Delaware Leaders In Economic Development: Linda Parkowski

May 11, 2021 –

Linda Parkowski, Executive Director, Choose Central Delaware

Linda Parkowski is a mover and shaker with a seemingly endless supply of ideas. Since 2018, she’s been the executive director of Kent Economic Partnership, which trades as Choose Central Delaware. Certainly, she knows the area well. She’s lived in Kent County for 30 years, and she raised her family here.

Last year was a busy one for Parkowski. Delmarva Corrugated Packaging is building an $80 million facility in Dover, and the Duck Creek Business Park broke ground.

Previously, Parkowski was acting director of Delaware’s Division of Small Business Development & Tourism and the director of tourism for the state. Under her guidance, tourism grew from a $1.5 billion industry to a $3.3 billion powerhouse.

What attracted you to the field of economic development?

When I was director of tourism, we were housed in the Delaware Economic Development Office, so I was surrounded by economic development every day for at least 10 years. I found it fascinating. I liked the sales portion of it — business attraction. It’s exciting. There’s something new every single day.

What is the unique selling proposition for Central Delaware?

It’s our location. We’re close to all the metropolitan areas — D.C., Philadelphia and New York. Sixty percent of the U.S. population is within a three-hour radius of us. I think that’s very important. 

We have an excellent workforce in Central Delaware, especially in the technical and skilled labor pool that fills a manufacturing need. Our new economic analysis study shows that we have plenty of workforce within a 60-minute drive time of our area.

What sectors are strong in Central Delaware, and what sectors are you looking to grow?

We have a strong small-to-medium manufacturing sector. (There are more than 75 manufacturers in Central Delaware.) Logistics is strong due to our location on the Delmarva Peninsula. We are looking to expand our healthcare sector and offer more training in the area. 

What have businesses found most appealing about Central Delaware?

They like the location and the cost of living for their business and their employees. Our last few large customers have come to the region because of the railway. It’s essential in the industrial sector. 

What is the advantage of promoting an area within a small state?

Choose Central Delaware works hand-in-hand with Delaware Prosperity Partnership. If we have a lead that comes into Central Delaware and it’s not a good fit, we send it to the other two counties. There are a lot of partnerships going on throughout the state in economic development right now.

If we need to get a legislator or the governor on the phone to reach out to a potential customer, it can happen in Delaware. I’m not sure that happens all over the country.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted my own landscaping company. For my first job, I cut grass and had a mini landscaping company from age 10 to 17. I bought my first car with the proceeds. Now I live on a farm, and I’m outside all the time.

What did you study in college?

Business. I wanted to study something general, so it would be applicable no matter what I decided to do.

What is the last book that you read?

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah. It’s about a family that moves into the Alaskan wilds in the 1970s. You feel as though you are there.

Whom do you admire?

Mark Cuban. I don’t watch “Shark Tank,” but I admire him. He gives advice that has a lot of common sense.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in economic development? 

I would say that having a real estate background would be extremely helpful or something in planning and zoning. I took a lot of planning and zoning courses. Hopefully, you enjoy the sales portion of it.

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