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Healthcare booming in Delaware

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

The executive director of the Kent Economic Partnership, Linda Parkowski, said central Delaware needs two things: to connect the workforce with education resources and to create a “fun, cool image” for the area.

She joined Jason Castellucio, client portfolio manager from the finance company Nuveen, and Ed Ratledge, director of the Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research at the University of Delaware, for the 2020 Economic Forecast Breakfast Jan. 16 in Dover.

As they talked about the future on a national, state and county level, three themes emerged: the U.S. economy will see more volatility, healthcare is a booming industry and development should happen more quickly here.

U.S. economy back to normal

Castellucio opened his presentation by saying what many economists and commentators have said: “Things are good.”

The S&P 500, which measures the stock performance of the 500 largest companies, was up 31.5% in 2019. A strong economy means that consumers have a lot of confidence, Castellucio said.

It will affect the presidential race, he said. “Without a poor economy, it is tough for the Democrats to position themselves against Trump.”

Even with the stock market doing well, shareholders’ earnings were low because of high stock prices, Castellucio said.

He expects more ups and downs in the 2020 stock market. “Volatility is normal, and we’ll probably have some of that this year,” he said.

Healthcare boom

More Delawareans are dying than are being born, Ratledge said. Kent County’s population is still growing, but it’s slowing while New Castle County and Sussex County continue to grow.

The almost 20% of Delaware’s population that is older than 65 will heavily influence the economy. Since they are most likely to be admitted to a hospital, there’s a demand for more healthcare services, Ratledge said.

“The Boomers will be driving the bus for the next 20 years,” he said.

Parkowski agreed that healthcare is the best opportunity for growth and employment in Kent County. Healthcare falls in the county’s top five businesses by volume and by number of employees.

The county needs more skilled laborers and technicians, such as nursing assistants and health aides, she said.

Slow development

Parkowski said she is working on eight active projects that will provide 350 jobs and invest $120 million. The problem is the speed of making them a reality.

It can take 18 to 24 months to finish a project in Delaware, she said.

A Wawa executive told Sen. Carper that they put more than 60 stores in Florida in the same time it took to put one in Delaware, she said.

Even with already developed land, permitting takes a long time, and Parkowski said she believes the governor needs to advocate for simplifying it.