awards given in competitive categories included Sugar Bee Boutique as Outstanding Business Activity, Eat in the Street as Outstanding Fund Raiser Activity, Downtown Milford Inc. as Outstanding Volunteer Program Activity, the Holiday Stroll as Best Retail Event Activity and a partnership between WMDT and DMI as Best Image Activity Cooperative Television Advertising.
“Winning this award was fabulous,” Peggy Reilly, co-owner of Sugar Bee Boutique said. “I came from big business in New York, working in finance. I had no idea the difficulties that small business faced until I opened one. In fact, as an example, my co-owner, Sherry Shupe, was supposed to go with me to the awards ceremony. At the last minute she had to cancel because she could not find coverage for her other business, Fur-Baby Boutique and Doggy Daycare. I said that this is a prime example of the difficulties of a small business owner when you cannot get coverage for your own business to accept an award. To get this award is an honor and a privilege, showing us that the hard work we do is appreciated. Sherry and I are thrilled to receive this. To be honored like this over all the small business in Delaware, Sherry and I are more than honored.”
The conference where the awards were presented focused on a multi-faceted approach to planning, design and management of public spaces known as placemaking. This process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential with the intention of creating public spaces that promote health, happiness and well-being.
“Some of the most creative and innovative economic development work is being done through downtown businesses,” said Bernice Whaley, Delaware Economic Development Office Director. “The drive, passion and dedication of our downtown partners and business owners is essential to our statewide revitalization efforts.”
Building on efforts to revitalize downtown areas statewide, Governor Jack Markell announced at the Downtown Delaware Revitalization conference that the state will accept new applications from local governments interested in being designated as Downtown Development Districts. Residential, commercial and industrial development in designated districts may qualify for a menu of local and state incentives, including grant rebates to offset the cost of private investment. In January 2015, Governor Markell selected areas of Dover, Seaford and Wilmington as Delaware’s first Downtown Development Districts. Wednesday’s announcement will allow cities to once again apply for the designation. So far, $9.7 million in grant funding is leveraging more than $160 million of private investment in the current districts.
“Delaware’s downtowns are drivers of economic growth and prosperity, and this program has proven that a small amount of state support can catalyze major private investment to energize these key areas,” said Governor Jack Markell. “We look forward to building on the program’s success and supporting more investment.”