Rich Heffron’s big night

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Morning everyone,

Monday night, Joe Biden offered a thunderous defense of the art of compromise and blue collar liberal values.

But a big part of the annual meeting of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce turned out to be a tribute to outgoing President Rich Heffron.

The accolades continued throughout the night and had their light-hearted moments as the than 1,000 in attendance learned about Heffron’s less-than-legendary golf skills.

Heffron, the long-time number two at the Chamber and a friend of the former Vice President, agreed to lead the organization at a pivotal time.

He took over after a brief and tumultuous stint by a former New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce president who did not hide her lack of enthusiasm for the peculiarities and business culture of the First State.

Heffron, who will retire later this year, will be best remembered for two recent accomplishments.

  • The overhaul of the Economic Development Office and the formation of the public-private Delaware Prosperity Partnership.
  • Updates to the Coastal Zone Act that allow redevelopment of abandoned industrial sites that are often unfit for other uses.

Both initiatives are in their early stages and their success is not assured.

My questions center on whether the private-public Prosperity Partnership’s funding is adequate and if open meetings exemptions set a negative note in a state not known for transparency.

But Heffron and the Chamber board correctly believed that business as usual was no longer an option. It is also clear Heffron’s relationship with a cautious Gov. John Carney helped move things forward.

The heavily Republican membership of the State Chamber was not always comfortable with Heffron, a moderate Democrat.But Heffron, for many year’s the Chamber’s lobbyist, was on the right track in working with the governor and both sides of the aisle in building consensus in a polarized political environment.

Along the way, he managed to keep the State Chamber relevant. – Doug Rainey, publisher.

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