Cecil County’s successful job quest

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Good morning, Over the years, I had a more than routine interest in neighboring Cecil County, MD.

After all, I spent a good part of my career in Delaware, working for Chesapeake Publishing, a newspaper company with deep roots in Cecil.

For reasons of geography, education, local government and other factors, the county’s economy always struggled when compared to its more affluent neighbors to the east and west.

In fact, a sizable portion of the county’s workforce still crosses over the Delaware state line or the Susquehanna bridges each day to work at regional employers.

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But things have been looking up lately as the Principo Business Park, between North East and Perryville attracts tenants, the latest being Amazon. Next up is grocer Lidl. With Amazon, Lidl and others, the site is expected to employ thousands of people in coming years.

Skeptics may scoff at the notion of creating $15-an-hour jobs that come at companies like Amazon, but Principo is also creating opportunities in construction, maintenance, and other skilled areas.

One key to Principo’s success is the ability to provide “shovel ready” sites with the right zoning and infrastructure.

By contrast, New Castle County is behind the curve with the exception of Middletown, which has “shovel ready” sites in place.

The result has been thousands of jobs, mainly from Amazon, but also from Johnson Controls and a medical equipment company manufacturing location now under construction.

The lack of land north of the canal is not as big a problem as the cumbersome Unified Development Code that can make even routine projects on properly zone property become two or three-year marathons.

While some might say “so what” when it comes to adding lower pay jobs, the UDC also shuts out prospects for high-end manufacturing sites.

As Delaware looks for an economic development strategy, the need for shovel-ready sites has to be front and center.

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