Former tourism director Parkowski to take reins at Kent Economic Partnership

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Linda Parkowski has been named the executive director of the Kent County Economic Partnership.

The Delaware State News. reported that Parkowski was elected by the board of the nonprofit group that is comprised of business and government leaders.

Parkowski, a Kent Countian, is the former chief of the Delaware Tourism Office and helped lead successful promotional efforts to increase the number of visitors to the state.

The Tourism Office and its parent organization the Delaware Economic Development Office underwent a reorganization that led to activities being split off into the public-private Delaware Economic Development Partnership and the Division of Small Business Development and Tourism. The small business unit is now under the umbrella of the Secretary of State’s Office.

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Parkowski had most recently served as Acting Director of the Division of Small Business and Tourism. She will face challenges in building on an economic recovery that has sometimes left the county behind.

Kent County’s Economyis heavily influenced by federal (Dover Air Force Base) and state government employment in the capital city of Dover.

Employment has been stagnant in recent years in the government sector, due to state and federal budget constraints and a winding down of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The state capital also lacksfinancial services and financial technology fin-tech jobs that are more prevalent to the north. While the county has seen an influx of retirees, the growth has not been as vibrant as in coastal Sussex County.

The gaming industry andDover’s two NASCAR weekends have also seen tougher times in recent years. Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway have been hit by out of state competition that now includes a Las Vegas-sized casino near Washington, D.C.

One bright spot is the Firefly Music Festival, which by many accounts saw higher attendance this year.

Parkowski’s expertise in tourism may aid the county’s efforts to draw visitors who pass through the county on the way to the beach.

Kent is the home of the Harvest Ridge Winery and Rebel Seed cidery as well as Painted Stave Distillery and Fordham-Dominion Brewing.

Manufacturing employment has been rising but is seeing the departure of dozens of jobs with the closing of the PPG paint plant. Click here for Bureau of Labor Statistics information.

One bright spot is retail, which has seen new chain store openings. However, that sector of the economy typically generates low-paying jobs. Even that area suffered a setback with news that Acme, a higher pay employer, will close its store in north Dover.

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