Council hears economic development update

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Sara Pletcher, Economic Development & Community Engagement Administrator with the City of Milford, provided City Council with her first update on economic development in the city since her department was formed. Pletcher took over the role in May.

“I am sure economic development has been happening for some time, but with this new department, the city is able to expand or open for business as a whole,” Pletcher said. “Some of the enhancements we have seen have been to existing businesses. Euphoric Herbs has been open for three or four years, but she has grown quite a bit. She was in need of warehouse space and we were able to find her space in the business park that will be perfect. Bayside Gymnastics is undergoing renovations in the Riverwalk Plaza and plans to open the end of October. She already has 420 students enrolled, much higher than she anticipated. That was her five year projection.”

In addition, an an esthetician who was operating a business in Lincoln is planning to move into new retail space across from TADA Dance Studio and a large grocery store offering online shopping is looking at a location behind Federated Auto and may move to the industrial park if that goes well. Pletcher stated that there were also six ribbon cuttings since May.

“Henlopen Sea Salt is looking for production space and is looking at Milford,” Pletcher said. “Bill Clifton, who owned the restaurant in the Brick Hotel is interested in opening a restaurant in downtown Milford. He has had to basically sell off everything and tie up all the loose ends in Georgetown, then is hoping to work in funding. He owned the Library Square Café if you remember that location.”

In addition to business looking to move to Milford, Pletcher explained that the city had sponsored pop-up COVID vaccine clinics at the Riverwalk Farmer’s Market from June through August and that there was growth in the city’s social media accounts as well.

“This is looking more and more like what I envisioned when we created this department,” Councilman Jason James said. “Economic development is very important. I said when we started, we wanted to hire this position, it is probably one of the most important things we do as a growing city. From what I have seen, you are doing a great job.”

City Manager Mark Whitfield explained that they hoped to provide council with a report like this quarterly as economic development does not happen overnight.

“I had a colleague in Pennsylvania contact me and I put him in touch with Sara,” Whitfield said. “There is a lot of interest on his part to do something in Milford. I cannot say enough about the relationships that Sara creates and maintains. It may not be six months or a year from now, but people do come back. I had not had any contact with this guy for 10 years and out of the blue, he contacts me.”

Councilman James stated that, in his experience, if the city gets the word out to someone who is looking for ecommerce that Milford is ready for them, more will follow.

“If we can demonstrate we have the infrastructure, that can explode because others will be following behind them,” he said.

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