The following piece appeared in the Delaware State News on Sunday, January 22, 2023:

In November, the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation held its eighth annual Reinventing Delaware Dinner at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington. This statewide event brings together 100 Delaware thought leaders and innovators to network, collaborate and share bold ideas to create jobs that will help make Delaware an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

Since the foundation first embarked on this journey eight years ago, Reinventing Delaware has been a catalyst for several outstanding ideas that have become thriving businesses — ideas like Zip Code Wilmington, Pay for Success, Intern Delaware, The Warehouse, Wilminvest, Wilmington Green Box, NERDiT Now and, most recently, the Delaware Collective for Creative Economy.

Reinventing Delaware’s successes are the successes of innovative people and ideas right here in our state. But, as you can see, the top ideas primarily serve communities in New Castle County.

This year, however, was different. We heard pitches from Delaware stakeholders for trailblazing projects directly impacting Kent and Sussex counties, which was refreshing.

Now, the top four ideas, as chosen by a Reinventing Delaware idea review committee, are moving to the next phase of the program — a three to six-month process to launch the best idea into a business and develop a strategic plan to scale the company. All four of these inventive proposals will profoundly impact southern Delaware and the entire state.

The top idea among the audience of voters at the November dinner was from Jeffrey Ronald, CEO of The Springboard Collaborative Inc. Ronald proposed a plan to move homeless Delawareans into heated, comfortable cabins with on-site employment and educational services. Currently piloted in Georgetown, Delaware, the initiative aims for a statewide launch should it be chosen as the 2023 Reinventing Delaware winner.

Vice president of CSC, Scott Malfitano, submitted an innovative program that incentivizes out-of-state entrepreneurs and top-tier talent to move to Dover, Delaware. Similar to work done in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which attracted over 2,000 people to move to Tulsa and had an 88% retention rate after two years, this program has a goal of homeownership in Delaware.

In addition to Malfitano, this project consists of a team of Delaware power players to help launch this plan, including Linda Parkowski (executive director of the Kent Economic Partnership), Shelly Cecchett (executive director of the Kent Sussex Leadership Alliance), and Troy Mix (associate director at the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration).

Allison Levine, president and founder of the Local Journalism Initiative and vice president for marketing and communications at the Delaware Community Foundation, presented a concept for a nonprofit collaborative news entity to cover the impact of public policy on local communities. The collective of reporters and editors will work with existing newsrooms to share all of its reporting for free to get critical local information to more audiences via more platforms while also supporting our existing newsrooms’ ability to serve and grow their audiences.

Lastly, Andrew Cottone, president and CEO of Adesis, proposed a solution to reducing the reliance on foreign energy by creating North America’s first clean hydrogen plant off the coast of Delaware. The project will utilize water from the Delaware Bay to produce clean hydrogen through an electrolysis process, making Delaware the energy leader of the 21st century and beyond.

Reinventing Delaware is honing these inspiring and exciting ideas. Think of what this could mean for our communities. From a pallet village in Sussex County that creates pathways for employment to revolutionizing the energy industry off the coast of Delaware, these ideas will make a difference in southern Delaware and across the state.

We’re looking forward to discovering which unique and powerful idea will come to fruition when the winner is announced later this year.

The ninth annual Reinventing Delaware Dinner will be held this November (details to come soon). We encourage you to join us for dinner, share your idea and celebrate the next winning idea to change the Delaware landscape. Please feel free to email me personally to add your name to the guest list — [email protected] — and let’s keep Reinventing Delaware together.