Analysis: Low-profile Prosperity Partnership emerges with  website

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Analysis: Low-profile Prosperity Partnership emerges with website

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership has launched a website as the low-profile organization takes shape.

The announcement was in a corner of the weekly newsletter of the Delaware State Chamber, a backer of the partnership. The partnership lists its address at the Chamber’s offices in downtown Wilmington.

More content is to be added to the site, according to a blog post. At present, the site features basic information on the state and the partnership as well as members of its board.

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The partnership was formed under legislation that split up the functions of the Delaware Economic Development Office. The private sector kicked in $1 million, with the state allocating $2 million.

DEDO had long been unpopular among some legislators after a history that included a DEDO staff purge more than a decade ago and the aftermath of the Fisker and Bloom Energy deals.

Legislators, at one point, moved global trade over to the Department of State, which in the DEDO reshuffling now has small business and tourism under its umbrella of agencies that range from incorporation to professional regulation.

On the private funding side, Christiana-based Artesian Resources disclosed in earnings reports a $300,000 contribution to the partnership. Artesian provides water and wastewater services in all three counties of the state.

The website lists the logos of a number of partners, although it is not immediately clear whether they contributed to the partnership.

John Riley was named as interim director of the partnership, which has a board comprised of legislators, the governor and members of the private sector.

Riley has experience in economic development and corporate circles in Delaware. He most recently served in an executive position with Ashland, formerly Hercules.

The partnership has not been universally praised, although it passed through both houses with little opposition.

One point of friction came when legislators carved out an exception from open meetings laws and other areas of transparency.

Confidentiality in working with businesses was cited as the reason for the exemption. Critics responded by noting that current open meetings laws contain plenty of safeguards in that area.

Another issue is whether the private funding will create a “pay to play” environment at the partnership that favors companies funding the partnership.

The state has long been criticized for having close-knit relationships among businesspeople, legislators and power brokers that enrich the well connected.

Even among supporters, there is concern that funding for the initiative is too meager in a state that is already handicapped by its size in an environment where states and cities are not afraid to spend heavily on marketing and promotion.

Critics also saw the legislative moves that cut a dozen DEDO positions as a way to cut costs for the state in the wake of a nearly $400 million budget shortfall that was plugged earlier this year.

There are also worries that the small business functions will not get adequate attention from a Department of State with a plethora of agencies under its wing.

The challenge for the partnership will come in proving critics wrong with some victories y on the economic development front.

(Editor’s note: Doug Rainey has covered business issues in Delaware since 1987). He can be reached at drainey@delawarebusinessnow.com.

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Delaware Business Now is a four-year-old, five-day-a-week newsletter and website operated by Bird Street Media LLC. Publisher and Chief Content Officer is Doug Rainey, a 30-year veteran of business journalism in the state of Delaware. 

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