Today & Tomorrow Conference returns to Sussex County

The Sussex County Today & Tomorrow Conference was held last week, with the mission of providing “insight and identify opportunities in Sussex County to promote economics, partnership and collaboration.”

Micheal Meoli, owner/operator of The Meoli Companies, was the conference’s keynote speaker, and discussed what it takes to be successful in business.

Meoli’s family owns 14 McDonald’s restaurants across Maryland and Delaware.

“People have to eat, but they don’t have to eat at McDonald’s,” he said. “No business has a divine right to succeed.”

Three important points Meoli said he hoped to impress upon those in attendance were listen to your customer, embrace chance and build the trust bank.

Meoli said they had heard for years that McDonald’s needed to be more sustainable, offer breakfast all day and offer healthier food options for children.

Having listened to those customer suggestions, Meoli said McDonald’s took action. Now healthier food options are available for children and breakfast is served all day.

Meoli also said that it is important to invest in those who work for you. His restaurants employ 850 people, and pay $11 million in payroll. Employees are given the opportunity to take ESL classes and receive their high school diplomas, and even college tuition assistance.

“Change isn’t bad,” he said. “Change is inevitable, progress is optional. If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Karen and Tony Sposato, known for their landscaping business, gave a 1 Million Cups presentation regarding their new venture — an Argentinean vineyard.

The husband and wife team, who have five landscaping locations, and 350 employees, purchased a 250-acre plot of land in Argentina in 2012.

“Basically, it became a really big landscape project for us — so we felt right at home,” said Tony Sposato.

The wine, Sposato Family Vineyards, is currently distributed in Delaware (and can be found in all liquor stores in Sussex County), Maryland and Washington, D.C., and was just picked up in Pennsylvania. Sposato said they now want to go to Florida, and work their way back up the coast.

Benjamin Gray, manager of Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Georgetown, also gave a 1 Million Cups presentation.

“We have a culture of excellence here in Georgetown,” said Gray. “I truly believe this county is the best in the U.S. This county is something special.”

According to Ed Simons’ quick facts presentation, Sussex County unemployment has gone down, from 7.7 percent to 4.5 percent, with jobs in the county increasing by 28 percent.

In 1990, the 55-plus age group accounted for 28 percent of Sussex County. By 2030, according to Simon, that figure is projected to rise to 43 percent.

“It’s up to each of us to take what we learn today and act upon it to improve our county,” said Dr. Ileana M. Smith, Vice President and Campus Director, Delaware Technical Community College.