Governor's emphasis on jobs is impressive

Gov. Jack Markell has been consistently on the front lines regarding getting employers into Delaware, as well as trying to keep the ones we already have.

When Allen Family Foods declared bankruptcy in July, there were some real fears in the area that a lot of jobs were going to be lost. A few rumored buyers quickly dropped out and the mood around the situation got a bit more tense. Then the Harim Group, a South Korean poultry operation, stepped up and succesfully bid $48 million to acquire Allen.

Consider these interesting numbers: In 2009, Delaware chicken exports to South Korea totalled $0. Not a significant number, to say the least. In 2010, that number rose to $520,000. Through May of this year, that figure already stood at $540,000. That’s a whole new market for Delaware chicken farmers, and one that Harim witnessed, as well.

It is important for the governor of the state to try to make that figure continue to grow, and one way to do that was to reach out to the decision-makers at Harim and ensure the relationship between community and corporation is a strong one.

He did that.

Along with Delaware Director of Economic Development Alan Levin, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee and Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Collin O’Mara, Markell met with Hong Kuk Kim, the chairman of Harim, to discuss the relationship between the company and the state.

“We know that entering a new market is very challenging and that Delaware is an ideal gateway because we can help them understand the regulations and the operating environments,” explained Markell. According to Markell, Kim discussed the company’s plans, which included maintaining Allen’s existing Harbeson plant and utilizing many of Allen’s current employees and contract growers.

Look, there are few, if any, guarantees in business. Harim could change their minds and move Allen’s operations some place else. But Markell brought in key members of his staff to sell Delaware to Harim, and to try to build a new relationship.

“We know how important these jobs are in Sussex County and the whole state,” said Markell. We know they have a lot of choices in front of them, and we want to make sure that Delaware is always the right choice.”

It’s a tough economy out there. A little salesmanship from our governor can go a long way.