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Division of Small Business

FY 2018 Annual Report: Division Director’s Message

Damian DeStefano, Division of Small Business Director

Delaware is creating a new way of looking at economic development – giving big attention to small business.

Providing a laser-focus on the entrepreneurs who are such a key part of the state’s economy is part of an exciting vision that my team and I are proud to help define and strengthen.

It is the mission of the Division of Small Business to grow Delaware’s small business community and support the brave business owners who pour their money, sweat and tears into taking risks to make their dreams into realities.

We changed our name to the Division of Small Business to reflect that new mission.

We also restructured our office and gave employees targeted responsibilities to better direct our efforts in helping Delaware’s thousands of small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs.

We believe helping 10 small businesses add 10 employees each can have just as big an impact as working with one large business to create 100 new jobs. Each of those jobs, each of those companies helps to put food on the table of Delawareans across the state.

So, what is a small business?

We consider any business with fewer than 100 employees to be small. These represent 98 percent of all businesses in Delaware and account for 55 percent of jobs in the state. They span a wide range of industries: from retail to hospitality to manufacturing.

To better serve them, we formed a team of Regional Business Managers to work with entrepreneurs one-on-one and provide them with the customized services they need, whether it is navigating the regulatory process, accessing capital or connecting with resources available from partner organizations.

Each Regional Business Manager covers a specific part of Delaware. That way they get to know the businesses, local government agencies and nonprofit service providers in their area.

In addition to creating our team of Regional Business Managers, we also launched separate advisory councils for women business owners, minority business owners and military veteran business owners. These boards allow us to hear directly from these constituencies about their distinct needs so that we can tailor our assistance to make it most useful.

A recent Paychex report ranked Delaware a top state for businesses owned by minorities, including minority women. An American Express report found Delaware to be a top state for women business owners. Though we are proud of this recognition, we continue to strive to always be even better.

At the same time, the DelawareTourism Office, which is part of the Division, is doing a fantastic job of marketing the state as a destination for out-of-state visitors and supporting Delaware’s $3.3 billion tourism industry, an industry filled with small businesses.

Meanwhile, through our Business Finance Unit, the Division serves as a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars through our administration of the Delaware Strategic Fund and other grant and loan programs.

Business Finance is also administering the new Angel Investor Tax Credit program, signed into law by Gov. Carney in May. We worked with the governor’s office and the Department of Finance to draft the legislation and with the Department of Technology and Information and the Government Information Center to make the program available online starting Nov. 1.

While the Division no longer works to recruit large companies to Delaware, we did play a key role in one of the most high profile economic development projects in recent memory, helping to lead Delaware’s effort to attract Amazon’s second North American headquarters. And the “Options in Delaware” campaign we created to support that pitch won positive responses from Delaware’s business community, state and local officials and regional media. It has become a resource the newly-formed Delaware Prosperity Partnership can use to recruit other companies to Delaware.

We are working closely with the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to bolster the state’s economic environment and make our state a place where businesses of all sizes can thrive.

I want to thank Gov. Carney for his vision in creating a state agency whose mission is to assist small business. I also would like to thank Secretary of State Jeff Bullock for his leadership in making the efforts of the new agency a success.

I also want to thank the members of the General Assembly for their support, as well as the members of the Council on Development Finance, which is chaired by Fred Sears. The council spends many long hours reviewing applications for financial assistance from various programs through the Delaware Strategic Fund.

We look forward to continuing our strong momentum in FY 2019 as the Angel Investor Tax Credit gains traction, Delaware’s Opportunity Zones attract investment and the Division launches a revamped website, which will include an interactive portal that will give small business owners information about the wealth of relevant and targeted programs offered by government agencies and nonprofit organizations across Delaware.

Our goal is to make Delaware the #1 state in the U.S. for small business. And we’re working hard to make that a reality.

Stay connected with the latest news on the Division, Delaware businesses, upcoming events and much more.


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