Sussex asked to help support infrastructure that includes Perdue Agribusiness headquarters move

DELMAR, DE – Perdue Farms’ plans to move its global agribusiness headquarters from Maryland to Delmar, Delaware comes with a request for some financial support from Sussex County.

Sussex County Council has been asked to ante up $150,000 to help support infrastructure expansion to property in Delmar to service the future world headquarters of Perdue Agribusiness as well as other potential businesses and residences.

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

Perdue Agribusiness, one of Perdue Farms Inc.’s two main operating subsidiaries, plans to move its headquarters from Salisbury to a 17-acre tract along Delmar’s northbound U.S. 13 corridor.  Perdue Agribusiness currently operates out of a 45-year-old complex on Zion Church Road in Salisbury.

Perdue’s main corporate headquarters will remain in Salisbury.

The agribusiness headquarters will bring about 200 corporate jobs to Sussex County and Delaware.

The town of Delmar has budgeted $125,000 for the project and there is a state commitment for $205,000, Mayor Houlihan said.

“What I am asking today from the Sussex County Council is if you would help with $150,000 in my request for financial funding,” Mayor Houlihan said.

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

“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. We have our plans and our designs 100-percent done and we plan to send out bid packages this month. 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.”

Rep. Dukes said Gov. John Carney has made a verbal commitment for the $205,000.

“Verbal commitments don’t pay the bills, we understand that. But we believe the Governor and his office are diligently working on this. They recognize this is a real win for Delaware, a real win for Sussex county and for Delmar,” said Rep. Dukes. “As we have worked on this project we have come up with a three-pronged approach. The town of Delmar is going to invest $125,000 into this project. We have requested $205,000 from the state. We appeared before the Bond Committee last month … we have a verbal commitment from the governor to make sure that this $205,000 happens.”

County councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, 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?” said Mr. 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.”

Mayor Houlihan said the town is looking more at the time frame. “I don’t want to hold up Perdue up,” the mayor said. “As far as a loan, no, we never really discussed that, myself or my colleagues or my town manager.”

Water and sewer expansion would encompass five other parcels, which are all zoned regional commercial business, north of the Perdue site. Expansion is originating from a subdivision and will be installed in front of residential properties. That, Mayor Houlihan said, would provide future opportunity to be part of the sewer and water system.

Mayor Houlihan said the town has received some inquiries about the other five parcels. “Most of the questions were: ‘OK, is the zoning in place?’ which it is. And then the second question, ‘Do you have infrastructure to those sites?’ that, we don’t. If that happens, that is going to make those properties a lot of more attractive. For us, we don’t want to hold any business up.”

“So, your idea is that they would be commercial development,” asked county councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton, R-Lewes.

“Yes sir. It is already zoned that way – regional commercial business,” Mayor Houlihan said.

County councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, asked about Perdue’s projected timeline for the project.

“We are sending out bids this month. That is probably a three-month process to review them … and pick someone. Once we pick someone to build and get permits to build, we think it’s a nine-month process,” said Mr. Frerichs. “We have an agreement with the state, that we have to finish it by 2019 or we lose that money.”

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said funding would be a fiscal year 2019 consideration.

“This is the first time that council has heard this request,” Mr. Lawson said. “We’ll take this under consideration and at the right time come back on a future agenda for council consideration and action.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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