(Photo by The Explorographer with Creative Commons license)
It’s a question we’ve been asking for years: “Why Delaware?”
What does Delaware have that will draw in people and companies that will help the state’s economic development, and make young people want to stay or return after college? It’s been a topic of Technical.ly stakeholder meetings, articles and a Short Order Productions video, and is frequently a question we ask when interviewing founders.
For as long as I can remember, as a member of Generation X, people flocked here for work — DuPont, of course, which is not the juggernaut employer in the state it was a few decades ago, but also banks like MBNA, AstraZeneca and the Chrysler plants. It was, for a long time, a state for out-of-staters, for better or worse.
Delaware has the people to build a strong a talent pipeline, but it also has a lot of commercial real estate vacancies. More people moving here, especially entrepreneurs and business owners, would mean more jobs and opportunities for Delawareans.
The big answer to the “why Delaware” question that we usually talk about is location — as in, we’re near other places that are cool, cultural business and tech hubs. We’re not necessarily one of them.
Less often do we talk about how the fact that Delaware isn’t New York or Washington D.C. is a draw in itself.
Dynata, a global data insights platform whose CEO, Gary S. Laben, was a speaker at the Developing Delaware conference last week, surveyed 805 “attractors” (people who has expressed an interest in moving to Delaware) and 346 Delaware residents, three-quarters of whom relocated to the state within the last 10 years as of September 2020.
The results show that, for a lot of people, the draw to Delaware about quality of life and work/life balance — low cost of living, low taxes, and the beach. Many attractors (35% in each case) are attracted to Delaware’s countryside and slower pace.
Seventy-five percent of residents and 54% of attractors rated Delaware very good or extremely good for work/life balance, with attractors rating Delaware employers higher than residents (54% of attractors rated employers very good or extremely good vs. 31% of residents). Attractors are also drawn to outdoor activities, such as hiking (52%), fishing (57%) and going to the beach (75%), more than things like museums (30%) and theater (30%). Residents’ favorite things to do are dining out (75%) and going to the beach (66%).
When it comes to jobs, attractors are more optimistic about being able to find work, with 69% rating it somewhat, very or extremely easy to find work in Delaware, vs. 42% of residents. Attractors also have a higher perception of job quality in Delaware, with 54% rating jobs somewhat, very or extremely high quality vs. 44% of residents.
Part of that may be due to who many of the attractors are: people with accumulated wealth (17%) and “midlife achievers,” aka singles or couples in their 30s or 40s with no children and well-paying jobs (10%), for example, who probably would be able to find a high quality job easily.
Another group, labeled “young achievers” (singles and young families who are lower-middle economically, urban/metro and tech savvy) is a potential growth segment, making up 8% of attractors vs. just 4% of residents.
And they aren’t necessarily wanting to come here to find jobs — 28% of attractors see Delaware as a good place to be an entrepreneur or self-employed, and nearly 70% of residents see Delaware as a more attractive state for entrepreneurship or self employment than other states.
Where are people coming from? The top state for attractors by number of people (out of 8,608 who expressed an interest in moving to Delaware but were not necessarily part of the in-depth survey) is California, which may come as a surprise, though maybe less so when you factor in the especially destructive wildfire season this fall and the fact that Delaware has a much lower cost of living while still having beaches.
The next highest states are the more predictable New York and Pennsylvania, followed by Florida and New Jersey. Other states in the top 10 for Delaware attractors include surprises like Texas, Illinois and Georgia.
What does all of this tell us? Laban concludes that Delaware should be expanding its outreach beyond the mid-Atlantic and focusing on quality of life, entrepreneurship and young people. We might add that in efforts to draw people and companies to Delaware, we should remember that there are actually people out there interested in moving here who, in some ways, see the state as more exciting than we do, and try and live up to those expectations.-30-
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