From the Editor: Kent, Sussex business execs form new alliance


An influential group of business leaders is expanding its footprint in lower Delaware.
Hoping to have more influence on business and community initiatives, the Greater Kent Committee is evolving into the Kent Sussex Leadership Alliance.
Already 100 members strong in Kent, the nonprofit hopes to add another 50 with its expansion.
Shelly Cecchett, the entity’s executive director, said the conversation about the alliance started during a summer 2022 meeting with past presidents.
“Part of that stemmed from the fact that over 70% of our members are currently doing business in Sussex County,” she said.
William J. Strickland, past president of the Greater Kent Committee and president and principal of L&W Insurance, will be chairing a membership drive.
“I’m optimistic that Sussex business leaders will see the merit to the vision that we’ve put forth,” he said. “We are two counties that tend to be very like-minded. We tend to be very well connected to business and personal relationships. So I think this really is a natural progression for us.”
Mr. Strickland said there currently are no organizations in Sussex County like the Greater Kent Committee. Unlike chambers of commerce or Rotary organizations, the alliance only includes CEOs and top executives in its membership.
David Blaeuer, president of the Kent Sussex Leadership Alliance and executive director of First State Orthopaedics, said that is what appealed to him.
“You’re sitting in a room full of folks that really are decision-makers for the business community that you’re working in,” he said.
Ms. Cecchett outlined three key missions in an announcement about the alliance:
• Having a more significant presence in Delaware’s General Assembly, to protect business interests.
• Being able to take on even bigger projects, leading to greater economic impact.
• Being able to focus on one of the largest challenges faced far and wide: fortifying the workforce.
Specific issues have not yet been identified.
“We haven’t really had a chance (to) get in and collaborate with folks in Sussex yet, so we don’t want to make those decisions too early in the process,” said Mr. Blaeuer.
Mr. Strickland said the expansion to the southernmost county would “increase our stature, and notably, in the General Assembly. Part of this is the hiring of a paid government relations person — aka a lobbyist — to advocate on behalf of issues that we think affect, both positively and negatively, potentially, the business interests of lower Delaware.”
Many people in the area know the Greater Kent Committee as the force behind the DE Turf complex, near Frederica. It was created as a sports tourism economic driver.
Mr. Strickland said that gaining support from the legislature is significant.
He cited a rare letter of support for DE Turf that all Kent County lawmakers signed. It was beneficial, he said, in attracting attention from the Delaware Economic Development Office and the governor.
Expanded alliance membership could garner such support for other legislation or community projects, he said.
“Strength is really in numbers, and I think we’re going to capitalize on that.”
It has been 10 years since this editor wrote about the change in name from the “Greater Dover Committee” to the “Greater Kent Committee.”
That change came on the 25th anniversary of the agency, which has its roots in an informal bring-your-own-sandwich lunch group that Muriel Schwartz and other Dover business friends started.
They decided to put time and resources into making Dover a greater place to live, work and play.
The Greater Kent Committee has largely centered its efforts on economic initiatives in recent years. Its influence can be found in the CenDel Foundation and the Kent Economic Partnership.
As a matter of transparency, readers should note that Delaware State News publisher Darel La Prade is a current member of the Kent Sussex Leadership Alliance, and former publisher Ed Dulin served as a Greater Kent Committee president from 2014-15.
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Andrew West is executive editor of the Delaware State News.

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