If Wilmington can become vibrant again, the state of Delaware wins.
Improving the quality of life for the city’s 70,000 residents can have a ripple effect on surrounding towns, the county and the state as a whole.
That’s why, officials from the City of Wilmington and New Castle County’s Office of Economic Development say, the two entities worked together to come up with an economic development plan, which was unveiled Monday. Getting city and county leaders to jointly announce a visioning plan that included Wilmington as its strongest asset was seen by some as a step forward for government collaboration.
What’s more, the pair of government strategies are complementary to a third, more targeted and arts-minded plan, released earlier this year by the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation. Though the WRC plan is focused on place-making in downtown Wilmington, there was an effort to unite the goals, said WRC project manager Alfred Lance.
All three are aimed at targeting Wilmington development, as a means of improving the rest of the state. (Those who have talked about the “Delaware innovation pipeline” would recognize this.)
The three plans are as follows:
- The City of Wilmington plan highlights the city’s need to position itself as a magnet for business, while also investing in education, youth and training. Take the city’s finance roots and leverage them to retain earlier stage companies and impact other, underserved residents outside of downtown who aren’t benefiting from business growth.
- The New Castle County plan aims to attract more residents to the county, create more and better jobs and engage younger residents in the planning and economic development process. Though this plan includes the entire county, there is a clear nod to Wilmington being a place to attract young talent.
- The Wilmington Renaissance Corporation plan advocates improving the city through cultural development. It’s a look at using the arts and a broad definition of creative work to create a sense of place to retain talent, particularly focused on downtown.
At the Monday press conference about the city and county plans, there was much talk of uniting efforts, when there hasn’t always been visioning collaboration between county and city leaders. Still there’s clearly work to be done, as these independent, if jointly released, strategies suggest.
The New Castle County plan highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the county, areas of growth and demographic shifts, and a strategic action plan, which details best practices and program initiatives, said Marcus Henry, the county’s economic development policy director.
“This will serve as the first-ever countywide comprehensive guide for economic development,” Henry said during a press conference last week. “We view the plan as a working document to guide the economic development office for the future.”
The creative plan, available on the WRC website [PDF], highlights the need to cultivate partnerships, creativity, culture, revitalization and investment in the city, particularly a 25-block radius downtown. This plan is broken down into four areas: organizing a creative district; cultivating the community there; place making by bringing arts to the street and supporting venues and other creative spaces.
The plan also utilizes census data — population, transportation, age, demographics, crime, etc. — to make recommendations for improvements.
“I think we’re coming up with a great unified plan,” Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams said during the press conference. “I think this is the first time in the history of the state we’ve seen government working so closely [together].”