For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 1, 2022
A bill about to be introduced in the General Assembly recognizes that unnecessarily delaying large economic development projects increases costs, eliminates employment opportunities, and hampers Delaware’s competitiveness.
The Bring Jobs to Delaware Act would require New Castle, Kent, and Sussex counties to adopt an expedited review process for certain proposed development projects. The fast-track review would apply to properties zoned for office, business park, manufacturing, or industrial use. The proposed project also would need to create more than 75,000 square feet of new space and produce at least 60 full-time, permanent jobs.
Residential or commercial retail projects would not be eligible.
Under the bill, the expedited process would need to be completed within six months of the submission of a land use plan. It would require county officials to create a timeline for review, final approval, and recording the land use plan. The mandate placed on the counties would be contingent on them having received all necessary permits and approvals from non-county agencies.
“Time is money,” said State Rep. Mike Smith (R-Pike Creek Valley), a prime sponsor of the legislation. “That is not just a trite cliché, it’s a guiding doctrine for many businesses. Organizations looking to site a new facility are going to favor those venues where it is less expensive to build and where they can quickly start revenue-producing operations.”
Rep. Smith says his bill does not involve cutting any corners. “It only requires county and state officials to make a commitment to thoroughly review qualifying proposals in a workable timeline.”
Municipalities would not be subject to the bill. Recognizing that lagging state agency participation could hamper expedited approvals, the bill requires state officials to use their “best efforts to timely review and comment on plans.”
Rep. Smith said while the bill should not be viewed as a panacea, its enactment would help. “We can’t offer the economic incentives many states can to lure new employers here, but we can streamline our processes and be more welcoming to businesses. I think we’ve lost our edge in that respect.”
One analysis published last summer in U.S. News & World Report ranked Delaware among the “10 worst states to start a business” (#42 overall). Another evaluation performed by CNBC last year, scoring “all 50 states on 85 metrics in 10 broad categories of competitiveness,” gave Delaware an overall ranking of 27.
The Bring New Jobs to Delaware Act was initially filed on the last day of the 150th General Assembly. “The original prime sponsor of the bill introduced it at that time to present the concept and with the understanding it would be revisited this session,” Rep. Smith said.
In its first incarnation, the measure had modest, bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. “It seems like every state legislator has a story about losing a project in their district because of bureaucratic foot-dragging,” Rep. Smith said, adding that all lawmakers would be invited to sponsor or co-sponsor the bill.