Meet Delaware's voice for businesses in that Eastern governors COVID-19 task force - Technical.ly Delaware

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Apr. 15, 2020 6:16 pm

Meet Delaware’s voice for businesses in that Eastern governors COVID-19 task force

Kurt Foreman, CEO of Delaware Porsperity Partnership, represents economic development on the task force that aims to reopen seven states safely.
Solenis HQ in Avenue North. DPP helped the company settle in Delaware.

Solenis HQ in Avenue North. DPP helped the company settle in Delaware.

(Photo by Holly Quinn)

This week, we saw a major event in the COVID-19 saga: Seven East Coast governors, including Delaware’s John Carney, formed a coalition, aligning New York with New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Delaware, with a mission to create a plan to reopen the region’s economies safely.

This uncommon show of unity between states is bringing together state tasks forces, each representing three vital areas: chiefs of staff, public heath leaders and economic development experts.

In Delaware, those three people are Carney Chief of Staff Sheila Grant, Delaware Health and Social Services Cabinet Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker and Kurt Foreman, CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP).

“This came together really quickly,” said Foreman, who, like all of the DPP staff at this time, is working from home. “We haven’t yet had any internal calls to talk about the details, but I would imagine we have some Delaware homework to do, if you will, to be ready for the group calls. I’m sure there will be calls with all of us from all six states, then I’m sure there will be more homework to do in between calls.”

The point is not to rush a reopening, but to make sure that any steps toward reopening cause the least amount of harm to our regional neighbors.

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“Given that all of us may or may not be at the exact same point at the same exact moment, we want to make sure that one or two [states] don’t cause problems for the others unintentionally,” Foreman told Technical.ly. “My role may be to try and figure out what we’re hearing from the business community and try to help with how do we roll [the reopening] out.”

DPP has been listening to Delaware businesses on how they are managing during the COVID-19 shutdowns since they started. The org has conducted two rounds of surveys so far on how the pandemic is impacting Delaware businesses, which has shown that 83% of the second round’s 419 respondents have experienced a decrease in revenue, and 37% have closed. Overall, the average responding business reported that it could survive for eight to 12 weeks.

“It’s certainly a serious time,” the CEO said. “I’m encouraged, though, because it sounds like the supply chains are really holding up. That could change in a few weeks, but for now I’m hearing from companies that the supply chains are hanging in pretty well.”

Will the coalition include opportunities for businesses in the region to collaborate?

“I wouldn’t want to speculate on that yet,” he said. “We certainly think it’s important to do that regardless of what this process is. We’re seeing some of that happen up and down the state already, and I’m sure there will be lots of that done all over all [seven] states. If that is not done as a part of this, I’m sure there are other conversations happening about how businesses can work with each other on — maybe not reopening, but how do we coordinate on supply chain? Or how we might collaborate on making a new product or service that may be needed after the virus starts to settle down.”

Ultimately, the goal is to get reopen without putting people at risk, while also exploring possibilities for economic recovery.

“I’m still hopeful that that there will be opportunities for people and for companies as we come out of this,” Foreman said. “They may be different opportunities, but hopefully there will be quite a few.”

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