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Delaware’s Sussex County Develops Its Own Flexible Fields Of Dreams To Attract Businesses

Sussex County Economic Development Director Bill Pfaff and Great Outdoor Cottages Chief Operating Officer Mike Scheid discuss GOC’s location in Delaware Coastal Business Park in Georgetown.

To most people, “if you build it, they will come” might be a line from a beloved movie. For Sussex County, Delaware, however, it is basically a mission statement.

Delaware’s largest and southernmost county boasts five business parks. Overall, more than 9,200 businesses call Sussex County home.

One company meeting the needs of those many businesses is KRM Development, which is planning two 70K SF spec buildings on the Western Sussex Business Campus. KRM is the first developer to announce plans for the new 100-acre park owned by the city of Seaford.  

“We heard from Realtors and people in the area that there is demand for this type of space here,” KRM President Jesse Parks said. “Sussex County played a big role in helping to fund the infrastructure for the Western Sussex Business Campus, along with the city of Seaford, who's gone above and beyond in helping us.”

Parks said the two buildings on-site will cater to tenants seeking spaces sized 30K to 70K SF. This range is a sweet spot for many midsized businesses, he noted.

“We build speculative space to fill a need that's not being met. It’s kind of the ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach,” he said. “We build as flexible as possible so we can get a wide range of tenants. And in this market, in particular, we feel there is an unmet need for flex space.”

Royale Pigments & Chemicals was one business looking for more space that found its answer in Sussex County. The specialty chemicals manufacturer recently announced plans to purchase a former BASF polymer plant in Seaford, making the southern Delaware city its second location in the state. 

Royale has been approved to receive nearly $250K in grant funding to help with its $2.35M in planned upgrades to the facility. In addition, the site’s former owner, Delmarva Central Railroad, is building a railroad spur to meet the company’s needs. 

Another key factor that attracted the company to Sussex County is the approachable attitude of the state and local governments, Royale CEO John Logue said.

“Delaware is very welcoming to business,” Logue said. “We deal with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and they’re tough, but they’re also fair and very helpful. I can't tell you how much that speaks to the business environment and our wanting to move here.”

That welcoming environment is no accident, said Bill Pfaff, Sussex County's director of economic development.

“In our office, we shepherd every project from start to finish, from the time we're introduced to the company or the business owner until they open their doors,” Pfaff said. “We become their partner along the way.”

Pfaff pointed out another company to locate its operations in the county is Great Outdoor Cottages, a manufacturer of cabins for the campground and resort sectors. The company is moving to a new 45K SF building in the Delaware Coastal Business Park in Georgetown.

“They now employ about 78 people in the state and hope to get up to 150 with the new facility,” Pfaff said. “And they're well-paying jobs. We love that.”

Pfaff and others noted that Delaware’s central location on the Eastern Seaboard — New York, Philadelphia and other major metro areas are just a short drive away — make Sussex County a convenient location within an ideally located state. Its modest population of about a quarter-million people also can benefit its business community.

“Because Delaware is so small, we're able to be much more nimble and we can get developers an answer much faster,” said Trisha Newcomer, director of economic development and community relations for Seaford. “My role in the city is to be a concierge who helps businesses get through the red tape. Whether it’s at the city, county or state level, there's always a person that's available to help shuttle them through the process.”

Seaford has invested about $8M into the new Western Sussex Business Park, which sits on land the town has owned since the early 1990s but only recently began to develop. That investment is already paying off with KRM’s entry into the park, Newcomer said.

“The first phase is about complete and now we are starting on Phase 2 of the park,” she said. “It's the perfect example of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ It's exciting to go out there to what was just a field and see the new roads and visualize what it will look like in the near future.”

This article was produced in collaboration between the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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