Tag: Transportation and Infrastructure

Chemours Opens New Global HQ in Renovated DuPont Building

Chemours opens new global HQ in renovated DuPont Building

16 JANUARY, 2019

The Chemours Company, a global chemical firm, opened its renovated company headquarters on January 15 within the historic, 106-year-old DuPont Building on Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington — the former headquarters of DuPont, which spun off Chemours in 2015.

“This is a place that our team can be proud to call home,” Chemours President and CEO Mark Vergnano told the gathering of local dignitaries. “Our renovated office is a perfect metaphor for Chemours – a company grounded in its legacy, but transforming into an agile, innovative and collaborative enterprise with a bias for actions and growth.”

Now in his fourth year as leader of the new company, Vergnano expressed continued confidence about Chemours’ future growth in a time of market turmoil. In an interview with Delaware Business Times after the ceremony, Vegnano said, “People recognize that we’re the world leaders in our fields, and the market gets that,” he said, referring to the decentralized firm’s three operating units – Titanium Technologies, Fluoroproducts and Chemical Solutions.

The new headquarters will occupy 280,000 square feet in an 11-story segment of the building that is owned by the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG), which also oversaw the 20-month renovation. Chemours’ share of construction costs was $30 million.

Vergnano said his company made a conscious decision not to change the building’s name to the Chemours Building out of respect for the company’s heritage, which dates back to the founding of DuPont on Brandywine Creek in 1802.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Gov. John Carney, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and BPG Co-President Christopher Buccini were among the speakers at the ceremony and ribbon-cutting event that took place in the ornate Nobel Room on the 11th Floor.

Buccini purchased the building, including the Hotel du Pont, from Chemours in 2017 and set about revitalizing the structure, including adding residential units.

“After having renovated the Nemours and Brandywine buildings earlier, we had the knowledge of what worked and what didn’t work,” Buccini said. “This project stressed tested our company’s capabilities.” In his prepared remarks, Buccini noted that “Chemours’ decision to be based in this historic building is a fitting tribute to their heritage, while their 21st Century workspace points boldly to their future. We are proud to have been on this journey with them.”

Approximately 850 Chemours employees and contractors will work in the headquarters, which has 125 meeting rooms, 73 conference rooms and one café per floor of the building. The structure’s open-concept design features ergonomic chairs and sit/stand desks. In addition, 500 marble panels were recovered during renovation– about 50 tons in all – and reused in the building.

Carney noted that “this is probably the happiest day I’ve had in my two years as governor,” crediting the work done toward keeping Chemours in Wilmington and Delaware by his predecessor, former governor Jack Markell. “The state of Delaware can’t be successful without Wilmington being successful, and Wilmington can’t be successful” without a strong business base.

Purzycki, who followed Governor Carney to the podium, said, “If John is happy, you can’t imagine how happy the mayor of Wilmington is.”

Business analysts continue to be bullish on Chemours, most rating it a “buy” or “strong buy” to potential investors. Vergnano expressed confidence in the strength of the American economy, while noting that global market volatility continued to make the company’s stock undervalued. “I was given the advice by other CEO’s when I took over not to check the stock price every day,” he said. “We can’t control market volatility, which is a reflection of the fact that the market hates uncertainty.”

He re-stated his opinion that Chemours, with its worldwide manufacturing and marketing capabilities, is positioned better than most companies to weather this uncertainty, which includes tariff wars, the slowdown of the Chinese economy and what will play out with Brexit, the UK’s planned withdrawal from the EU.

“We’re not interested in acquisitions or new business outside the three areas where we have a strong presence,” he said. “Second, we will continue to invest in ourselves [through normal business expansion]. And, we will continue to provide cash back to our stockholders.”

Chemours had annual revenue in 2017 of more than $6 billion and with 45 manufacturing and laboratory sites worldwide, serving customers in over 130 countries.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Angel Investor Tax Credit Puts Delaware in the Top 10 for Tech

Angel investor tax credit puts Delaware in the top 10 for tech


The Milken Institute has been publishing its biannual State Technology and Science Index since 2002, a study that evaluates each state in the U.S. by several factors, including access to startup capital and startup activity.

Delaware cracked the top 10 in 2016. Now, thanks to a new tax law that allows gives startup investors a credit on investments over $10,000, the state is ranked higher than it’s ever been previously, at No. 7.

The tax credit bill, the Angel Investor Job Creation and Innovation Act for Small Technology Companies, signed into law by Governor John Carney last May, gave Delaware a big boost in the study. In the sub-index measuring the ability of tech and science companies to obtain investment, Delaware previously had a below-average rank of 29. Now, that factor is ranked 15.

In two of the study’s sub-indexes, Delaware ranked No. 5: the strength of its tech and science workforce, and its business startup rate of 53.4 per 1,000 residents.

The top four ranked states — Massachusetts (1), Colorado (2), Maryland (3) and California (4) — have all maintained the same ranking since 2016. Washington and Minnesota each dropped one place, but remain in the top 10.

Elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania is No. 13 (up from 14 in 2016), and New Jersey dropped from 17 to 21.

Kurt Foreman


Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Could the Air Cargo Ramp Initiative Take off This Time?

Could the air cargo ramp initiative take off this time?

22 SEPTEMBER, 2018

One unfulfilled economic development idea always seems to resurface in Kent County.

“When I bring this up, people are going to snicker,” said Linda Parkowski Tuesday at the Kent Economic Summit at Delaware Technical Community College.

“We’re looking at the air cargo ramp. This has been around and discussed for 30 years.”

The air cargo ramp idea utilizes Dover Air Force Base for private carriers’ cargo flights, related to what currently is used in support of the base and potentially what could be in support of commerce in the area.

Ms. Parkowski, just a few months into her new role as executive director of the Kent Economic Partnership, outlined the priorities of the office during a 25-minute presentation.

Largely, the new public-private ideas are building off insights obtained in Rockport Analytics’ research about the county. One of the immediate hopes, she said, is to boost Kent County’s role in warehousing, distribution and logistics – areas the researchers said would be great possibilities for the county.

The air cargo ramp might just be a great tie-in, she said.

When you go back to some of the original discussion and initiatives outlined in the past few decades, the air cargo ramp largely was pitched as a place to “park” and service private cargo planes in what was formerly called the “Civil Air Terminal” area at Dover Air Force Base. Cargo outfits such Evergreen and Atlas would fly in to the base, but not be able to stay so the planes would be flown to Philadelphia and costs amounted to tens of thousands of dollars each time.

“I see this as, hopefully, a Port of Wilmington for Kent County if we can get this working,” said Ms. Parkowski.

With two fingers slightly apart, she said, “DelDOT has done an amazing job and we’re this close to signing a joint use agreement.”

One big difference, she noted, was that previous discussions of a Joint Use Agreement between the state and the Air Force only called for two-year agreements. The new agreement calls for a 50-year agreement.”

Nothing has been signed at this point, Ms. Parkowski said.

One of the next steps, she said, would be to issue a request for information to find out what its potential uses could be.

The prospects of it working also relate to available land in the adjacent Kent County Aeropark where there are several available acres.

The Kent Economic Partnership is a nonprofit organization that was restructured earlier this year with a collaborative agreement of Kent County Levy Court and the Greater Kent Committee, a group of business leaders.

The air cargo ramp would be what formerly was called the Civil Air Terminal at the end of Horsepond Road in Dover. Currently, the terminal is most used on NASCAR weekends when drivers and crews arrive and depart in private planes.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Port of Wilmington Privatization Deal Promises More Jobs, Stable Economic Future

Port of Wilmington privatization deal promises more jobs, stable economic future

18 SEPTEMBER, 2018

Delaware officials on Tuesday signed a final agreement with Emirati port operator Gulftainer to privatize the Port of Wilmington.

Gov. John Carney and Gulftainer officials signed a document commemorating the agreement in front of a crowd of state and local government officials.

Badr Jafar, chairman of Gulftainer’s executive board, said the deal and accompanying growth in the state’s port business will “firmly establish Wilmington as the largest logistics facility on the Delaware River and the leading food gateway on the East Coast.”

Carney said the deal would secure and grow the state’s current maritime workforce and blunt Delaware’s loss of “blue-collar jobs” over recent years.

“I come here with a big smile … knowing that what we are going to do here today is to secure the jobs of the people and the families who work here at the port and those who are going to work in the years to come,” Carney said.

Under terms of the 50-year deal, a U.S. subsidiary of Gulftainer will take over operations of the existing port of Wilmington at the confluence of the Christina and Delaware rivers.

It will invest some $600 million in upgrades and build a new container-handling terminal on the Delaware at Edgemoor, officials have said.

State officials estimate the takeover could double the 5,700 port and maritime-related jobs in Delaware.

A spokesman for Carney declined to provide a copy of the agreement but said it will be made available after a legal review.

The agreement takes effect in the coming two weeks, officials said. The state will continue to own the existing port property as well as the Edgemoor property, which was once DuPont Co.’s Edge Moor chemical production facility. The state bought that property for $10 million in 2016.

Per the agreement, the state will receive concession payments from Gulftainer totaling about $10 million a year in the coming decades.

The company, based in the United Arab Emirates, opened its first U.S. container facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2015. The company has ports in the UAE, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Brazil and is a subsidiary of the Crescent Enterprises, a privately held UAE conglomerate.

“The underlying potential of the north American market has long been an aspiration for Gulftainer,” Jafar, the company chairman, said.

Jafar said the company will double the container throughout of the current port to “underpin” the development at Edgemoor.

The agreement sets a goal for a 75 percent increase in traffic for non-containerized goods like liquids and automobiles, officials have said.

Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, who chairs the port’s operating board, said the kind of jobs created will “secure the state’s future.”

“You can still get big things done in our state,” Bullock said.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

The Future of Transportation in the First State

The future of transportation in the First State

28 AUGUST, 2018

How we’ll roll: Trains, Planes and Driverless Cars

Transportation planners and experts are careful about predicting how Delawareans will get around in 30 years, but they’re more certain about how they won’t. Many argue that building more roads, highways and parking lots is a trend in need of reversal.

“Building new roads is not where the country is,” said Jennifer Cohan, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation. “We are not building our way out of traffic congestion.”

“If everyone continues to drive their own car, we’ll have problems,” said Bill Swiatek, a principal planner at the Wilmington Area Planning Council, or WILMAPCO, a planning group that coordinates transportation spending. “We have to convince people that roads are finite resources.”

But the gulf between what planners say the state needs and what residents want is wider than ever.

Instead of choosing transit-accessible Wilmington, about half of household growth until 2040 will take place in suburbs along the I-95 corridor, WILMAPCO predicts.

As a result, WILMAPCO projects that 61 percent of transportation spending on new projects in New Castle County over the next two decades will go to eight major roadways south of U.S. 40.

Non-road projects, such as the extension of commuter rail in Maryland from Perryville to Elkton, and major work on a trail linking Wilmington to New Castle, are in the works as well, but most funding will continue to pay for road improvements and construction.

Meanwhile, transit ridership is declining. Delawareans are buying more cars than ever, and Census data shows that more people are choosing to drive alone. Even carpooling has seen major declines since the 1980s.

Whether and how Delaware can reverse this cycle of sprawl and infrastructure spending will be a central question for its business community. Though businesses tend to be agnostic on the question of how people get around, ensuring access to workers, goods and markets is essential, said Kurt Foreman, executive director of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.

Major questions remain on how to pay for it all. Delaware’s trust fund is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 1.4 percent through 2023. If people buy fewer high-mileage cars, the state will stumble toward a crisis. Another approach, paying by the mile, is unpopular for now but seeing a concerted push from policy experts.

Here is a look at some of the transportation projects and trends coming to Delaware and what they could mean for the state in the years, and even decades, to come.

Infill and redevelopment

As a home to one of the first north-south roads through the Thirteen Colonies, and Native American trails before that, Claymont has long been tied to its infrastructure, said Brett Saddler, a resident who leads a public-private nonprofit called the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp.

Today, that means a connection to mass transit, but the current rail station is “nothing more than a glorified bus shelter,” Saddler said.

In 2013, the closure of Claymont Steel hit the community hard, but the 425-acre site presented an opportunity. A new station is slated to open by the end of 2020. The station serves about 1,200 weekday commuters.

Nearby businesses stand to benefit, too.

“Tri-State Mall is licking their chops,” he said.

What’s happening in Claymont is a good example of what planners call “infill” development, which targets vacant or under-used land within existing communities. It takes advantage of existing infrastructure and avoids sprawl, but it’s often more expensive than building on a blank slate.

In other words, it’s an uphill battle. While greenfield development happens naturally in some places, infill often requires government help.

“I have no doubt that if we and the community did not lobby for the investment, we wouldn’t be looking at what’s potentially going to happen there now,” Saddler said.

Road diets and bottom-up outreach

On DelDOT’s long-range planning website, called “Innovation in Motion,” the department compares two roads: A typical four-lane city street and the road of the future, a two-lane road with dedicated bus and bicycling lanes. Owner-occupied cars are still on the stage of these future roads, but they’re moved to a supporting role.

For an example of how these transformations, often called “road diets,” look, consider Newark’s experience with Cleveland Avenue, a busy four-lane road lined with car dealerships.

A 2001 attempt to put Cleveland on a diet went nowhere, as businesses along the 1.1-mile project route objected to slimming the road to two lanes. So the plan was put on the shelf.

Then it was dusted off in 2015, when the city and state, spurred by accident data showing that Cleveland was a particularly dangerous stretch of road, took another shot at the project. This time, they recruited businesses and other interests in the area to a task force, allowing them to join the process.

During one site visit, Acting City Manager Tom Coleman remembers watching families push strollers across four lanes of traffic.

“I thought, ‘If we don’t do something, someone’s going to get killed out here,’” he said.

After this summer’s project, Cleveland Avenue will be two lanes in each direction, with a center turn lane where needed. There are also bike lanes in each direction and pedestrian “refuge islands” in the middle to make it easier to cross on foot.

Road diets will likely be a bigger part of Delaware’s transportation network over the coming decades, according to Coleman. His advice is to engage a wide mix of interests early on.

“I think you’re going to have trouble with a top-down approach to implementing these just because [removing driving lanes] can be so counterintuitive,” he said.

Making transit ‘sexy’

An estimated 17 percent of people in the area depend on transit, but many view it with skepticism, said Dave Gula, a principal planner at WILMAPCO.

But if the future is going to become more transit-oriented, planners say bus travel will have to appeal to people who don’t have to take it.

“What you’re seeing us focus on now is trying to make transit sexy,” said Cohan, the DelDOT leader. That means adding amenities like free wireless internet and phone-charging stations.

Delaware bus riders can now track the location of their bus in real-time and pay via mobile app for summer beach buses. Adults older than 65 were the top downloaders for the beach bus app, Cohan said.

Allowing older adults to remain independent even if they can’t drive — along with young people who prefer not to —is an important part of transit’s role, said Heather Dunigan, also a principal planner at WILMAPCO.

But the viability of transit is limited by sprawl; the farther buses have to travel, the longer routes become, and the more transfers are necessary.

“The disconnect between land-use planning and transportation infrastructure has been part of the uphill battle,” Cohan said. “Of course, more development is great, but if transportation infrastructure doesn’t keep pace, you end up with a situation like you see at the beach.”

Getting dense

In 1920, three out of every four New Castle County residents lived in Wilmington. Today, about one in eight do. As the car made it possible to live farther afield, infrastructure spending struggled to catch up.

“A lot of New Castle County was built in a way that will never pay for itself,” Coleman said. Expanding roads simply leads to more demand for housing, more drivers and eventually more demand for roads.

A 2014 WILMAPCO survey found that 71 percent of respondents thought development should occur in existing towns and growth areas, while only 29 percent thought it should happen where developers choose.

But restrictions on property rights are a tough sell in America. Foreman noted that the term “sprawl” has negative connotations that presuppose “there’s something wrong with people developing their land where they’d like to.”

That said, Foreman said the transition toward denser spaces won’t need to be led by regulators. Instead, as people demand different places, developers will respond.

“They’re thinking about the quality of place now, and what value proposition that a resident of their community gets, whether it’s a riverfront or a ballpark or a walking trail,” he said.

A self-driven future

Generally, experts talk about self-driving or autonomous vehicles on a continuum, with Level 0 being entirely driver-controlled and Level 5 being entirely automated, with no steering wheel, pedals or breaks. Vehicles from Levels 1 through 4 have varying levels of automation, but a driver needs to take the wheel in certain situations.

Level 2 vehicles, which can brake, steer and accelerate on their own but need a driver, are already on the road. How long before we see a Level 5 vehicle — and the full promise of driverless vehicles — is not yet clear, said Ken Grant, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“I think it’s coming faster than most people would expect,” he said. “Does that mean next year? No. Within 10 years? Maybe. Within 20 years? Probably.”

Imagine a car that is competent enough to drive itself, but still needs a human driver to step in every once in a while. Expecting drivers to react quickly, especially when a car can drive itself most of the time, may be too much to expect.

“That’s kind of dicey,” Grant said of these Level 3 and 4 vehicles. “That’s one area of transition that’s going to be tricky.”

For this reason, some automakers, including Ford, have said they intend to skip over this level.

Technology, though, tends to change more quickly than behavior. It’s one thing to pick up an iPhone and another to change how you get to work every day. Even when self-driving cars are common, will ride-sharing follow suit?

DelDOT has asked the University of Delaware to investigate the state’s readiness for autonomous vehicles. The university’s April 2017 report is largely positive, suggesting the state already has an extensive telecom network and is planning new efforts to prepare the state for driverless vehicles.

Still, long-distance commutes are likely to increase, triggering more sprawl and environmental degradation, said Philip Barnes, a co-author of the report and an associate policy scientist in UD’s Institute for Public Administration.

“The real, real question here is how’re we going to pay for all this,” he said. “This is not going to be cheap.”

Paying by the mile

As drivers move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, hybrids and electrics, they save gas money but cut down on the Delaware’s 23-cents-a-gallon gas tax.

Delaware is one of many states part of a “huge policy discussion around implementation of mileage-based user fee,” said Barnes of UD.

Grant, with AAA, is a part of DelDOT’s trial run to charge residents based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gas they use. At the end of the month, the device tells him how many miles in each state he drove and receives an informational “bill” (the pilot is not actually collecting money) that deducts the gas taxes he paid.

“It doesn’t say exactly how many trips I’ve taken to Dunkin Donuts, which I’m glad of because my wife doesn’t get to see that,” Grant said, joking.

A 2018 WILMAPCO survey found that 74 percent of residents of Cecil and New Castle counties did not support paying by the mile.

Cohan said there are two major misunderstandings about a mileage-based fee. First, people think their location is being tracked in real time, though the state merely collects information once a month. Second, people think the tax will be in addition to the gas tax, rather than instead of it.

Robert Perkins, a Wilmington business executive who leads the Delaware Business Roundtable, said it’s too early to tell whether the mileage-based tax is the right answer.

“I think most people believe the gas tax is an equitable way to fund transportation, but it’s very wise for the state to look at other ways to pay for infrastructure needs,” he said.

Barnes thinks most people will support a mileage-based fee if it’s explained clearly to them, but there is always a Plan B.

“When our potholes don’t get filled, when bridges crumble,” he said, people will take notice.

That said, predictions about new taxes or automated vehicles should be taken with skepticism, Barnes said. “It’s crystal ball gazing and anyone who says they know for certain is not being honest with themselves.”

Regardless of whether drivers can be persuaded to adopt new ways of getting around, Foreman, the business leader, said there will be opportunities.

“What I like about Delaware is that we’re small enough that I don’t think the solutions will daunt us,” he said. “Our small scale gives us connectedness and an ability to dialogue that bodes well for our future.”

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Every Delawarean Deserves Access to High-Speed Internet

Every Delawarean deserves access to high-speed internet

9 AUGUST, 2018

Applying for a job, or recruiting talented employees for your business. Taking a college course. Reading a book. Helping your kids with math homework.

More and more, these are tasks that Delawareans are completing online — to further their education, acquire new skills, and compete in an economy that is evolving every day.

My most important job as governor is to make sure that Delaware has a strong, growing, and competitive economy. That’s why it’s so important for us to expand access to high-speed broadband service across our state — especially in areas where service is spotty or unavailable today.

Over the next two years, working with partners in the private sector, we plan to eliminate broadband deserts and ensure that every Delaware citizen and business has access to high-speed broadband service.

Delaware has consistently been recognized for having among the fastest internet speeds in the country. Ensuring reliable access to the internet for even more Delawareans will help prepare our young people for the economy of the future, and it will help our existing workforce do their jobs even better.

Recently, during a tour of Delaware Electric Cooperative in Greenwood, we saw how important broadband access is to the delivery of electricity across Kent and Sussex counties.

One night at 11 p.m., Josh Wharton, a Delaware Electric Cooperative operations supervisor, received a call about a fire on another company’s power line. The company asked Josh to redirect power to 5,000 customers before their service was impacted. From his home in Gumboro, Josh used an iPad to keep the lights on for 5,000 Delawareans.

How was that possible? A high-speed, remote internet connection.

Businesses need to reach their customers, and so they set up shop in locations that enable them to communicate efficiently. High-speed broadband is critical for companies of all sizes, and it’s why we’re working to ensure businesses have access to quality internet service statewide.

We also heard from R.C. and Brent Willin of Willin Farms on how their fifth-generation family farm uses the internet to make adjustments to planting, monitor equipment, and manage business operations.

We want all of Delaware’s farms to have access to this type of technology. Expanding access to high-speed broadband is essential for Delaware’s agriculture sector to remain competitive.

Here’s how we plan to expand high-speed broadband access in Delaware: In August, we will release a request for proposals (RFP) to improve broadband availability in rural areas throughout Delaware by creating opportunity for the private sector to develop and offer that service wirelessly.

Through this RFP and subsequent partnerships, the State will enable wireless service to homes and businesses where broadband service is not readily available, particularly in rural Kent and Sussex counties.

Delaware will find ways to lower the cost of internet service for lower income families. If we want all Delaware families to have a shot at success, they need to be able to apply for a job and complete homework assignments – tasks that become incredibly complicated without access to the internet.

We’ll make it more attractive for private sector internet service providers to bring wireless coverage to Delaware by subsidizing capital costs through a rural broadband grant program, making it possible for providers to invest and develop in rural areas.

This is about increasing opportunity for all Delawareans — and making sure that no one in our state is left behind because they don’t have adequate access to technology.

We are building on earlier work across our state that has achieved results. Delaware has worked diligently to expand broadband access across the state for several years.

Delaware Chief Information Officer James Collins has worked with school district leaders to upgrade digital infrastructure and dramatically increase internet speeds in 48 schools statewide — many in areas that are under-served.

As part of an initiative through the Delaware Department of Technology and Information, a company called Bloosurf launched a pilot project in the City of Seaford, which offered free internet service to customers within 8 miles of wireless access points throughout the city.

That helped Delawareans like Kim Hopkins, a Seaford teacher, who previously had trouble grading papers, preparing lesson plans, and helping her children with their homework because of a slow, spotty internet connection.

The State of Delaware made an initial public investment in increasing our digital infrastructure, which has led to over $30 million in private investment. As a result, we have 700 miles of fiber broadband lines bringing high-speed internet to homes, businesses, and schools statewide.

Delaware’s broadband “backbone” features high capacity fiber-optic lines that run the length of the state from Wilmington to Georgetown, and from Seaford to Lewes, improving internet reliability for consumers and increasing internet access speeds by as much as 10 times since 2009.

Thanks in large part to these efforts, Delaware continuously ranks at, or near, the top of broadband speed rankings across the nation. Yet, we still face the same challenges as many other states when it comes to access and affordability, especially in our rural areas where broadband deserts still exist.

Over the next two years, we will directly confront this issue, eliminate those deserts, and make high-speed internet a reality for all Delawareans. That will help all Delawareans connect and compete in a new economy, and improve economic opportunity across our state.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware