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In The News

Goldman Sachs to expand consumer finance business to Wilmington’s Riverfront

From Delaware Online

Goldman Sachs’ expansion into retail lending is bringing a sliver of the investment bank’s operations into the credit card hot spot of Delaware.

Officials at the storied 150-year-old bank said they are securing a temporary lease for offices along the Wilmington Riverfront to house the company’s initial set of Delaware hires, estimated at 25 to 50 people.

The company plans to employ about 150 people in Wilmington at the end of next year, said Chantal Garcia, chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs’ Consumer Business.

Garcia declined to disclose the exact location of their initial office along the Riverfront, but noted it would be a small space. Later, the company will move to more expansive offices, she said.

“We have not yet determined … our long-term location, in part, because there are potential other businesses or partners within the firm that may be interested in co-locating with us,” Garcia said, noting that compliance operations might also expand into Delaware.

The news is certain to be welcomed by city and state officials, who have poured hundreds of millions of dollars over 25 years into a transformation of the Riverfront, once a declining industrial area.

While today it features modern offices, apartments and restaurants, the revitalization of the city’s overall core has been plagued in recent years by a roller coaster of restructuring within the financial services industry.

Last year, the British bank Barclays moved 500 Riverfront jobs to New Jersey.

In June, Delaware officials announced plans to give the bank $2.5 million in taxpayer grants to create another 300 jobs in Wilmington.

Garcia said Goldman Sachs last week began conversations with the state’s private economic development agency about potential incentives.

She said Goldman Sachs is committed to Delaware, whether or not it receives taxpayer grants. She noted the company already has extended offers to a portion of what will be its new Delaware workforce.

Goldman Sachs’ officials chose Delaware over locations in Texas, Utah and Illinois, Garcia said, because of the state’s substantial pool of finance workers, its relatively low cost of living and its proximity to the bank’s headquarters.

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Beebe drops plans for Milton campus

From Delaware Business Times

MILTON — Beebe Healthcare’s plans for a Milton campus were put on pause, as the development group tasked with constructing the building withdrew its application for the project last week.

Earlier this year, Phoenix RHCS Holdings announced a partnership with Beebe on a new campus, tentatively called the Jerry Ann McLamb Medical Pavilion, on 8 acres in downtown Milton. Early plans showed two 40,000-square-foot offices, one of which to be leased to Beebe and the other would have been used for complementary medical services.

In January, Beebe’s then-interim president and CEO Rick Schaffner told the Delaware State News that the Milton campus would provide primary care, walk-in care, as well as diagnostic imaging, laboratory services and rehabilitation services.

The office would have been Beebe’s most northern location, continuing a string of recent expansions through Sussex County. This spring, Beebe opened a freestanding emergency department and a cancer center at the Beebe South Coastal Health Campus. Construction work is underway at Beebe’s $124 million surgical hospital on Route 24 near Rehoboth Beach with a target opening in 2022.

The pavilion would have honored McLamb, a Milton native and a dedicated nurse that graduated from Beebe School of Nursing and spent most of her 50-year career at the southern Delaware health system. McLamb, who died in 2018, is the mother-in-law of Phoenix RHCS Holdings chief financial officer Chris Selzer.

The proposal would have also marked a first in Sussex for Phoenix RHCS Holdings, as it has previously developed medical offices in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Castle County. Most notably, the company developed the Apex Medical Center with its memorable doctor’s bag sculpture in Christiana, according to a company representative.

All five parcels are owned by Lobolly, LLC,  the property management division of Draper Holdings, which owns the WBOC television station. Phoenix RHCS Holdings planned to buy the property from Lobolly, according to a Cape Gazette report, but the land has not changed hands as of Sept. 28.

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Pandemic forces small Delaware retailers to pivot to survive

From Delaware Business Times

Delaware’s downtown districts strived to rebrand themselves as the place for one-of-a-kind shopping and community experience, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced dramatic change in the independent retail business model.

For decades, big box stores have been slowly taking market share from small businesses in designated commerce areas like Downtown Districts or Main Streets. Independent stores see less than a quarter of all retail shopping today compared to about half of sales in the 1980s, according to a study completed by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. But gradually, Main Street Inc. programs and other grassroots efforts have led the way to preserve and revitalize historic commerce corridors.

Nationwide retail and restaurant spending totaled $526.1 billion in August, an increase of 0.6% from the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Spending has been steadily growing over the past four months, but that may falter now that extra federal unemployment benefits have lessened. Clothing and accessory sales skyrocketed 105% in June versus May, when shutdown orders were starting to lift, but now customers have tightened their purse strings again.

Through the pandemic, big-box stores stood to profit more than smaller, independent stores. Giants like Walmart and Target that offer groceries remained open for one-stop shopping in the early days of the crisis while Main Street businesses were not categorized as essential services.

“I hate to see a small business close,” said Jenn Marsh, the owner of Stubborn Soul Boutique in Middletown. “It’s a scary time for sure, and with the overhead with brick and mortar, sometimes I wonder if we would have made it this far. The challenge with Amazon and Walmart is that we’re not them, and we’ll never be them. We have to find another way.”

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University of Delaware announces layoffs, other measures as budget deficit grows

From Delaware Online

The University of Delaware said it is facing a budget deficit of about $250 million this year, as significant revenue loss and increased expenses from the COVID-19 pandemic strain the university’s finances.

On Thursday, the university announced another round of cost-saving measures that included layoffs, a voluntary retirement program and voluntary staff hour reductions.

There will also be unpaid leave and temporary reductions to retirement contributions.

Thursday’s round of cuts apply to university staff members only, not faculty members. UD administrators have begun talks with the faculty union. Those negotiations will be dependent on how many staff members choose to take the voluntary retirement or reduced hours, university spokesperson Andrea Boyle Tippett said.

Staff who choose the voluntary retirement option must notify the university by Oct. 5. The incentive payment would equal five months of base salary, plus payment for any unused vacation days.

“Given that we will have eliminated almost all discretionary expenses for this year, we have no choice but to turn to personnel actions,” Assanis said in a letter to faculty and staff on Thursday.

Campus departments are also being asked to scale back spending. Non-academic units are being asked to cut budgets by 25% to 35%, while academic units must cut by 15% in an effort to “preserve the academic core of the institution,” Boyle Tippett said.

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New project at former paint factory near Cheswold expected to bring 130 jobs

From Delaware Online

A 173,000-square-foot former paint manufacturing plant near Cheswold is seeing new life and new jobs thanks to a joint effort of the Kent Economic Partnership, the state and Kent County.

The building at 1886 Lynnbury Woods Road was purchased for $4.25 million, part of a total investment of $17.2 million to develop manufacturing and warehouse jobs at the site.

Nephi, Utah-based National Vinyl Products is an extruder of PVC fence and rail products sold across North America. This new state-of-the-art extrusion plant will employ 80 workers as equipment operators, quality control and plant/equipment maintenance personnel while allowing the company access to customers across the Eastern U.S.

USA Fulfillment Services, a Chestertown, Maryland-based logistics company, is leasing space at the building and will use it for warehousing. It will employ between 30 and 40 workers, bringing the total number of people working at the building to as many as 130.

Formerly occupied by PPG, the building has been vacant since 2019 when the company closed its paint factory there.

“This is a real win for Delaware and for Kent County,” Gov. John Carney said. “This brings back to the area many of what I call the ‘new old’ jobs that for years have helped Delaware families put food on the table, pay the mortgage and send their kids to college.”

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Stimulus checks, jobless benefits not reviving the hospitality sector

From Delaware Business Now

Recent releases from the office of the Delaware State Treasurer and the Delaware Department of Labor contain some eyepopping numbers.

So far, the combination of the stimulus checks and jobless benefits since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in mid-March totals $1.7 billion or more than $1,700 for every man, woman, and child in the state.

The stimulus checks amount to a little less than half of the total, based on figures from the state Treasurer’s office. For any number of reasons, a sizable number of Delawareans still have not received the checks that amount to $2,400 for a couple,

The pandemic benefits included the Pandemic Assistance checks of $600 a week. Businesspeople complained the payment led many workers to stay on the sidelines after their establishments began to reopen.Others said the program boosted the economy at a critical time.

The Pandemic payments ended in late July and were recently replaced by a $300 a week Lost Wages payment that will last for a limited time with current funding.

We do know that unemployment checks typically go back into groceries and other necessities.

Stimulus checks have more of an indirect impact since many people who held on to their jobs banked the proceeds. That is good news when it comes to an abysmal savings rate in Delaware and elsewhere, but it may not do much to jump-start the economy

As a recent article in The Atlantic noted, many consumers have been squirreling away a lot of money this year or paying down their credit card balances.

The reason? The pandemic means many people are not traveling or frequenting restaurants, especially establishments with higher price points that attract an older and often more cautious clientele.

The spending slump is reflected in recent unemployment figures from the state Department of Labor. On Friday, the department reported an 8.9 percent jobless rate. (Many economists believe that rate is far higher).

The subdued spending has hammered the state’s travel-hospitality industry, a big recipient of travel and dining spending.

The Delaware jobless figures showed the hospitality sector accounting for nearly 14,000 of the more than 41,000 jobs that have been lost in 2020.

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As state steps up enforcement, businesses work to meet COVID-19 regulations

From Delaware State News

DOVER — After promising to step up enforcement in August and September to stem the spread of COVID-19, the Delaware Division of Public Health has issued a total of six administrative penalties and one short-term closure to businesses for noncompliance with regulations.

The most notable actions were taken against Rancho El 24 in Bridgeville and Mexican Folkloric Dance Society of New York in early September for a rodeo that drew about 1,500 people and did not require mask-wearing or social-distancing.

DPH spokeswoman Jen Brestel said the agency assessed a $21,000 administrative penalty due to “severe noncompliance of the Governor’s State of Emergency order” ($10,000 each for face covering and social distancing violations, $1,000 for failure to secure proper approval). The DPH did inform the event organizers that penalties issued by the agency may be reduced if actions were taken to assist any potential contact tracing efforts within seven days of receipt of the enforcement notice.

In Kent County, only one business has been fined for violations thus far.

The Green Stinger in Woodside was assessed a $1,000 administrative penalty ($500 per violation) for continued noncompliance of COVID-19 requirements, according to the DPH.

In Sussex County, there has been one smaller violation in addition to the incident at Rancho El 24.

Bethany Auto Parts and Marine Supplies in Ocean View was assessed a $100 administrative penalty for continued noncompliance of COVID-19 requirements, according to the DPH.

The other three administration penalties were issued in New Castle County, including the only closure.

Ms. Brestel said DPH inspectors observed multiple violations during an inspection at Mad Mac’s in Newark on Friday, Aug. 28. The establishment agreed to close to address the compliance issues and reopened the following day.

No fine was issued to Mad Mac’s, Ms. Brestel said, but repeat violations could result in closure, fines or other actions.

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Wilmington joins national program aimed at accelerating growth of young businesses

From Delaware Business Now

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and City Council President Hanifa Shabazz announced a partnership with the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation, and Wilmington Alliance to participate in the National League of Cities (NLC) City Innovation Ecosystems program.

The City Innovation Ecosystems program asks city leaders to commit one year to creating policies, programs, and practices to ensure their communities can thrive in the global economy. I

In the program’s inaugural year, 50 cities ranging from rural townships, to college towns, to major metros and linked with over 200 local partners to deploy over $100 million in regional and national resources to support young business, leverage technology, and expand STEM education for everyone.

Entrepreneurs come from every background and are growing businesses in every industry. While they all have the potential to succeed, many do not have access to the resources or support they need, a release stated.

Wilmington Alliance and the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation will lead the project through the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Wilmington (E3, Wilmington). E3 Wilmington’s mission is to build a citywide strategic coalition of partners designed to identify, vet, incubate and accelerate the launch of new businesses, with targeted focus on Black and Brown entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs will receive a comprehensive needs assessment and will receive a customized acceleration plan with coaching and guidance in business planning, marketing, and promotion, technology infrastructure as well as optimizing space planning (virtual offices, co-working space, or dedicated offices). Finally, when appropriate, the E3 ecosystem partners will help increase access to funding opportunities.

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Milford signs incentive deal for Wellness Village

From Delaware Business Times

MILFORD — With the long game in sight, the Milford City Council approved a short-term economic incentive deal with Nationwide Healthcare Services for its $30 million Milford Wellness Village and its anticipated 150 to 200 jobs.

The Milford Wellness Village aims to bring an array of health care, social services, physical therapy and childcare services within a campus setting to the former Milford Memorial Hospital. At the heart of it all is Polaris Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, a 150-bed skilled nursing facility, which started accepting patients this year.

“The repurposing of this property has been a partnership with the city of Milford since inception and we are very encouraged by the city’s support. We look forward to welcoming many more businesses and partners to the Milford Wellness Village,” Nationwide Healthcare Services CEO Meir Gelley told Delaware Business Times.

Under the deal, the city entered into an electric agreement for set rates for the next five years as well as waiving water and sewer impact fees if renovation work is complete within three years. But if the COVID-19 pandemic delays that work, Milford officials could offer an extension.

In addition, Milford signed off on a 10-year real estate tax abatement. In exchange, Nationwide will withdraw its appeal on the assessed 2019 tax value of the property.

For the first two years, Nationwide will receive a tax break on the assessed value of the hospital building and not on any other ancillary properties included in the sale from Bayhealth to Nationwide last year. After the second year, the abatement rate will gradually drop each year based on the square feet of space occupied in the 266,000-square-foot facility by the previous year.

For example, if 100,000 square feet of the Milford Wellness Village is used by the end of the second year then the tax abatement would be 62.4% in the third year.

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New emergency order requires masks in homes, private gatherings

From Delaware Live

When Gov. John Carney rounded up all the modifications of his State of Emergency Order and put them into one new document, it added a sentence:

“A private residence where there is an indoor gathering of more than 10 people who do not reside at that property shall be considered an indoor space open to the public for purposes of this Order.”

That is new, confirmed Carney spokesman Jon Starkey, “though we have had some restrictions on private gatherings for a while.”

The new rule comes as Labor Day weekend is heading into full swing, with the last parties and cookouts of summer.

The new verbiage showed up Thursday, when Carney issued a press release saying that he had signed the 27th modification to his State of Emergency, combining all active COVID-19 restrictions into a single order, creating an Omnibus Executive Order.

The modification also formalized reopening bar service in Delaware beach communities and required that businesses more strictly enforce face covering requirements among their employees.

The new addition — in the section about face coverings — essentially requires homeowners and guests to follow the same protocols that restaurants and other public places do: wearing masks unless eating, but making sure the face coverings are on if you are moving around.

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