The Pete du Pont Freedom Award this year for the first time will honor a company rather than a person: MBNA, the former Delaware banking and credit card powerhouse sold to Bank of America.
It also will honor one of three companies as the Reinventing Delaware winner: Delaware Creative Economy, DWS Drone School and TRIC Robotics. The three were chosen in November from a group of 100 companies for technical assistance to help them prosper.
One will be named the winner Sept. 22 at the award ceremony at the Hotel du Pont.
The awards are a fundraiser for the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on private enterprise and marketplace access for entrepreneurs and their ideas. The foundation is named for former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont, who died in May 2021.
Former MBNA leaders John Cochran, Bruce Hammonds and Lance Weaver will accept the du Pont award.
“This honoree captures both my father’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurial innovation and the priority he placed on job growth,” said Theré du Pont, chair of the foundation’s board.
MBNA, which made its banking bones on the idea of affinity credit cards — cards that were issued through a university or another group — epitomized what Pete du Pont wanted to encourage with his 1981 Financial Center Development Act.
It was meant to attract employers to Delaware, and MBNA moved from Maryland into an old supermarket to run its credit card centers. It later moved its headquarters in downtown Wilmington off Rodney Square and is credited with helping to revitalize downtown, becoming a philanthropic behemoth in the community.
“Its impact on Delaware continues to this day, and one wonders whether any of that would have happened without the vision shared by my father and MBNA’s leaders,” Theré du Pont said.
The Reinventing Delaware program is designed to allow entrepreneurs to create jobs and make Delaware a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Reinventing Delaware candidates
The three Reinventing Delaware candidates where chosen Nov. 11, 2021, after a day long event at the CSC Station in Wilmington.
Angela Wagner’s Delaware Creative Economy wants to attract filmmakers to the First State and replicates Georgia’s success of the past 30 years. A creative economy would provide employment, attract and keep top talent; and better diversity the state’s economy.
She is working with Akima Brown and Friends of Delaware Film, an organization that has lobbied for the passage of a tax incentive program and redesign of the Delaware Film Commission.
Theo Nix’s DWS Drone School is designed to combine technology and entrepreneurship partly to help combat the lack of activities and employment for teens, which contributes to gun violence.
It aims to educate and employ 1,000 Delaware teens, offering technology certification, internships and job experience, and expand its business nationally. It already has partnered with the city of Wilmington to send some residents through the program.
Adam Stager’s TRIC Robotics aims to improve agriculture with engineering, data and robotics by using UV-C light to replace pesticides.
Farmers, especially organic farmers, contend with pests and pathogens in their fields, including mites, mold and mildew. Pesticides and herbicides pose environmental and health risks. TRIC Robotics uses a patented robotic design with UV-C light to control pests.
For more about the finalists, go here.
For more about tickets, which start at $200 for general admission, go here.
Recent Freedom Award recipients include Charlie Horn, entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of Horn Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware; Carol Ammon, founder and retired CEO of Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and former U.S. Rep. and Delaware Gov. Mike Castle.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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