Sussex approves cash to aid Perdue AgiBusiness move

Sussex County is kicking in a little more than chicken feed to help bring jobs and a major poultry firm to southern Delaware.

The County Council approved a resolution authorizing a one-time grant of $125,000 to the town of Delmar as the county’s contribution toward infrastructure improvements needed ahead of the planned Perdue AgriBusiness headquarters relocation from nearby Salisbury.

A subsidiary of Perdue Farms, Perdue AgriBusiness focuses largely on commodities and logistics support throughout the ag industry.

The county joins the town, as well as the state of Delaware, in pooling funds that will pay for sewer/water upgrades in the town as the company relocates its global headquarters to a 17-acre site along Route 13.

The move will bring some 200 corporate jobs to the Delaware side of the bi-state community. Sussex County and the town each will contribute $125,000 toward infrastructure costs, while the state has pledged more than $200,000 in funding.

County leaders said the grant is a small price to pay to realize big economic development gains.

“We are fortunate to have this opportunity to add good-paying jobs to our local tax base, and that’s a win for Sussex County’s economy,” County Council President Michael H. Vincent said. “This partnership secures an industry leader and it’s one more example of why Sussex County and Delaware are such an attractive place for companies to do business.”

In addition to the Perdue AgriBusiness site, the upgrades will serve five other adjacent parcels poised for commercial development, further boosting business in the area, town officials said.

State and Delmar officials formally requested Sussex County’s help at a County Council in June.

Delmar Mayor Mike Houlihan and 40th District State Representative Tim Dukes tag-teamed on the request at council’s June 12 meeting.

“What is promising about this project is that we have already a commitment of 200 corporate jobs,” said Dukes. “There are five parcels to the north that we will be running water and sewer to, to make this happen.”

Perdue officials also asked for support.

“We are appreciative of the state of Delaware. They have been a good partner of ours for many years,” said Herbert D. Frerichs Jr., part of Perdue’s senior management responsible for legal and government relations.

“We made a commitment over four years ago.  I remember getting a phone call from then (Maryland) Gov. O’Malley who was quite upset with that announcement. We are committed in moving forward with this project,” Frerichs said.

“We have our plans and our designs 100 percent done and we plan to send out bid packages this month,” he said. “Once that is all resolved going forward it will be breaking ground, moving the world headquarters of Perdue Agribusiness, which is a global business, to Sussex County.”

County Councilman George Cole had brought up the possibility of a loan, as opposed to an outright grant. With a grant he said the county would be venturing into unfamiliar territory.

“Once we do it with Delmar, then the dominoes fall. Is a loan out of the question? It is a loan doable?” asked Cole, who referred to the county’s recent public/private partnership via a $1.5 million loan for a public sports complex planned in the town of Georgetown.

“I personally don’t mind being generous from a county/town relationship,” he said.

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