Conference: Education, equity and economics

The 27th Sussex County Today and Tomorrow conference focused on economics, equity and education in a hybrid presentation on October 27. Attendance at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown was limited to 100 people, so the event was also available online.

Before the start of the conference, there was a minute’s silence for Laurel’s Frank Calio, who passed away on October 19. Calio, 83, a former state election commissioner and director of the Sussex County Economic Development Office, was a founding member of the conference planning team. .

Welcoming remarks were delivered by Mark Brainard, President of Delaware Tech, and Mike Vincent, Chairman of Sussex County Council.

Bobbi Barends, vice president and director of the Owens campus, served as master of ceremonies. “Focus on the action and what you will do with what you learned today,” she told participants.

Keeping pace with growth

Keynote speaker Dr David Tam, President and CEO of Beebe Healthcare, addressed the three elements. Tam, who started his new job 20 months ago on the onslaught of the pandemic, said there was nothing slower in Sussex County. “There hasn’t been anything slow in my life over the past 20 months. My wife Rebecca and I are very grateful to be here,” he said.

Tam said the county’s population has grown by more than 20% and the housing rate has increased by more than 30% over the past decade. He said there had also been significant growth in the county’s diversity index in terms of age, race and LGBT community.

As the population grows, so do the demands for health services. He said Beebe had hired more than 80 doctors and providers in the past two years. “We’re proud of it, but how many front desk staff, technicians and nurses will we need? ” He asked.

He added that the focus has been on a more diverse medical workforce.

Tam said opportunities for the future include a focus on healthcare as an economic engine, increasing education and research initiatives, recruiting more workers, addressing social determinants of health and the growth and development of educational partnerships.

During a question-and-answer period, Tam was asked about a Sussex County medical school.

“I love it,” he replied. “We have the resources to do it in Sussex County. You don’t need a university to teach medical students. A school would help develop our economy and ensure that trained people stay here. “

“Healthcare contributes significantly to the national economy – 18% of GDP – and plays a huge role in the economy of Sussex County,” Tam said. “The question is, how do you make health care an integral part of Sussex County’s diversification? “

Opening of a new hospital in 2022

Tam said the latest example of Beebe’s efforts to expand services and reach other areas is the $ 100 million specialist surgical hospital that will soon open at the intersection of Highway 24 and Warrington Road near Rehoboth. Beach. The facility is intended for short-term planned surgical procedures, including orthopedic, bariatric, breast and spine surgeries. Its opening is scheduled for summer 2022.

The hospital will have 24 private short-stay rooms, four operating theaters with robotic technology, 20 preoperative and recovery bays with imaging, laboratory and pharmacy services, as well as a walk-in care center. -you.

Live where they work

Joe Conaway, chairman of the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, said the highest salary listed in the presentation was $ 55,000. “On top of that, you can afford a house for $ 138,000,” he said.

The average price of a home in Sussex County is over $ 397,000, a 13% increase from last year. The price is driven by the average cost of a home in resort areas. In the Lewes area, the average price is nearly $ 547,000, a 28% increase from last year, and $ 615,000 in the Rehoboth Beach area, a 24% increase.

“It is time we faced the problem. We don’t have a housing problem, we have a salary problem, ”he said.

Tam said he understands that many nurses and other hospital staff cannot afford to live near the hospital.

“We can figure out how to raise wages, which would increase health care costs, or we can move to places where they can afford to live,” he said. “We need to target the way we take care of patients, but also nurses and technicians. “

Tam said key staff are asked to live within 30 minutes of the Lewes campus in case they are called in in an emergency.

“What we are doing is an alliance relationship between Beebe Healthcare and Sussex County. We’re not interested in doing anything other than improving Sussex County today and tomorrow, ”Tam said.

Panel members included:

Sheldon Hudson, Town Manager of Millsboro, and Trisha Newcomer, Director of Economic Development and Community Relations for the Town of Seaford, who spoke on the economy.

Lillian Harrison, Founder and Executive Director of Elevated Community Development Corp., and Jose Quinones, Broker, Linda Vista Real Estate Services, who spoke on fairness.

Heath Chasanov, Superintendent of the Woodbridge School District, and Justina Thomas, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Delaware Technical Community College, who spoke on education.

Jobs with the most workers in Sussex

Leisure and hospitality – 14,898 jobs, average annual salary, $ 21,729

Transportation and public services – 1,736 jobs, $ 36,367

Professional and business services – 1,406 jobs, $ 46,307

Manufacturing – 10,524 jobs, $ 46,425 (including poultry plant workers)

Education and health – 12,371 jobs, $ 55,323

About Mark A. Tomlin

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