Millsboro is spreading its wings with guidance from Hudson

Date Published: 
Nov. 10, 2017

Location has always been one of Millsboro’s biggest assets.

Ideally situated a short drive from the Delaware beaches and just 20-30 minutes from Georgetown and Salisbury, the town has the highest growth rate of any municipality in inland Sussex County between 2000 and 2010. While much of that recent growth has been driven by retirees moving to the shore, a new demographic is also finding Millsboro attractive: young people.

Many of the same qualities that attract retirees to the area — lower home prices and crime rates, no sales tax, a slower pace of life — also attract young people. But good jobs, schools and lifestyle play a critical role when young people make decisions about where to settle down.

With good jobs throughout the mid-Atlantic region, Delaware has often seen its young people leave for a better future somewhere else. But having left himself, Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon P. Hudson knows returning to the area has its advantages, too.

Hudson grew up in Sussex County and is a graduate of the Indian River School District. He worked summer jobs at TCBY and Grotto and made his way to floor supervisor at the pizza giant. “That was pretty special for a 14- or 15-year-old kid. I learned an awful lot working at Grotto.”

He also worked in the family business in Ocean View. “I give my parents a lot of credit. My mom especially. They led by example. They were never above anything.”

Like many locals, Hudson went away to college, graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University with a degree in political science. He earned his master’s degree at Regents University.

Then he came home. “I saw a lot of my friends move away and not come back. It’s a privilege to come back. We want our young people to stay here or come back after college. We need them to come back.”

Upon his return to the area, Hudson served as the director of risk management and human resources generalist for Trinity Logistics of Seaford, senior fiscal and policy analyst in the State of Delaware Office of Management & Budget and an adjunct economics instructor at Delaware Tech in Georgetown. In August of 2016 he was named Millsboro’s town manager.

One area Hudson is focusing on is medical professionals. As retirees continue to move to Delaware, attracting younger, educated healthcare professionals is a critical need.

“Millsboro is in between all of these hospitals,” he said. “PRMC, Beebe, Nanticoke, Atlantic General. Milford is not that far. Delaware Technical Community College is right down the street. They have the new RN to BSN program. These are good jobs in healthcare. I believe Millsboro can be an employment hub over time. We’re perfectly located to address that need.”

Millsboro already has a strong employer base, including Merck, BJ’s and the Delmarva Health Pavilion. Others are following. Lewes Dairy, attracted by Millsboro’s central location in the county, will build a new distribution facility and ice cream parlor near the bowling alley. Royal Farms is coming to the area. Officials have recently broken ground on the new Chick-fil-A next to the Peninsula Crossing Shopping Center. The town hopes to lure Starbucks to the area as well. Both Chick-fil-A and Starbucks appeal to a younger, hipper clientele that often lead to other premier businesses following into the market.

The town is making other moves in hopes of attracting additional businesses to the area.

“We know Millsboro is going to see growth because of its geographic location,” Hudson said. “We don’t want sprawl. We want something we can be proud of with a good foundation. We’re looking for the right kind of growth.”

Recently the Town lowered impact fees by about 25 percent in an effort to encourage growth. According to the town’s website, the move will reduce a $2,629 building permit impact fee down to $500 per equivalent dwelling unit.

Hudson said the town is also considering other changes to zoning as well. “We are looking to modernize our code,” he said. We want to make it more attractive to developers.”

Hudson added the town hopes to incentivize downtown business owners to invest in improvements. In return, the town will make improvements to sidewalks and pavers. “Downtown needs some revitalization. I feel like the town has to lead to make these investments to encourage preserving these structures. There are a number of brick structures. They’re timeless. We’ve been talking about a historic district on Main Street.”

Hudson acknowledged this kind of partnership could be difficult to pull off. “A lot of these properties are leased or are rental properties. We need to find a way to inspire or to incentivize downtown business owners to invest in property improvements. It will take collaboration.”

Hudson noted the town has been successful in attracting both big retailers to the U.S. 113 corridor and keeping mom and pop businesses on Main Street. But jobs and development are just part of the equation. According to Hudson, affordable housing is another attraction for young people and families to consider. “It’s a lot less expensive than the resort area.” Hudson chuckled. He noted Plantation Lakes has moderately-priced housing and includes low maintenance townhomes that appeal to both retirees and busy young professionals.

He pointed to a strong school system, “the Indian River School District is a high-performing district and East Millsboro Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017.” According to the State’s website, the recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

While crime remains low, traffic can be a bear along the busy U.S. 113 corridor and at portions along Del. 24 leading through downtown and onto Main Street. Besides the traffic bottlenecks, state transportation records show there were over 300 accidents in town limits in 2016, more than half of which occurred at or near the U.S. 113 and Del. 24 intersection.

While Hudson acknowledged there wasn’t an immediate remedy on the horizon, the state continues to debate a bypass to move eastbound beach traffic north of town. It would include an overpass. A second phase would be designed to ease north-south congestion along U.S. 113 by adding a third lane. Even if the bypass is approved, officials estimate it’s seven to 10 years until completion.

Hudson and his wife, Kristan are raising their two children in the town of Millsboro.

“I love this area,” he explained. “Being born and raised here is a huge, built-in advantage. I feel like it’s taken 20 years where I can say this is the right fit for me. My goal is to make the town better. It’s really exciting and I think we are well-positioned for the future.”