Wheatley proposes teamwork on economic development

Sussex County Council candidate Bob Wheatley is calling for leaders in Delaware’s southernmost county to work in a new collaborative manner, with the goal of increasing economic activity, and thus economic growth, in all of southern Delaware.

In recent public statements, Wheatley has proposed a program that calls for economic development officials to work with private industry and community groups, as well as municipalities. The effort would be designed to create a more unified economic campaign aimed at attracting new business to Sussex County.

These types of collaborative programs have been around for some time on Delmarva and beyond, but are not currently being utilized in southern Delaware, he said.

“Under this plan, the County would still be the leader in the economic development effort, since it would almost certainly be the largest financial contributor to the cause,” said Wheatley. “A board of directors composed of the County, participating towns, educational institutions and private businesses would establish the mission and policies for the organization and provide for oversight and accountability for its operation.

“This is a way for the County to leverage its current investment in economic development, as the other members would be contributing financially, as well.”

Wheatley noted that, in the last decade, the commitment to economic development in Sussex County has diminished from a fully staffed office of four to only one full-time employee and, at least temporarily, a vacant office.

The County is currently in the process of locating and hiring a new director of economic development, thus lending hope, he said, to a renewed interest and priority in enticing new businesses and more jobs to southern Delaware. Wheatley said he believes the new hire should be the leader of a new economic development team, drawn from a diverse set of local resources.

“Just imagine the intellect and creativity we could access by having that type of brain trust available to solve our economic development issues,” said the District 5 council candidate and Planning & Zoning Commission chairman. “Sussex County is at a crossroads right now in regards to its economic development efforts, and I believe this could help us be much more successful in the future.”

A long-time local businessman, Wheatley lives in Laurel and is married to his wife, Julie, who was the County’s director of economic development until earlier this year.

Wheatley and Dagsboro Mayor Brad Connor are running in the Democrat primary this fall, with the winner likely challenging incumbent Republican Vance Phillips for the District 5 council seat in November.