Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce presents the 36th Southern Delmarva Economic Forecast


The 36th Annual Southern Delmarva Economic Forecast, presented by the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University, and BEACON at Salisbury University, was held on Dec. 1.

The annual event was attended by business, organizational, and elected leaders from Maryland, Delaware, and the eastern shore of Virginia.

Panelists represented a variety of important issues and topics during the morning sessions of the Forecast.

During the luncheon, the Lower Shore Legislative Delegation members provided an Overview of the upcoming Maryland General Assembly Session, set to convene in January of 2024.

Salisbury University President Dr. Carolyn Ringer Lepre started the day with a warm welcome to the attendees.  Following the welcome, moderator Zach Evans introduced the first panel of the Lower Shore Economic Development Directors, who provided their annual updates on their respective jurisdictions. 

Panelists included Dave Ryan, Executive Director, Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development; Melanie Pursel Director, Office of Tourism & Economic Development at Maryland’s Coast, Worcester County; Susan Banks Director, Dorchester County Economic Development; Daniel Thompson, Executive Director, Somerset County Economic Development; William Pfaff Executive Director, Sussex County Economic Development, Delaware; and Leander Pambid, Accomack County Deputy County Administrator -Community & Economic Development.

Mr. Pambid gave an overview of Accomack County and its strong relationship with NASA Wallops and Rocket Lab, sharing “Rocket Lab is poised to add two hundred plus jobs in the next year or two adding high-paying positions to the Accomack workforce.”  Pambid closed his presentation with "Accomack County is open for business, and we are working to build relationships with developers."

Somerset County Economic Director Danny Thompson lauded new investment in infrastructure in the County and the prospect of a passenger ferry to boost tourism.  “The ferry would bring visitors from the western shore to Crisfield which will boost the town’s economy and hopefully open up new eyes to the opportunities that exist for businesses in the town and county."

Sussex County Economic Development Director Bill Pfaff described the new Excite Sussex grant program.  “It is a 16-million-dollar fund intended to expand existing businesses, help fund real estate acquisitions, and assist start-up businesses."

The other Economic Development Directors from Dorchester, Wicomico, and Worcester shared new projects and tourism figures with the audience, all of which are showing growth and recovery following the economic impact of the pandemic.

The next panel, Keys to Attracting Productive Employees and Leaders, featured a distinguished panel including Eric Johnston, InFocus Advisors; Michael Jensen, Salisbury University Rommel Center for Entrepreneurship; Ruth Baker, Wor Wic Community College; and Benjamin Etherton, Strategic Advisor with Arcon Training Center.

Ruth Baker shared how Wor Wic has been and will continue to meet employer needs moving forward. She added, “Having the higher education pipeline we have here on the shore meets the demand for talent ready to enter the workforce."

The other panelists spoke about how critical employee retention is and the requirement in 2024 to cultivate staff.

The day’s third panel, Tackling Workforce Challenges Post-Pandemic included Andrew Griffin, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Leslie Sinclair, Salisbury University Childcare Resource Center, and Bernie Flax, Coastal Association of Realtors.

Griffin shared that there remain challenges in filling out the workforce with previously incarcerated citizens, “The General Assembly has not provided adequate liability protections for employers willing to hire these individuals, which would help with the workforce challenges employers continue to face."

Bernie Flax commented “Sellers and buyers must be aware that the two and three percent interest rates have come and gone. The fifty-year average for interest rates is 7.75 percent, we may see 6 percent rates by the end of 2024."

The fourth panel, “Climate Change Legislation-Pros and Cons for Business”, featured panelists on both sides of climate change legislation and regulation. Paul Pinsky, Director of the Maryland Energy Administration, Alan Girard, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Geoff Pohanka, National Automobile Dealers Association and Drew Getty with Perdue Farms. Drew Getty stated that Perdue has been incorporating internal environmental goals for more than a decade while some legislative efforts have set aggressive goals that may not be practical today, “one must consider the availability of technologies and resources to meet some of these climate goals moving forward”.

Maryland Energy Administration Director Paul Pinsky said the primary goal of his State Agency is “clean, affordable energy that adds to Maryland’s economy."

Alan Girard, using a series of aerial photos, spoke of eastern shore farmland that is disappearing due to climate factors, “More than twenty-thousand acres of forest land has become marshland."

Geoff Pohanka, using a series of graphs, challenged the notion that we are in a severe climate crisis and warned of the economic impacts of moving too fast to a zero-emission model for Maryland. Pohanka commented, “During the age when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the earth was emitting Co2 at levels five times higher than today. In my study of this issue, climate alarms have consistently been based on inaccurate modeling."

During lunch, Bret Davis and Andrew Helton representing Simple Fiber brought the attendees up to date on their efforts in Salisbury and other shore municipalities on how to add broadband to their menu of economic development assets in towns and cities.

The afternoon session featured members of the Lower Shore Legislative Delegation.  Senator Mary Beth Carozza, Senator Johnny Mautz, Speaker ProTem Sheree Sample-Hughes, Delegate Christopher Adams, Delegate Carl Anderton, Delegate Wayne Hartman, Delegate Tom Hutchison, and Delegate Charles Otto addressed the audience on a variety of issues as we near the beginning of the 2024 General Assembly Session. 

The panel was moderated by Greg Reddell, State Farm, and timed by Karri Todd, SACC Past Board Chair, and Shore Insurance - Allstate Insurance.

The elected senators and delegates responded to concerns including renewable energy policies, the need for additional mental health facilities and resources for schools on the shore, more broadband deployment, tourism investment, and juvenile crime.

Senator Mautz assured the audience that the shore will not be forgotten when it comes to broadband, “I intend to continue to press for more state and federal investment when it comes to serving our rural areas."

Senator Carozza added that more emphasis must be placed on getting therapeutic school resources deployed to the shore, “It isn’t fair to our educators or the students that the shore had only one of these facilities, more must be done."

Speaker ProTem Sheree Sample-Hughes commenting on the juvenile crime issue shared, “On this issue, we also need to address those communities that have been left behind, that is a core related issue."

Senator Carozza added, “The juvenile crime issue has become a bi-partisan concern in the General Assembly and these concerns are not just coming from law enforcement it is coming from a variety of constituencies."

Presenting Sponsors of this year’s forecast were BEACON at Salisbury University and the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business; Media Sponsor 47abc WMDT; CEO Level Sponsors CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, D3, Ørsted, Pohanka of Salisbury Automotive, Simple Fiber, and Wor-Wic Community College; Chairman Level Sponsors Avery Hall Insurance Group, Bank of America, Delmarva Power, Effectv, M&T Bank, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms, Inc., TidalHealth, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and The Voice Radio Network; Board Level Sponsors ABC Chesapeake Shores, BBSI Salisbury, Chesapeake Health Care, Chesapeake Utilities, Delmarva Veteran Builders, Greg Reddell-State Farm, Hebron Savings Bank, Peninsula Roofing Company, Inc., SVN Miller Commercial Real Estate, Taylor Bank, Tri-County Council for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, and W. R. McCain & Associates; Supporter Level Sponsors Bancroft Construction Company, The Bank of Delmarva, Choptank Electric, Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc., Delmarva Chicken Association, Gillis Gilkerson, Minuteman Press, NAI Coastal, PennTex Ventures, LLC,  Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development, SCORE Delaware/Coastal Delmarva, State and Local Advisors, The Payne Team of REMAX Advantage Realty, Truist, Whitehead Real Estate Executives, and Whitehead Rental Management.

The SACC will host the Legislative Wrap-Up Luncheon on April 24, 2024, at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury Maryland. For tickets, visit

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