A night to celebrate all things business and jobs started Monday with a call for Delaware to ready itself to become a manufacturing hub.
China long has been a magnet for manufacturing, but its decision to limit couples to one child soon will mean there’s not a big enough workforce to man factories, said Mike Quaranta, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, at its annual dinner.
“Manufacturing has to go somewhere and in the next 10 years, it’s going to depart China and look for places around the world to locate,” Quaranta said. “There’s a great opportunity for us.”
The desire to draw attention to Delaware’s wares is the motivating force behind the chamber’s new Coolest Thing Made in Delaware contest, he said.
“We need speedy, permanent, reasonable environmental policies that support manufacturing, and manufacturers,” he said. “We need to embark on an industrial expansion not seen in our country in almost five decades. And we need policies that embrace this coming reality.
“The opportunity here is to double down on our manufacturing capabilities where local workers can fill local orders for local customers. And when we’re done, we’ll have the supply chain largely immune from international shocks and a more diverse economy.”
Gov. John Carney emphasized the state’s need to grow its jobs.
“We need to win the competition with other states for good jobs,” he said, especially jobs in science and technology.
The Chamber also announced several honors.
Gary R. Stockbridge, former regional president of Delmarva Power, was honored with the Josiah Marvel Cup. It is considered the chamber’s highest honor and is given to a person who has man an outstanding contribution to the state, community or society.
Stockbridge, who couldn’t attend, spent 25 years in the energy business in Delaware, but also worked through the chamber and legislature to improve workforce development, diversity and inclusion, education, services for veterans and military members, and more.
Among other things, Stockbridge was board president for the Delaware Workforce Development Board, appointed by then-Gov, Jack Markell; state chair of the Delaware Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; board president of the United Way of Delaware; chair of the Vision Coalition of Delaware; and board chair of Junior Achievement of Delaware. He also served on the board of the Delaware Business Roundtable.
“It is rare to find someone who possesses strong intellectual prowess with a heart of gold,” said Markell, now U.S. Ambassador to Italy. “I knew he was always someone to count on.”
The night’s funniest moment came when Quaranta called Robert L. “Bobby” Byrd to the stage for the presentation of the Dick DiSabatino Award.
It honors significant contributions to shape opinion and public policy in Delaware, and is not given annually. The last time was in 2021 when it was given to former state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry.
Byrd had been told he would be making a speech about the winner, and he had prepared for it, with a sheaf of notes in his hands.
When Quaranta told him the winner was actually him, a shocked Byrd sort of deflated, stared at the stage for a moment as he took it in and then recovered.
Byrd has spent 50 years working with the Delaware General Assembly, either as a member of the House of Representatives, or, later, as a lobbyist for the Chamber and then on his own.
He said he had been told to write a speech for Nancy Cook Nancy W. Cook, “who I think deserves this award a helluva lot more than I do.”
She had even asked him Thursday, while they were having a drink, who he thought would win it.
“I didn’t tell the complete truth and I said, ‘I have no idea,'” Byrd said, with no idea that he really didn’t know.
He thanked the chamber and told Cook he was going to have a copy of the award made for her.
Keynote speaker Hervé Hoppenot, chairman and chief executive officer of Incyte, ended the night with a look at the growth of that biopharmaceutical company.
It was founded in Delaware in 2002 with 20 employees and now has 2,500 employees, with 1,500 of them based in Delaware, he said.
The company’s revenue has risen 600% from $511 million in 2014 to $3.4 billion in 2022. Hoppenot said it plows 44% of its revenues back into research and development.
Hoppenot said the goal of the company is relatively simple.
“What we are trying to do is to change the practice of medicine. It’s an ambitious goal … We do that by providing physicians with new products that do not exist and developing them and making them available. And as you can see, it’s a process that is quite long and sometimes a little bit painful.”
Incyte focuses on rare and hard-to-treat disease, including cancer and those caused by inflammation and autoimmunity.
It takes about three years to develop a workable drug and another six years or so to test it and get it approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
Incyte’s scientists spent years looking for just the right molecule, he said, to make a drug work.
As a sign of Incyte’s pride in being a Delaware company, he pointed to the last four letters in the name of one of its drugs: ZYNYZ, used to treat a certain kind of skin cancer by working with the body’s immune system.
Its technical name is retifanlimab-dlwr.
“So guess where it’s coming from?” Hoppenot asked the crowd. “I think we have only medicine where the name of the state is part of the general name.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
Share this Post