With less than a year left in her administration, Delaware governor Ruth Ann Minner is hard at work seeing through the initiatives she has introduced. Time is of the essence: she promised her last State of the State address would be delivered “like a good pizza, in 25 minutes or less”.
Having entered politics in 1974 and being elected to the Governor’s Mansion in 2001, she is the longest serving female governor in the US. Her experience is personalised in her New Economy Initiative, Environmental Right-To-Know Act, Livable Delaware Initiative, and the Student Excellence Equals Degree (Seed) scholarship programme. Her focus is on education, the environment, health care and employment. Her small state, which lies midway between New York City and Washington, DC, may have limited resources, but its pro-business tradition through public-private partnerships is its number-one asset.
“We try not to concentrate on one single industry,” Ms Minner says of the state’s economic development strategy. Nevertheless, the financial sector has become Delaware’s fastest growing industry – international banks such as Barclays, Citizens Bank and ING Direct have operations in the capital, Wilmington.
Delaware’s Limited Liability Company law, established in 1992, has made the state highly attractive to corporations: more than 50% of all companies listed on New York Stock Exchange are Delaware corporations. Ms Minner’s New Economy Initiative also helps to funnel $46m in state and matching private and federal funds to Delaware businesses. “Many of our oldest manufacturing companies are receiving funding through the competitiveness fund to improve productivity,” she says. While automotive manufacturer Chrysler has announced plans to close its Delaware plant, she says that the state “will continue to work with them”.
However, the creation of high-quality, high-wage jobs remains her focus, which means educating Delawareans to ensure that they are well trained. Ms Minner says: “We work with our intellectual property business creation programmes, which create jobs of the future. Our tech-based seed fund provides equity financing for them.”
With key Delaware companies such as DuPont downsizing, her programmes assist start-up firms. Seaford-based Invista was formed to manufacture textile nylon which DuPont discontinued. The company has expanded three times and now operates a 750-acre manufacturing facility. Ms Minner also lays emphasis on international trade. Exports from Delaware have increased during her administration and the Port of Wilmington serves as a hub for imports and exports – especially commodities, ranging from fruit to chickens, automobiles and steel. It is the world’s number-one banana port.
Last autumn, Ms Minner led a Delaware delegation to Chile, Sweden and the Netherlands. In Sweden, she met AstraZeneca executives at the company’s R&D headquarters in Södertälje to discuss future growth opportunities. AstraZeneca is one of Delaware’s major employers. In Amsterdam, discussions centred on renewable power technology and potential benefits for Delaware.
Closer to home, education remains her pet cause, particularly her Seed programme that brings higher education to underprivileged students. She regards this as imperative for an economy that is competing for top talent. While not novel, what differentiates her programme from others is that scholarships are available to Delawarean students with 2.5 or higher grade point averages as opposed to other states that set the bar at 3.0 or higher. “It’s very special to me,” she says. “I watch every day how my ‘seedlings’ are doing.” This year the programme will see its first graduates.
Ruth Ann Minner
2001 State of Delaware, Governor
1993 State of Delaware, Lieutenant Governor
1982 Delaware Senate, Senator
1974 Delaware House of Representatives, Representative