Group saves 600 former DuPonters from leaving Delaware

The Delaware Small Business Development Center has prevented about 600 former DuPont workers from leaving Delaware to pursue jobs in other states, said J. Michael Bowman, the organization’s director.

Bowman made the remarks Tuesday afternoon at a hearing before the Joint Finance Committee in Dover. He said the SBDC’s job fairs led to nearly 600 DuPont scientists and researchers landing jobs with Delaware technology startups.

“When we were all done with [the Delaware Economic Development Office] and others, 600 people saved their jobs,” Bowman told the committee. “That was big.”

The Delaware Small Business Development Center is part of the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, a team dedicated to supporting new business startups within the state. It has offices in Newark and Georgetown and provides one-on-one mentoring and seminars for Delaware’s entrepreneurs.

DuPont laid off 1,700 Delaware workers last year, including more than 200 highly skilled researchers and scientists based at the Experimental Station in Alapocas, DuPont’s largest research facility. The Experimental Station layoffs were said to account for nearly half of the facility’s central research staff.

Bowman said the SBDC also found local jobs for some former AstraZeneca workers, who were downsized when the pharmaceutical giant closed its Delaware research operations in 2011. However, DuPont workers accounted for the majority of retained jobs.

DuPont provided the SBDC with a list of downsized workers by skillset and title, Bowman told The News Journal after the hearing. The SBDC then met with 25 Delaware-based technology companies who agreed to participate in job fairs aimed at helping the former researchers. Both the Delaware Economic Development Office and the Delaware BioScience Association assisted in setting up the job fairs, according to Bowman.

“We matched the skillsets of the people with the jobs the tech companies were looking for,” Bowman said.

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Some of the job fair participants had received job offers in other states, but wanted to stay in Delaware, Bowman said.

“They were talented people and some already had offers, but in their heart of hearts, they wanted to stay here,” he said. “If there was any way they could stay — within reason — they wanted to remain here.”

In addition to the job fairs, the SBDC also presented three seminars aimed at helping former DuPonters launch a business with intellectual property they wanted to license from DuPont.

Dan Turner, a DuPont spokesman, said the company was glad former employees had found new positions.

“There is a lot of top talent in Delaware, and we are pleased that former employees have found skilled positions in the area,” he said.

Bowman asked the JFC for an additional $45,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. He said the funding will be used to hire a master of business administration-level business adviser, who could assist entrepreneurs with developing a business plan and raising funds.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a full person, and that’s huge,” he said.

The SBDC’s total budget is $1.7 million. DEDO provides about $400,000 of that amount; the JFC contributes $125,000; and the remainder is funded through the Small Business Administration, a federal agency that provides support to entrepreneurs, sponsors and donations.

Bowman said one of the SBDC’s biggest initiatives this year is a partnership with the Delaware Department of Technology to host cybersecurity seminars.

“Cybersecurity is the number one vulnerability facing small businesses,” Bowman told the JFC.

JFC members did not ask Bowman any questions after his presentation.

Contact Jeff Mordock at (302) 324-2786, on Twitter @JeffMordockTNJ or jmordock@delawareonline.com.